Abraham Morris.

Merionethshire online

. (page 2 of 9)
Online LibraryAbraham MorrisMerionethshire → online text (page 2 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

streams which flow into Cardigan Bay. The most im-
portant rivers are the Dee, the Mawddach, the Dovey,
the Dysynni, the Dwyryd, and the Glaslyn.

The Dee, the principal river of North Wales, rises
by a small streamlet in the Dduallt at an elevation of

M. M. 2


2000 feet above the sea-level, and about four miles to the
west of Bala Lake. The Great Western railroad from
Dolgelly, after its ascent to Drws-y-nant near Aran
Benllyn on the highest ridge of the wild watershed,
follows in its descent to Llanuwchllyn the course of the
infant Dyfrdwy, as the Dee is called in the vernacular.
The Dyfrdwy before entering the lake receives on the
right the Twrch from Aran Benllyn, and on the left
the Lliw from Moel Llyfnant, which washes the base of
the slope where the remains of Carn Dochan Castle stand.

The three streams meet at the little village of
Llanuwchllyn, and the united waters enter Bala Lake,
or Llyn Tegid, the largest natural lake in the whole of
Wales. At the eastern end of the lake stands the little
town of Bala, and here the Dee leaves the lake and
receives the Tryweryn, a tributary rising in the Arenig
Fach, which rushes down a strong clear stream, through
charming scenes, to pass through the wooded gorges of
Rhiwlas with its fine old mansion. The waters of the
Tryweryn and Dee unite in the flat meadows below
the lake.

The Dee now wends its way for twelve miles through
the sweet Vale of Edeyrnion, a broad and noble river. In
times of heavy rain it is a sheet of seething foam rushing
over beds of broken boulders, but in summer days a placid
waterway like a broad band of silver. Its course leads
through the woody glades of the villages of Llandderfel
and Llandrillo. On our right we pass the famous battle-
ground of Crogen on the summit above, and on our left
is the mouth of the Alwen, a tributary stream from the


Denbighshire border. We now come to the well-wooded
enclosures ot Rug, where in the twelfth century,
GrufFydd ap Cynan, King ot Gwynedd, was entrapped,
and to Corwen, an old-world market town, tucked under
the dark shoulders of the mountains. Caer Drewyn is on
the left bank, a famous encampment in ancient times.
After leaving LlansantfFraid Glyndyfrdwy the river passes
the village of Berwyn, and there leaves the county to
continue its course through Denbighshire.

Between Llansantffraid bridge and Llan2;ollen in the
month of April, when the spring trout-fishing is at its
best, we may see the old-world coracle used for fishing.
The Dee is the only river in North Wales where this
survival of the ancient Britons is still put to practical
and common use.

The Mawddach has its rise in the same central water-
shed as the Dee. It comes from the spur known as
Craig-y-Ddinas, and then descends through Cwm Allt-
Iwyd into one of the most lo\ ely glens of picturesque
Wales. Before receiving the Afon Gain, which flows
from the upper reaches of the central watershed, the main
stream has passed the Gwynfynydd gold mine, which
yielded considerable quantities of the valuable ore in years
gone by. The famous Pistyll-y-Cain waterfall is at this
spot. Here also may be seen Rhaiadr-y-Mawddach, and
about a mile above Ty'n-y-Groes another cataract called
Y Rhaiadr Ddu, situated near the confluence of the
Camlan with the Mawddach.

The Mawddach is joined at the Ganllwyd by the Afon
Eden from Craig Ddrwg in the Ardudwy mountains. The




main stream then takes a straight course to Llanelltyd,
and passes the ruins of Cymmer Abbey on its left bank,
before it receives the Afon Wnion from Drws-y-Nant
Uchat. The course of the Wnion for the greater part
of its length to Dolgelly is in a deep chasm of serrated

Prysor Valley, Rhaiadr Ddu

rocks. It receives the Clywedog two miles above Dol-
gelly, which is famed for the rushing cataracts of the
" Torrent Walk."

At Llanelltyd the Mawddach becomes a tidal river,
the tide flowing up to the bridge near the village. Upon
its approach to Penmaenpool the river gradually widens



into a broad waterway. At Bontddu on the right bank
is the Ciogau gold mine, which is systematically worked
at the present time.

The mountains of Ardudwy are drained by the Afon
Artro which rises in Llyn Cwmbychan near the Roman
Steps. It flows swiftly over a rocky bed, hidden at times
by dense woods, until it arri\es at Llanbedr. Before

reaching the latter villao-e the Artro receives the Nant
Col from the gorge of Bwlch Drws Ardudwy. The
united waters find their way to the sea at the northern
end of Mochras Island.

