I found the cottage by accident on a dark and stormy night. I’d walked on foot in the driving rain for twenty minutes after leaving my car where the road gave out. By the light of a failing headtorch, I picked my way up the track through at least three of the seven gates the cottage is named for. I crossed a roaring brook by a low concrete bridge and pulled another gate closed behind me. A few minutes later, I was close by a building that loomed up on my left. My hopes sank when I realised it was roofless. I switched the torch off and carried on up the track, climbing more steeply now.

A little way further on, the track turned into a path, with the ground falling away to my left and rising steeply on my right. Since Anna had said it was mostly driveable to the cottage, I decided that I must have gone completely wrong, so I got my map out and sheltered in the lee of a cow byre to take a fresh bearing. My sodden map started disintegrating in the rain running off the roof of the place. By the dim light of my torch, I turned it this way and that. And then gradually it dawned on me that what I had taken to be boarded up windows were shutters, and that the stout-looking door was locked with a Yale lock. On the door was a small adhesive label with the name of the owner - Colin Harrington. With mounting excitement, I realised that my late night orienteering excercise was over. But where were the others?

The cottage in 1990 and the track up Snowdon

The cottage in 1990 and the track up Snowdon

You could say it was unique. According to Colin, the War Department had used the valley for a mortar testing range during the war, and by a stroke of good fortune, the officers running the range took over the cottage as a billet, rather than using it for target practise. Prior to that, it had belonged to the Vaynol estate as a quarry worker’s house, and it reverted to the estate after the war as one of the few buildings that hadn’t been blown up.

These pictures show that with a little care, you could drive up to the front door. First thing to do was turn the gas on in the bathroom at the back for a brew, hoping that the mice hadn’t been too active since the last visit. Well, “bathroom” was a grand name for a dark, drafty room with a rusty old paraffin fridge and an unfinished concrete shower stall. This room was usually the last to have the shutters removed the following morning.