Historic Landscape Characterisation

Dolgellau - Area 15 Fields and woods - east of Dolgellau (PRN 19194)



Historic background

This is a large, rather amorphous character area defined by a mixure of fields and woods. There are few known prehistoric sites here which, given the location of the land on either side of the Afon Wnion, is interesting (a circular enclosure near Ty'n-y-gaer might belong to this period). With one or two isolated exceptions, there are no other distinctive field patterns amongst the mostly regular enclosures which appear to be earlier than post-medieval.

There is a small Roman fort at Brithdir, on the eastern edge of the area (Hopewell, 1997). The site, a small, plough-damaged platform first discovered in 1961, commands good views of both the Wnion valley and the valley to the north leading to Llanfachraeth, both the probable lines of Roman military roads (to Llanfor and Tomen-y-Mur respectively - the former is still clearly visible in the present track). Excavations in 1966, 1974, 1978 and 1991 confirmed activity in and round the fort relating to three phases, starting in c. AD 70 and probably ending in c. AD 130 (Hopewell, 1994).

The 1838 tithe map shows a scattered settlement of farmsteads, many of which are still extant (Carreg yr ogo, Caeceirch, Henblas, Cefnmaes, Lletty maes, Tir Mab Cynan); and the dominant settlement pattern is still one of dispersed farms, principally 18th- and 19th-century in date, although there is a fine late 18th-century estate house at Caerynwch and a minor nucleation at Brithdir now mainly 20th-century in date, but with earlier buildings (most notably the church and school spread out along the road to the west towards the top of Torrent Walk).

The 1901 OS map shows most of the area wooded as it is today, with plantings such as Planfa Fawr (north of the Wnion) and Cyfar Dol-serau, Coed Cynan and Coed Dol-fawr to the south. Again, field boundaries reflect what is still present today. Dol-serau Hall is shown as being surrounded by a large park and garden extending for some distance along the southern bank of the river. Likewise, Caerynwch is shown as an extensive garden and parkland surrounding the house on the eastern banks of the Afon Clywedog.

Many of the areas of woodland are ancient or semi-natural in origin (particularly to the south of the Wnion), although some have been planted over by conifers in the last century. Much of the woodland on the hill slopes above Dôl-gun on the floodplain was managed for, and associated with, the post-medieval ironworks there.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Farms and farm buildings, field boundaries, woodland

There are several distinctive farms and other buildings (the school and St. Mark's church at Brithdir, for example), whose architectural character should be preserved. In addition, several areas of ancient woodland are designated SSSIs as important habitats. The field boundaries are a mixture of field banks (some surviving as lynchets on the steeper slopes) and drystone walls.


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