The Dwyryd, which enters the sea at the Traeth
Bach, havino; flowed throu2;h the beautiful vale of Fes-
tiniog, is formed, as the name implies, by the union of two



streams. These are the Goidol and Tegwel, which first
unite and are afterwards joined by the Cynfael. The
Goidol drains Llyn Cwmorthin to the north of Tany-
grisiau, whilst the Tegwel comes from Carreg-y-Fran to
the east of Llyn-y-Manod. Before these streams unite
at Rhyd-y-Sarn, the Tegwel has passed by Beddau Gwyr
Ardudwy — ''the graves of the men of Ardudwy " — with

Llanfihangel-y- Pennant

Llyn-y-Morwynion a little to the south. A little below
Rhyd-y-Sarn the Cynfael flows in, and from the con-
fluence the united streams are called the Dwyryd. In
the bed of the ri\er here arises the singular isolated
column of rock known as " Hugh Llwyd's pulpit," The
Dwyryd continues its course through a beautiful valley
by the little village of Maentwrog. About a mile below
Maentwrog it receives the Afon Prysor, which rises in


the Graig Wen, an elevation to the east of the Roman
station of Tomen-y-Mur, and flows by Trawsfynydd in
a most circuitous course.

The Dovey rises in Craiglyn Dyfi on the eastern de-
ch'vity of Aran Mawddwy, It flows by Llan-y-Mawddwy,
Dinas Mawddwy, and Mallwyd, and is fed by numerous
contributary streams, the Dulas, the Llefeni, the Geryst,
the Clywedog, and the Pennal, and flows for twelve miles
of its course through Montgomeryshire.

The Dysynni rises in the southern declivities of Cader
Idris and flows through Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, a small
village in a beautiful situation, then by Castell-y-Bere and
Craig Aderyn to skirt the shady glades of Peniarth and
the little village of Llanegryn. It enters the sea about
two miles to the north of Towyn.

6. Lakes.

The lakes of Merionethshire are of exceedingly great
interest on account of their situation, their beauty, and
the wealth of folk-lore connected with them. First
and foremost we have Bala Lake, or Llyn Tegid, lying
between the Berwyn chain and the Arenigs. Then
come the remarkable series known as the Cader Idris
group, surrounding the base of that mountain. Next to
these come those of the Ardudwy mountains, small in
size but charming in situation. And finally we have
those of the Festiniog district, numerous and rich in
traditionary lore.

Bala Lake in the valley of the upper waters of the



Dee, the largest sheet of natural fresh water in Wales, is
1084 acres in extent, but it has now been exceeded in
size by the artificially constructed Vyrnwy reservoir on
the other side of the Berwyns, which has an area of 1 121
acres. Its length is about three miles, with a breadth in
the widest part of nearly one mile.

The lake, like so many of the Welsh lakes, is not


Bala Lake and Llanycil Church

devoid of a legend as to its origin, though it is too long to
give here. Its Welsh name, Llyn Tegid, takes us back
to a remote past. Tegid Foel is said to have been the
husband of Ceridwen, the traditional mother of Taliesin,
the seer, and his dominion comprised the territory in
which the lake is situated, though according to the legend
it was not in his time that the lake was formed,


The lakes of the Cader Idris group are Talyllyn, Cae,
Tri Graienyn, Aran, Gader, Gafr, Gwernan, Wylfa, and
Creigenen. The largest of these is the Talyllyn lake at
the southern foot of the mountain. It is sometimes
known as the Mwyngil, i.e. " the' Peaceful Retreat," a
very appropriate name for this beautiful and secluded
stretch of water, which is about two miles long and half
a mile broad. Verdant meadows and sequestered home-
steads surround it, whilst the rugged grandeur of Cader
Idris towers above. The Dysynni river drains it, having
its outlet at the eastern end. Llyn-y-Cae is in a chasm of
the mountain above Talyllyn and is best seen from the
summit of the Gader. Llyn-y-Tri Graienyn, the "Lake
of the Three Pebbles," is situated at the side of the road
from Corris to Dolgelly. The pebbles — three huge boul-
ders weighing many tons — according to the legend, were
shaken out of the shoe of the giant Idris. On the north-
east side is Llyn Aran, drained b)^ the stream of the
same name, which flows through the town of Dolgelly to
join the Wnion. Llyn-y-Gader lies at the foot of the
Fox's Path, which leads to the summit of Cader Idris. It
is sheltered by high precipitous cliffs. Within a distance
of half a mile is Llyn Gafr, called by this name because
ot the large herds of goats which grazed its banks in
former times. On the side of the road from Dolgelly to
Cader Idris is Llyn Gwernan, a beautifully clear lake,
but in summer filled with sedge and vegetable growth.
Llyn Creigenen lies on the elevated ridge above Arthog.
Its waters help to form the beautiful falls of that place.

