What are those blue circles on Snowdonia fences and stiles?
Grid references, mountain safety and a different kind of blue plaque
If you have visited the mountains of Snowdonia, in particular the area around Snowdon itself, you will probably have come across one of these small, blue circular plaques pinned to a gatepost or stile. Their purpose is fairly self-explanatory, with “CYFEIRNOD GRID/GRID REFERENCE” printed around the edge. As one would expect – the number in the centre of the plaque is the Ordnance Survey grid reference for that particular location, accurate to within 100m or so. They are intended to act as both confirmation of location for navigators, and as a way of casualties informing mountain rescue teams where they are located – “can you see a stile? Is there a blue circular plaque with writing on it?”
The discs were first installed as a trial on Snowdon itself by the Snowdonia National Park in collaboration with Llanberis Mountain Rescue team and the MountainSafe Partnership (now bundled together as part of AdventureSmart) in the early 2010s, and were officially rolled out in 2012 . The grid reference plaques can now be found elsewhere in the National Park.
There have been multiple incidents in the following years where casualties have been able to report their location to emergency services and SAR teams, plus presumably thousands of incidents where no external assistance was needed as the grid reference provided by the disc was enough to prevent calamity.
Obviously the existence of these discs aren’t any kind of excuse for not carrying a map, compass and KNOWING HOW TO USE THEM (see below…), but it is about as close as you are likely to get to true ‘signposting’ in the mountains of the UK.