Darwin in Cwm Idwal


Come walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin. Photo © C. Duigan.

Over the next few weeks I will be making my annual contribution to teaching ecology and conservation at Bangor University and this will be reflected in my blogs and tweets.  We will be going on a field trip to Cwm Idwal to assess the conservation importance of the lake.  I will have the thrill of telling the students that they are walking in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, a Cambridge student, who came here to learn geology with his teacher Adam Sedgwick.  Enroute to the lake I will point out some of the geological features which some what eluded them.

In his autobiography Darwin wrote:

“We spent many hours in Cwm Idwal, examining all the rocks with extreme care, as Sedgwick was anxious to find fossils in them; but neither of us saw a trace of the wonderful glacial phenomena all around us; we did not notice the plainly scored rocks, the perched boulders, the lateral and terminal moraines. Yet these phenomena are so conspicuous that, as I declared in a paper published many years afterwards in the Philosophical Magazine, a house burnt down by fire did not tell its story more plainly than did this valley. If it had still been filled by a glacier, the phenomena would have been less distinct than they now are.”

The Lakes of Wales Book (1931) – What The Papers Said


Llyn Idwal, Snowdonia. Ward described the water as “very clear and cold, of the greenish-blue tint only seen in water of great purity.” Photo © C. Duigan.

14 September 2014

Frank Ward was clearly proud of his book The Lakes of Wales (1931).  After its publication he compiled a scrapbook of over 40 book reviews, including articles in The Fishing Gazette, Sunday Times, The Times, The Observer, Shooting Times, The Manchester Guardian, Birkenhead News, Spectator, South Wales Daily Post, Yorkshire Post, Nottingham Guardian, Doncaster Chronicle, Scotsman, North Wales Observer, Liverpool Post, Country Life, Western Mail, Glasgow Herald, Y Genedl Gymreig (The Welsh Nation), Cardiff Weekly Mail and a number of book magazines.  This scrapbook is deposited in the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Here is a selection of the reviews:
The Fishing Gazette described it as not just a fishing book as it covers fishing, scenery, legends and places names.  It was recognised as a tremendous task, as 648 lakes were included, and astonishment was expressed that there were so many lakes in Wales.  It was concluded that this book was “unquestionably a labour of love that has taken many years to complete.”

The Sunday Times said “This is a guide for fishermen in the first place, but for the fisherman with a discerning eye for scenery, a love of untrodden ways and a mind not untouched by romance – in fact the “complete angler.”

The Times Literary Supplement commented on the Welsh names which were difficult to pronounce or to remember with some lakes having three or more names.  “The English angler in Wales is faced with a difficulty which the author of this book has tried very hard to smooth over, succeeding perhaps better than expected.”

The Manchester Guardian suggested that “Mr. Ward must have spent half a lifetime in making this book, and for a long time to come fishermen who visit Wales will be grateful to him for spending it so well.”  “After a few explanatory notes, the book begins by telling of the scenery.  Part of the delight of fishing is that it takes us into beautiful places.”  “Surely fishing would be a poor sport if there were nothing in it but killing fish, and it is good to meet others who appreciate the glories of the countryside.”

The review in The Birkenhead News focused on the “delightful photographs”, 32 in all which were “nearly all the work of Mr. Philip A. Cox, who has been a resident of Birkenhead for many years and who is well known as an amateur photographer of great merit.”  It was stated that Mr. Cox was a fishing friend of the author.