The main feature of the immediate surroundings of the town [Barmouth] is the gorse-clad steep of Dinas Oleu, with its sunburnt grasses contrasting with the vivid fern and rocky outcrop, and made beautiful on its lower slopes by witch-elms and long-limbed beeches, whose tall smooth trunks stand out white as the rocks shine white upon the cliff side. (p. 17)
Whether the cliff obtained its name from the whiteness of rock, or in olden days from some beacon which shone out at night-time to guide the fishermen to the haven, is unknown; but a “Fortress of Light” it is to all who, with heavy hearts in this dark and cloudy day of war, pass up by its many paths of access to the sunshine and the glory of the seascape as seen therefrom. (p. 17)
I do not know any cliff with such fellside beauty so easily accessible from a village town, and happy are the inhabitants who have this recreation ground sealed to their use for ever. Climb up the sloping path at the back of the Cors-y-gedol Hotel, and in five minutes you will be above the town and the happy shouts of children below, while the murmur and scent of the “infinite sea” fill the air. (pp. 17-18)….
Passing upward till we gain one of the main means of access to the famous Panorama Walk, we come upon the terraced gardens and high uplifted house of Tyn-y-fynnon, which seems to take us back to Italy as we look at its quaint steps and its architectural substructures. Here dwelt, till her death in 1917, Fannie Talbot, the mother of the remarkable artist Quartus Talbot, and gifted friend of John Ruskin, Frances Power Cobbe, and Francesca Alexander. With her wisdom she was the constant counsellor and friend of the Barmouth people, rich and poor; public spirited as she was generous, it was she who, in 1874, having learned of Mr. Ruskin’s newly formed Guild of St. George, which he had set on foot in 1871, for the salvation of England, offered him twelve or thirteen of the cottages on the steep immediately below her house. (pp. 18-19)….
It was whilst I was staying in her hospitable house, in the year 1895, that Mrs. Talbot determined to present the cliff adjacent to her garden to the National Trust, and as it is the first property the National Trust ever received it is worth while telling the story of how it came about. I was in correspondence with Horne and Birkett, solicitors, who had sent me, at Sir Robert Hunter’s request, the proposed articles of association of the Trust, which was then being formed. Mrs. Talbot had a natural love for law, and she desired to look through the papers. At the end she said: “I am so grateful for this chance, for I perceive your National Trust will be of the greatest use to me. I have long wanted to secure to the public for ever the enjoyment of Dinas Oleu, but I wish to put it into the custody of some society that will never vulgarize it, or prevent wild Nature from having its own way; I have no objection to grassy paths or to stone seats in proper places, but I wish to avoid the abomination of asphalt paths and the cast-iron seats of serpent design which disfigure so largely our public parks, and it appears to me that your association has been born in the nick of time to be my friend. If your Trust will accept it, Dinas Oleu shall be yours so soon as lawyers can make arrangements.”
(A Nation’s Heritage, pp. 13-26)