In the Ganllwyd neighbourhood on the northern side



of the Mawddach estuary is Llyn Cynwch. This is near
the old mansion of Nannau, and is the reservoir supplying
Dolgelly with water.

We now turn to the lakes of the Ardudwy country,
among which is Llyn Cwmbychan, at the foot of the
ridge known as Graig Ddrwg. It is a small though
charming sheet of water within a walk of Harlech. To
the north are Llyn-yr-Eiddew Mawr and Eiddew Bach ;
these are drained by the Artro. Llynau Tecwyn Uchaf
and Isaf lie in the mountains between Talsarnau and
Trawsfynydd ; surrounding them is a marvellous wreck
of stones in which some archaeologists claim to find traces
of "a hitherto unknown British town." Coming south-
wards into the valley of the Ysgethin, and at the foot of
the Llawllech chain, we ha\e three lovely lakes named
the Bodlyn, L'ddyn, and Dulyn. Across the Diphwys is
Llyn Cwm Mynach, the water of which is carried down
to Bontddu by the Afon Mynach. There are many more
of these small lakes in this district, some of which are Llyn
Du, Llyn-y-Fedw, Llyn Pryfed, and Llyn Dywarchen.

In the Festiniog district there are several beautiful
sheets of water, some of which are of considerable
size. The best known are Llyn-y-Morwynion, Y Dy-
warchen, Y Manod, Bowydd, Conglog, Cwmorthin,
Llynlilyn, Llynau-y-Gamallt, Llyn Newydd, Y Garn,
Tryweryn, Arenig Fawr, and Arenig Fach. Of these
the most famous is Llyn-y-Morwynion — "Maidens'
Lake," — because of the legend connected with it, which
in Welsh lake-lore is as famous as that of. the Sabine
women in classic story.


7. Geology.

The term rock in Geology is used without reference
to the hardness or compactness of the material. The
hardest rock, as well as the softest, crumbles into sand
and dust by exposure to the atmosphere, and geologists
speak of loose soil, layers of sand, pebble, or clay by the
same term as they do of slate, limestone, or granite.

Rocks are divided roughly into two classes, (i) those
laid down mostly under water, called sedimentary or aqueous^
(2) the eruptive or igneous^ i.e. those due to fire and volcanic

The first kind may be compared to sheets of paper lying
one over the other. These sheets are called bedi^ and are
usually formed of sand (often containing pebbles), mud
or clay, and limestone, or mixtures of these materials.
They are laid down as flat or nearly flat sheets, but may
afterwards be tilted as the result of movement of the
earth's crust, just as we may tilt sheets of paper, folding
them into arches and troughs, by pressing them at either
end. Again, we may find the tops of the folds so pro-
duced worn away as the result of the action of rivers,
glaciers, and sea-waves upon them, just as we might cut
off the tops of the folds of the paper with a pair of shears.

The eruptive or igneous rocks have been melted under
the action of heat and become solid on cooling. When
in the molten state they have been poured out at the
surface as the lava of volcanoes, or have been forced into
other rocks and cooled in the cracks and other places of


weakness. Much material is also thrown out of volcanoes
as \'olcanic ash and dust, and is piled up on the sides of
the volcano. Such ashy material may be arranged in
beds, so that it partakes to some extent of the character
of the first of the two great rock groups.

The relations of such beds are of great importance to
geologists, for by them we can classify the rocks according
to age. If we take two sheets of paper, and lay one on
the top of the other on a table, the upper one has been
laid down after the other. Similarly with two beds, the
upper is also the newer, and the newer will remain on
the top after earth-movements, save in very exceptional
cases which need not be regarded here. For general
purposes we may look upon any bed or set of beds resting
on any other in our own country as being the newer bed
or set.

The movements which affect beds may occur at
different times. A set of beds may be laid down flat,
then thrown into folds by movement, the tops of the
beds worn off, and another series of beds laid down upon
the worn surface of the older beds, the edges of which
will abut against the oldest of the new set of flatly de-
posited beds, which latter may in turn undergo disturbance
and renewal of their upper portions.

Again, after the formation of the beds many changes
may occur in them. They may become hardened, pebble
beds being changed into conglomerates, sand into sand-
stones, mud and clay into mudstones and shales, soft
deposits of lime into limestone, and loose volcanic ashes
into exceedingly hard rocks. They may also become


cracked, and the cracks are often very regular, running
in two directions at right angles one to the other. Such
cracks are known as joints^ and the joints are very im-
portant in affecting the physical geography of a district.
Then, as the result of great pressure applied sideways, the
rocks may be so changed that they can be split into thin
slabs, which usually, though not necessarily, split along
planes standing at high angles to the horizontal. Rocks
affected in this way are known as slates.

