North West Wales

Snowdonia creation compared to 'Armageddon' in TV show

Volcano generic
Image caption Fire bombs and clouds of volcanic gas preceded the formation of today's scenic mountains

The emergence of the Snowdonia mountain range during the Ice Age is compared to Armageddon in a new TV series about the geological formation of Britain.

The Birth of Britain, narrated by Tony Robinson, shows how Snowdonia was created by a series of huge volcanoes.

Seismic shifts caused the the earth's continents to collide and rained down firebombs on the area that is now one of Wales' most popular tourist spots.

Then a series of ice ages left the land locked under ice sheets a mile thick.

The four-part documentary series uses computer-generated imagery (CGI) to recreate the clashes and spectacular changes that formed Britain as we know it today from fire and ice.

It also tells the story behind Britain's gold rush and how much of Wales' gold was claimed by the Romans as they expanded their empire.

In the first episode, Volcanic Britain, on the National Geographic Channel, Robinson travels through the rugged Welsh landscape to reveal the secrets hidden beneath the rock formations.

Working with geologists, he reveals that the countries that make up modern Britain were once far-flung chunks of land at opposite ends of the world.

To find out how the jigsaw pieces fused, he journeys to Snowdonia, described as the site of "one of the most ferocious volcanic battles in Britain," which is compared to a "virtual Armageddon, littered with firebombs and incinerating gas clouds".

The programme says the l"was once scarred by hundreds of explosive mega-volcanoes - the evidence of an epic volcanic process which caused two colossal continents to collide, and brought the lands of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland together".

Robinson hopes the show will reinvigorate an interest in geology, while reminding holidaymakers and residents alike of the beauty of Welsh scenery.

He said: "What there is within the landscape are echoes of the most startling clash of continents in a dramatic bar-room brawl between chunks of land that led to the creation of Snowdonia.

"This series will help explain how it was created and how it is an ever-changing and shifting landscape, which is something people forget.

"It was amazing to see the CGI images of how parts of Britain would have looked during the ice age, this captures it for people more than any words."

Image caption This beautiful landscape was once scarred by volcanoes

On his journey, Robinson also discovers the Grampian Mountains were once taller than Everest, Devon was once a scorching hot desert, and lions and rhinos roamed the banks of the Thames, while polar bears swam in it.

He also learns Britain has been physically joined to North America, not once but twice, and Edinburgh sits on the core of an extinct volcano.

His journey to trace the origins of Britain's "bling" sees him travel to Llywernog Silver Mine in Ceredigion, and Dolaucothi Gold Mine, Carmarthenshire.

At Llywernog Robinson says: "You wouldn't have wanted to be here 300m years ago.

"These rocks were shattered by tremendous earthquakes, which literally opened up a shaft to the hell of molten rock beneath our feet.

"These were shocks from the same continental collision that created the tin in Cornwall. Here, superheated water rushed up through the cracks, bringing with it a wealth of rare metals, mainly lead - but with, literally, a silver lining."

The Birth of Britain will start on the National Geographic Channel on 1 September at 2200 BST.

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