Historic Landscape Characterisation

Bala and Llyn Tegid - Area 1 Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala) (PRN 24701)



Historic background

In the 1813 Cambrian Travellers' Guide, Llyn Tegid (Wales' largest natural lake) is also referred to as 'Pimble-mere', probably a corruption of 'Pymplwy meer', referring to the surrounding five parishes of Llandderfel, Llanfawr, Llanycil, Llanuwchllyn and Llangower. It goes on to add that in the 13th century the fishing here belonged to the abbey of Basingwerk, but was by the 19th-century 'properly vested' in Sir W W Wynn, Bart. Angling was freely permitted (but not the use of nets) and gentlemen came from as far as London specifically for this purpose. Y Fachddreiniog on the south side of the lake (area 11 - now Bala Lake Hotel) was the seat of Richard Colt Hoare and Sir John Lister, a joint establishment for the purpose of fishing. It is advantageously situated on the southern bank, sheltered with a view commanding the lake (but omitting both ends!). Several similar houses lie along the same hillside.

Even in comparatively recent times Llyn Tegid has flooded dangerously, whipped up by a south-westerly wind. The 18th century traveller Reverend W Bingley noted that the lake was subject to ‘dreadful’ overflowings, while other sources record a massive torrent in the early 1780s, when the floods rushed over the Vale of Edeirnion to the south, killing several people. The Welsh lawyer Richard Fenton described the catastrophe in Archaeologia Cambrensis (1813):

‘The Lake of Bala was covered with the wreck of different houses, and one person recovered two feather beds floating on the lake, and one with a looking glass on it as she had left it when she left her house’.

Sir W W Wynn was the lake’s owner in the late 18th-/early 19th-centuries, and it was to him that the canal builder Thomas Telford had to apply when seeking to regulate the flow of the River Dee, the source of water for his Ellesmere Canal project.

The RAF vertical aerial photographs (106G/UK 1468 2472 etc), show that the north-east end of the lake is largely unchanged since 1946.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Open water

The lake, with its vast 1,195 acre surface, maximum depth of 150 feet (established by a hydrographic survey in the fifties), and underlying acidic rocks lining a glacially cut basin on a geological fault line, has long been a focus of scientific study. Its designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest by the former Nature Conservancy Council (now CCW) owes much to the existence of the gwyniad, but there are other factors. The remarkably soft water plays host to vertebrate fauna largely typical of similar lakes but including myxas glutinosa, which is rare. Sheltered parts of the shore support the unusual floating water plantain. In recognition of Llyn Tegid’s complex ecology, it has been put forward as a freshwater wetland site of international note under the 1971 Wetlands Convention.

Merioneth County Council, helped with funding from the Countryside Commission, bought the lake in 1965, and now, under the ownership of Gwynedd County Council, it is managed by the Snowdonia National Park Authority. This body has made special efforts to safeguard the lake’s beauty and its wildlife. A ban on shooting has encouraged the bird population with cormorants, grebe, coot, herons, six species of duck and Bewick swans often visible. A sanctuary at the southern end has been established: here shallow waters and marshy ground favour breeding by wildfowl and waders. Sometimes bird watchers are likely to catch sight of the rare green sandpiper, notable for its steep – almost vertical – take-off from marshy pools, and for its green legs (the rest of the body is grey and white). The unusual black-throated diver also visits, with its haunting, wailing cry and striking plumage of black and white patterns. New birds are encouraged by artificial nesting platforms and perching posts which have been placed round the shore. There are plans to develop a secondary stock of gwyniad in a nearby lake, and an otter holt has been built on the lake side. The lake warden oversees continual upkeep of habitats round the lake, controlling invading willow herb, willow and alder, and maintaining the special lake access points.

Lake management of another kind takes place as part of the River Dee Regulation Scheme whereby the levels of the lake are artificially controlled. By building new sluice gates not far from where the Dee leaves the lake, the river authorities are able to use the lake to store great quantities of floodwater from the catchment upstream. Not only does this make it easier to abstract drinking water from the Dee, but is also greatly reduces flooding in the Dee valley near Llanuwchllyn. In the summer months, Llyn Tegid acts as a balancing reservoir for the Dee system; as a side effect of the level being kept artificially high in this period, there is always enough water to satisfy the growing hordes of sailing enthusiasts. If the level threatens to drop below the maximum 0.4 metre fluctuation limit, extra water is channelled in, via the Afon Tryweryn tributary, from nearby Llyn Celyn. All the necessary calculations are done by computer at the Bala control centre, and samples of Llyn Tegid’s Class One quality water are tested at frequent intervals (Quenby, 1992).


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