Today the word "Snowdonia" is largely synonymous with the Snowdonia National Park, although prior to the designation of the boundaries of the National Park, the term "Snowdonia" was generally used to refer to a smaller area, namely the more mountainous and northern areas closer to Snowdon itself. This is apparent in books published prior to 1951 such as "Wild Wales" by George Borrow (published by Collins, London in 1862) and "The Mountains of Snowdonia" by H. Carr & G. Lister (published by Lockwood, London in 1925). F. J. North, as editor of the book "Snowdonia" (published by Collins, London in 1949) states "When the Committee delineated provisional boundaries, they included areas some distance beyond Snowdonia proper."
The park is governed by the Snowdonia National Park Authority, which is made up of local government and Welsh national representatives, and its main offices are at Penrhyndeudraeth. Unlike national parks in other countries, Snowdonia (and other such parks in England and Wales) are made up of both public and private lands under central planning authority. The makeup of land ownership at Snowdonia is as follows:
|ownership type||share (%)|
|National Park Authority||1.2|
More than 26,000 people live within the park, of whom about 62% speak Welsh. The park attracts over 6 million visitors annually, split almost equally between day and staying visitors, making it the third most visited national park in England and Wales.
Whilst most of the land is either open or mountainous land, there is a significant amount of agricultural activity within the park.
Since the local government re-organisation of 1998, the park lies partly in the county of Gwynedd, and partly in the county borough of Conwy. It is governed by the 18–member Snowdonia National Park Authority, 9 of whom are appointed by Gwynedd, 3 by Conwy, and the remaining 6 by the National Assembly for Wales.
Unusually, Snowdonia National Park has a hole in the middle, around the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, a slate quarrying centre. This was deliberately excluded from the park when it was set up in order to allow the development of new light industry to replace the decimated slate industry.
Snowdonia may be divided into four areas:
The other high mountains with their boulder-strewn summits, as well as Tryfan, one of the few mountains in the UK south of Scotland the ascent of which needs hands as well as feet, are also very popular. However, there are also some spectacular walks in Snowdonia on the lower mountains, and they tend to be relatively unfrequented.
Among hikers' favourites are Y Garn (east of Llanberis) along the ridge to Elidir Fawr; Mynydd Tal-y-Mignedd (west of Snowdon) along the Nantlle Ridge to Mynydd Drws-y-Coed; Moelwyn Mawr (west of Blaenau Ffestiniog); and Pen Llithrig y Wrach north of Capel Curig. Further south are Y Llethr in the Rhinogydd, and Cadair Idris near Dolgellau.
The park's natural forests are of the mixed deciduous type, the commonest tree being the Welsh Oak. Birch, ash, mountain-ash and hazel are also common. The park also contains some large (planted) coniferous forested areas such as Gwydir Forest near Betws-y-Coed, although some areas, once harvested, are now increasingly being allowed to regrow naturally.
Northern Snowdonia is the only place in Britain where the Snowdon Lily, an arctic-alpine plant, and the rainbow-coloured Snowdon beetle (Chrysolina cerealis) are found, and the only place in the world where the Snowdonia hawkweed, Hieracium snowdoniense grows.
A large proportion of the park is today under designation (or under consideration for designation) as Sites of Scientific Interest, National Nature Reserves, Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas, Biosphere and Ramsar sites.
One of the major problems facing the park in recent years has been the growth of Rhododendron ponticum. This fast growing alien species has a tendency to take over and stifle native species from growing. It can form massive towering growths and has a companion fungus that grows on its roots producing toxins that are poisonous to any local flora and fauna for a seven–year period after the Rhododendron infestations have been eradicated. As a result there are a number of desolate landscapes.