Nant Ffrancon A5 viewpoint
The valley before you is a textbook example of a glacial valley. You may have seen pictures of it in geography lessons at school.
During the last Ice Age, which ended about 10,000 years ago, a glacier slid along this valley – left to right as you look from this viewpoint – as it progressed from the mountains to the sea. As it moved, it gouged the rock to straighten and widen the valley.
When the climate warmed, the glacier melted. A lake formed along the valley floor, because higher rock in the vicinity of Bethesda held back some of the water. Gradually the lake filled with sediment carried down from the surrounding mountains by rainwater and melted snow. The sediment created a flat valley floor, where the fertile soil is still appreciated by farmers in an area where most of the land is bare rock or moorland.
We can enjoy this grandstand view courtesy of Thomas Telford. He engineered what’s now the A5 road in the early 19th century, when vehicles were horse-drawn. He ensured the road climbed gradually from Bethesda to Llyn Ogwen. In places, as here, this involved building large stone retaining walls to support the road on its hillside ledge.
What does Nant Ffrancon mean? It was written as Nant frankon in 1415. Nant is Welsh for stream. Ffrancon probably comes from the Old English franca, meaning spear or javelin, and adopted into Welsh as ffranc, plural ffrancon. The spears could be the streams which tumble steeply down the valley sides.
With thanks to Prof Hywel Wyn Owen, of the Welsh Place-Name Society,