If we could flatten out all the beds of Eno-land and
Wales, and arrange them one over the other and bore a
shaft through them, we should see them on the sides of
the shaft, the newest appearing at the top and the oldest
at the bottom, as in the annexed table. Such a shaft
would have a depth of between io,ooo and 20,000 feet.
The strata beds are divided into three great groups called
Primary or Palaeozoic, Secondary or Mesozoic, and Ter-
tiary or Cainozoic, and the lowest of the Primary rocks
are the oldest rocks of Britain, and form as it were the
foundation stones on which the other rocks rest. These
are termed the Pre-Cambrian rocks. The three great
groups are divided into minor divisions known as Systems.
The names of these Systems are arranged in order in the
table, and the general characters of each System are also

With these introductory remarks we may now pro-
ceed to a brief account of the geology of the county.

Merionethshire in its geological formation belongs to
the oldest series of rocks classified in our table. In it
there are examples of the Pre-Cambrian, or as they are

Names o*










2 < Silurian



Pre -Cambrian


Metal Age Deposits
Neolithic ,,

Palaeolithic „
Glacial „

Cromer Series

Weybourne Crag

Chillesford and Norwich Crags

Red and Walton Crags

Coralline Crag

Absent from Britain

Fluviomarine Beds of Hampshire

Bagshot Beds

London Clay

Oldhaven Beds, Woolwich and Reading

Thanet Sands [Groups


Upper Greensand and Gault
Lower Greensand
Weald Clay
^ Hastings Sands

Purbeck Beds

Portland Beds

Kimmeridge Clay

Corallian Beds

Oxford Clay and Kellaways Rock


Forest Marble

Great Oolite with Stonesfield Slate

Inferior Oolite

Lias — Upper, Middle, and Lower

Keuper Marls
Keuper Sandstone
Upper Bunter Sandstone
Bunter Pebble Beds
Lower Bunter Sandstone

Magnesian Limestone and Sandstone

Marl Slate

Lower Permian Sandstone

Coal Measures
Millstone Grit
Mountain Limestone
Basal Carboniferous Rocks

Characters of Rocks

Superficial Depo!>its

Sands chiefly

Gays and Sands chiefly

Chalk at top
Sandstones, Mud and
Clays below

Shales, Sandstones and
Oolitic Limestones

Upper )
Mid [
Lower )

Devonian and Old Red Sand-

Ludlow Beds
Wenlock Beds
Llandovery Beds

Caradoc Beds
Llandeilo Beds
Arenig Beds

Tremadoc Slates

Lingula Flags

Menevian Beds

Harlech Grits and Llanberis Slates

No definite classification yet made

Red Sandstones and
Marls, Gypsum and Salt

Red Sandstones and
Magnesian Limestone

Sandstones, Shales and
Coals at top
Sandstones in middle
Limestone and Shales below

Red Sandstones,
Shales, Slates and Lime-

Sandstones, Shales and
Thin Limestones

Shales, Slates,
Sandstones and
Thin Limestones

Slates and

Slates and
Volcanic Rocks


sometimes called, the Archaean, which in the mam con-
sist of igneous or eruptive rocks. These are found
stretching intermittently from Cader Idris to the two
Arans, then, with a break in the Mawddach and Wnion
valleys, we find them in the mountains of Ardudwy, from
which they continue northwards to Festiniog. They
take in by the way the Rhobell Fawr and the Arenigs.

The Rhobell Fawr is the most striking example of
igneous rock to be seen. It has been formed by volcanic
action upon some great primeval sea bottom long long
ages ago, measured by tens of thousands of years. In its
outline it shows the most extensive mass of ancient lava
in the Principality, and this is surrounded tor miles by
hundreds of smaller examples which were once united,
but have been cut off by denudation and other agencies.
Cader Idris belongs to a similar series with this difference,
that the summit is formed by a pinnacle of what geologists
call trap rock, beneath and around which the vertical cliffs
and precipices of ash range themselves.

It must not, however, be supposed that these mountains
themselves are in any sense extinct volcanoes. The deep
cwms overhung by the precipices with their streams of
loose stone, are no spent craters. They are the result
of great volcanic action which took place at the bottom
of the sea when the whole country was under some great
ocean in remote ages. Geologists assume that when this
enormous mass of complicated rock made its first appear-
ance above the water in which it had been formed, it
must have presented to the eye a fairly uniform and level
tableland. But after its emergence from its aqueous

Cader Idris : the Precipice

M. M.


birthplace, the streams of water, rain, frost and other
atmospheric agents acted upon it in course of time, and
began to carve the country into the shape and form it
now presents.

