Angling legend Moc Morgan has officially opened North Wales’ newest tourist destination – a visitor centre at a lake created to feed two power stations almost a century ago.
Llyn Trawsfynydd is the latest to share in the £4m Snowdonia Centre of Excellence scheme – part of the EU-backed Sustainable Tourism project – and now boasts a new visitor centre and café and 3km cycle trail plus fishing and boating facilities.
The £4m EU-backed scheme has already brought in 160,000 extra visitors and created 26 new jobs, with dozens more safeguarded, guests at the official opening were told.
The centre was formally opened on Friday June 13 by angling author and legend Moc, who cast a fly out on to the lake. Moc, who once guided former US president Jimmy Carter around the top Welsh fishing spots, led Wales’ national fishing team to their first ever victory in an international Competition. During his career he has caught fish in over 50 different countries, from Tasmania to British Columbia, and from New Zealand to Sweden.
Gwynedd Council hopes the re-vamped centre will help bring more even visitors to the area, drawn by the lake’s stunning setting in the lee of the Rhinogs range, alongside the Trawsfynydd Magnox nuclear power station, now being decommissioned.
The company’s former social club, just off the A470, has been transformed into a new visitor centre with a café and conference room boasting views across the lake, the third largest in Wales. The contract to run it has been awarded to Antur Stiniog, the team behind the Stiniog Down Hill Trails in nearby Blaenau Ffestiniog, and is expected to create three jobs in the beginning.
The centre will also showcase local artists and link with the area’s most famous son – First World War Bard Hedd Wynn, who grew up on the family farm in Trawsfynydd before heading off to Flanders, where he died.
In addition a new cycle trail, which was funded through the EU-backed Communities and Nature project, will complete the missing section of an eight-mile loop around the edge of the lake, a man-made reservoir. New interpretation boards will also help visitors understand the wildlife on show all year round, such as visiting ospreys targeting the lake’s trout, plus the history and heritage of the Trawsfynydd.
Visitors will be able to hire boats to go fishing, plus hire or take canoes and kayaks out to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the lake. The centre also offers shower and toilet facilities for lake users.
Moc, recalling how he first fished the lake 50 years ago, said: “The facilities here today are a little different. I recently met a lady from Scotland competing in a competition here and she told me that it was the perfect place to promote fishing. I couldn’t agree more.”
Rhys Llywelyn of Prysor Angling Association, who has been a prime mover behind the project, said that the venture would reap benefits for local businesses by attracting more tourists heading to the area to enjoy outdoor activities
“This is a business bringing benefits for the local shop, pub and accommodation providers, as people come for the lake, the cafe and the view.”
Gwynedd Council chairman Dilwyn Morgan, vowing to return another day to take out a kayak, also stressed that the scheme had brought substantial economic benefits to the county.
“This is a terrific achievement which many people have worked hard on,” he said.
The centre will also showcase local artists and link with the area’s most famous son – First World War Bard Hedd Wynn, who grew up on the family farm in Trawsfynydd before being sent to Flanders, where he died. Prysor Angling Association received £298,000 from the Eryri Centre of Excellence Project to renovate the old social club, install a new jetty and create a new shed to store fishing boats.
Club Chairman Rhys Llywelyn said: “This project has taken a long time to come to fruition, but has been well worth it. It’s been very well regarded as a centre of excellence for angling for decades but we are very happy that we can now welcome a wider range of visitors.
“I know the café will be appreciated by both locals and tourists – the views across the lake from inside and the terrace are stunning and ever-changing. And the team at Stiniog have an excellent reputation for the quality of their food.”
Llyn Trawsfynydd is part of The One Big Adventure, a £4 million project to create top class outdoor activity opportunities at four Centres of Excellence in the Meirionnydd area of southern Snowdonia. It is the last of the four centres to open – the other three are the Coed y Brenin Forest Park, Antur Stiniog Down Hill trails at Blaneau Ffestiniog and the Glanllyn Centre, near Bala.
The Snowdonia Centre of Excellence development was funded via the Sustainable Tourism Project led by Visit Wales, the tourism department within Welsh Government and supported through the European Regional Development Fund. The Outdoor Tourism project is part funded by the Ireland-Wales Interreg IVA Programme 2007-2013.
Councillor John Wynn Jones, Gwynedd Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for the economy and community, said: “This is the final stage of our work to regenerate these areas with an industrial heritage, and I am delighted to see it completed.
“The main aim of the Eryri Centre of Excellence is to use natural assets in the area to offer the highest quality facilities throughout the year to tourist and locals, whilst ensuring that the community is part of the development.
“This project ensures that Eryri remains a world famous destination, by further developing and ensuring sustainability for all the projects.”
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which owns Trawsfynydd nuclear power station, has part-funded the work to ensure a positive legacy for the community once the site is closed.
Jonathan Jenkin, NDA Stakeholder Relations Manager, said: “The new facility is impressive and it can now be enjoyed by future generations.
“We are committed to mitigating the impact of decommissioning on the communities in which we operate through socio-economic support and we are proud to support a venture which offers a range of activities for everyone.
“It will certainly build on the area’s reputation for excellent outdoor activities and fantastic scenery.”
The lake is 5 miles long and covers around 1,200 acres and dates back nearly a century to when the first dam was built in 1922 to create a header reservoir for the Maentwrog hydro-electric power station, which was then the UK’s largest power station.
The dam was raised in the1960s when the lake was put to work to provide cooling water for Trawsfynydd nuclear power station, which generated electricity for the UK National Grid, until decommissioning started in 1995. More than 700 people still work at the plant.
The lake, which is only about 12 feet deep, has natural wild brown trout plus rainbow trout, plus coarse fish – mainly perch, with some rudd and pike. For the bird lover there is an abundance of water fowl living on the shores and islands of the lake, with occasional visits by ospreys.