Dolgellau writer, Monica Kendall has released an abridged version of the first guidebook to north Wales.
In July 1798, a Cambridge student set out on a botanical tour and wrote the first guidebook to the area. Yorkshire-born William Bingley made notes, sketched and looked for rare plants. He befriended a Welsh clergyman with whom he made the first recorded rock climb in Britain on the north flank of Snowdon. Three years later they climbed the iconic mountain Tryfan.
Bingley also helped establish the legend of the faithful hound Gelert.
William Bingley was a prolific writer, dying prematurely on 11 March 1823, 200 years ago. This abridged edition of his north Wales guide is called North Wales: Intended as a Guide to Future Tourists.
It is based on his 1804 edition, and it has a foreword by the well-known rock-climber and outdoor writer Jim Perrin.
In retracing Bingley’s steps through the historic counties of Flint, Denbigh, Caernarvon, Anglesey, Merioneth and Montgomery (as well as the town of Oswestry), the reader will discover a landscape and people of over 200 years ago. They will clamber with Bingley up waterfalls, ride in a waggon into a candle-lit copper mine, sail on a cutter to Ynys Enlli, suffer the fleas at an inn in Beddgelert, ponder the necessity of taking a pint of rum up Snowdon, or blissfully rest in the shade of Montgomery Castle during harvest. Perhaps also, like Bingley, they will be fired by the Last Bard’s curse on Edward I, while gazing across the water at sunset towards the isle of the Druids.
This first edition since 1839 includes a newly researched biography, and background on the picturesque, the sublime, slate quarries and pickled puffins. It also includes Bingley’s guide to Welsh pronunciation, his map of 1804 and several images, some drawn by Bingley.
Commenting on this new version of the guide, Professor Prys Morgan said: “Monica Kendall’s new edition of Bingley, which is as lucid as it is deft, is a most welcome addition to the literature of the ‘Welsh tour’. Modern Wales in many ways is indebted to him.”
In the foreword by Jim Perrin, he says: “Bingley belongs in a select peer group that includes Pennant, Borrow, Condry. He’s one of the most companionable of writers on the Welsh landscape, and certainly one of the most enterprising.”
Monica Kendall lives in Bontddu, Dolgellau.
She gained a Master’s degree at Oxford University and went into publishing, and gained a second Master’s degree at University College London in Medieval Studies.
She has travelled widely, from the hippy trail to Nepal through Afghanistan in the 1970s, to walking the Owain Glyndŵr trail and her son, Alex Kendall’s book, Snowdonia Way in the 2010s.
This is her fourth book, her last being Lies and the Brontës: The Quest for the Jenkins Family (2021), which explores her Welsh/Scottish ancestors’ relationship with the Brontës.
Published by SilverWood Books, North Wales: Intended as a Guide to Future Tourists is available now at local bookshops, online and from the publisher (ISBN 978-1-80042-243-8).