Historic Landscape Characterisation

Dolgellau - Area 4 Fields and woods - west of Dolgellau (PRN 19183)

 

 

Historic background

This large, rather amorphous area is characterised by open ground (much of it is designated SSSI) and fewer fields, with a scatter of farms such as Derwas, Graig and Llwyn-iarth (there are relatively few farms in the area), all of which predate the 1843 tithe map where most are recorded as being in Garthgynfawr township (within Dolgellau parish). The map, unfortunately, does not show the field pattern, nor the complex of trackways which must have existed to serve the remote farms.

The area is shown as largely wooded on the 1901 OS map, and it still retains the scattered settlement patterns of the 1840s. The field pattern, which is irregular, is identical to that on the modern map. The complex set of trackways shown is retained today as trackways or footpaths. Interestingly a 'Rifle range (disused)' and 'Markers' huts' are marked just east of Tal y Waen, the remains of the latter being still well-preserved.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Vernacular houses, field banks, woodland

This is a large area of unenclosed, open land, irregular fields and woodland, downslope from the bare mountain of Dolgledr and reaching as far down as the Mawddach estuary. It contains a number of sub-medieval houses (such as Maes Angharad (surrounded by escaped rhododendrons), Gellilwyd Fawr and Gellilwyd Fach) which have a loosely-scattered pattern and which are surrounded by lyncheted field banks, some of which may be prehistoric in origin (many of the fields are circular or oval in shape), although there are no known prehistoric sites in the area. Some of these farms are now derelict (others have recently been ‘prettified’), and the whole has an atmosphere of the dereliction of marginal uplands in the 21st-century.

The irregular enclosures are defined both by drystone walls and field banks, which are quite unlike the boundaries in the areas to the west and east. While most of the area is pasture, there are some low-lying, boggy, unimproved fields. Most of the woodland is now mixed, with some areas of semi-natural oaks surrounded by modern forestry. There is also a good deal of holly here (which is absent from surrounding areas), and evidence for coppicing. The SSSI designations for 31WGD, 31WVX and 31WMT contain more detailed descriptions of the ‘natural’ landscape.

 

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