tempus fugit

By ceridwen

The drowned forest at Abermawr

Another glorious day drew me down the coast to a spot that has long been a favourite with our family: two lonely beaches side by side, one short, one wide.

Here on the bigger one, Abermawr, there were as many as half a dozen people and an equivalent number of dogs. I was surprised to see it so crowded. It's a shingle beach backed by a bank of pebbles but when the tide is out sand is exposed and so are these dark lumps of - stone? no, mud? no - more like plain chocolate with a slightly soft and slippery surface. It's actually waterlogged timber: what remains of the roots and boles of huge trees that were inundated 8000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age. Melting ice caps meant that the sea level rose around the coast and water rushed into the glacial valley that lies behind this beach. The soggy wood remains preserved by the salt water. Flint tools and animal bones have been found indicating that it was a populated area.

Strangely enough, this coincides in with the legend of a lost domain beneath the water: Cantref Gwaelod, the bottom hundredth (a hundredth being an ancient measure of land). The story goes it was a fertile expanse, but so low-lying that a dyke was needed to protect it from the sea. The ruler was benevolent and the people were well-fed and content, much given to feasting on their own rich produce. The keeper of the dyke however was a drunkard and one night he became so intoxicated in the merrymaking that he forgot to close the floodgates. The sea surged in and the farms and villages were lost beneath the waves, people and animals drowned. This legend persists all along Cardigan Bay which sweeps up the western coast of Wales. On stormy nights it is said that you may still hear the lost church bells ring beneath the water.

My entry for this week's challenge Underneath.

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