This story is a bit of a tease! I cannot imagine that the Romans would take the trouble to literally staircase a whole mountain pass with no communities at either end, it would have been fruitless – but then the discussion moves on to whoever did think it right and proper to build what was built. The other question that lingers on, who else would have taken the trouble to build the steps, no small undertaking ? It is not as though steps were needed due to the gradient, any more than a thousand other mountain paths in the UK. I attach Charlie’s picture of the steps because they are so often mentioned but never seen.
When my family, many decades ago, ventured forth to climb these steps, our daughter Fiona, who would have been about seven years old – making the year about 1973 – we had purchased a brand new pair of walking boots for her. As soon as we started out she got the hang of everything and promptly set a cracking pace, we didn’t see her again until we arrived at the summit. The return was much slower, and she later displayed a lack of enthusiasm for wearing the said boots again, although they were worn occasionally. Burn out or sore feet ? How things move on. Here am I nearing the end of 2018, rapidly approaching the age of 80 and wondering how much time I may have left, but proud to tell you that Fiona has just bought a new bicycle and has always been very supportive of Project Charlie and my efforts to keep him remembered.
However, here is Charlie’s take on the Roman Steps, built by…..?
For those who wish to visit this Welsh delight, it lies about halfway – due East – between Harlech and the A487 trunk road. Charlie, so far as I remember only crossed the Roman Steps once, years ago, and I have no other references to the Steps. The crossing of these steps is described in Volume One of Charlie’s Journals, inside a story starting on Page 57 titled ‘Three on Tour’. One thing I can show you is how the close relationship between Charlie and Tom Idle eventually came to an end. In September 1931 Tom Idle got married to a welsh girl called Blodwen Williams, and Charlie was very gutted at losing his friend, because although information is sketchy, I have come across some jottings on scrap paper about Charlie visiting a long lost friend – no names mentioned – and them taking a short walk and trying to recapture their past happiness. It could only have been Tom that Charlie had in mind.
Charlie did attend the wedding, which took place Llantysilio a little to the west of Llangollen, but is silent thereafter about the loss of his chum, so I can only presume that Tom settled down in Wales rather than near his parents in Manchester. It is also possible that Tom was obliged to buy a car to transport his new wife – as indeed I was some 30 years or so later, leading to a reduction or cessation of cycling trips !