The softer rocks would of course become worn down
much quicker than the harder, and the latter would in
consequence ultimately become the superior heights of
the county. In places where the softer sedimentary
stratified beds enter into the composition of the surface,
the hills are on the whole smooth and more uniform in
shape. But where the country shows a great predominance
of igneous rocks, the hills are loftier, more serrated, and
bolder in their outline.

From near Barmouth through the Vale of Ardudwy
to the basin of the lower Dwyryd, and also in the con-
trary direction from the Mawddach estuary to that of
the Dysynni, we find the rocks belong to the Cambrian
System. The southern part of the county from the
Dovey to near the Dysynni, and again along the western
slopes of the Berwyns as far as Bala, and also the north
of the county, belongs to the Ordovician System. The
eastern part of the county is mainly composed of rocks
belonging to the Silurian System.

The Cambrian formation of rocks as seen in Dyffryn
Ardudwy consists of the following strata or beds, (i) Har-
lech Grits, (2) Menevian beds, (3) Lingula Flags, and
(4) Tremadoc Slates.

The Harlech Dome, as it is called by geologists, is
a large, irregularly-oval tract lying between Barmouth
and Harlech, or it may be more correctly said between


Dolgelly and Harlech and ranging northward to Maen-
twrog. It is occupied by unfossiliferous grits, and purple
and green slates. It holds a very important place in the
physical features of North Wales, being the site of the
great Merionethshire anticlinal, in which the rocks dip
in opposite directions like the roof of a house. On the
flanks of these sloping rocks the fossiliferous flags and
grits of the Lower Cambrian series are observed to rest.

The Lingula Flags are divided into three groups, called
respectively the Maentwrog, the Festiniog, and the Dol-
gelly groups. The first is distinguished by its jointed
dark-blue ferruginous slates ; the second by hard mica-
ceous flags ; and the third, or the Dolgelly group, by
the soft black slate which shows a black streak when

The range between the rivers Eden and the Mawddach
in the neighbourhood of Dolmelynllyn has always been
famous for its fossils.

Next above the Cambrian we have the Ordovician
formation, which consists of the following strata — the
Arenig beds, the Llandilo beds, and the Bala or Caradoc
beds. This last series occupies the largest area in North
Wales. It spreads by numerous undulations around the
towns of Bala and Corwen ; it forms the main construc-
tion of the Arenigs, the Arans, the Gader group, and the
Berwyns; and in it we have the Festiniog, Corris, Aber-
gynolwyn, and Aberllefenni slate-quarries.

The Silurian formation is seen to stretch from near
Bala to the eastern bounds of the county. The special
feature and interest of this formation to the native of


Merionethshire is that the term "Bala beds" is given to
certain rocks found all over Wales, because they are best
developed in the strata from Dinas Mawddwy by Bala
to Bettws-y-Coed. The Berw^yn mountains as far as the
borders of Shropshire contain a special limestone known
as "Bala Limestone." It is, however, not of good quality,
and is not employed for building purposes, though very
useful for road-makino-.

It is a well-known and interesting fact that the largest
" fault " in the British Isles cuts through the middle of
Bala Lake from south-west to north-east. This large
fault, which rent asunder the rocks, occurred far back in
geological time, disturbing the rocks along its course,
and consequently facilitated the action of denuding agents
on the beds of softer material.

The origin of Bala Lake is considered by geologists
to be the work of glacial action. Professor Ramsay says
that the greater part of the Silurian region on either side
of the lake and of the Dee stood high above the level of
the sea from remote geological times, and probably formed
a wide tableland extending far to the south, and also to
the east and north-east. On its edaies rose the more
mountainous expanse formed by volcanic rocks, splendid
relics of which still remain in the peaks of Cader Idris,
the Arans, and the Arenigs.

When the Dee began to flow in its earliest channel,
it is clear that its present source, Bala Lake, had no
existence. The river at that time must have flowed over
a surface of land not less high than that on either side of
the present valley near Corwen and Llangollen. The


surface of Bala Lake is only 690 feet above the sea-level,
while the neighbouring watershed between the lake and
Dolgelly is only 200 feet higher. As the river could not
flow uphill, it is clear that in that early stage of its history
the valley of the Dee about Bala must have been at least

2 4 5 6 7 8 9

Online LibraryAbraham MorrisMerionethshire → online text (page 2 of 9)