Historic Landscape Characterisation

Vale of Ffestiniog - Area 28 Lower wooded slopes, Moelwyn range

© Crown copyright. All rights reserved, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, 100017916, 2005

Historic background

The lower slopes of Moelwyn Bach, reaching down to the Dwyryd. These areas formed part of the Oakeley and Dduallt estates in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and have been commercially exploited for timber since at least the eighteenth century (see introduction, section 8.2). The Trust has recently carried out work on behalf of the Forestry Commission on Cymerau Isaf, a block of woodland in the east end of this character area, which is an SSSI and Local Nature Reserve owned by the Woodland Trust. This unpublished report is in the SMR (report number 426) and is quoted extensively here as it encapsulates much of the history and character of this area.

Little has survived in the way of estate documents or maps for Cymerau Isaf (one of the most important blocks of woodland at the astern end of the valley) although one of these, dated 1802, shows plans for a proposed road from Lord Newborough’s quarries at Blaenau Ffestiniog. It uses what was already an archaic convention, in which buildings and other features are shown as if in bird’s eye view rather than in plan, and shows a small farm-house at Cymerau Isaf, but provides no information on the woodlands other than showing a wooded area immediately adjacent. A map of 1813 shows the cottage to the south of Cymerau Isaf, r’Allt, without identifying it as such, but gives no details of Cymerau Isaf itself. The third, an ‘ocular survey’ of 1827 for what may be either a road or a railway, is equally uninformative.

Such documents which do survive are otherwise those which record Pengwern’s transactions with other estates. The earliest reference to Cymerau Isaf comes in 1739, when it was owned by the Pengwern estate. Pengwern itself, an imposing house of late sixteenth century date, stands barely 500m to the north-east of the Cymerau Isaf farmhouse. It was built and inhabited by a family of local consequence, who adopted the surname Lewis in the eighteenth century, Anne Lewis of Pengwern married Owen Wynne of Llwyn, Denbighshire, and the property remained in their hands until the death of the Rev. Dr Maurise Wynne in 1835. It ceased to be a family home c.1800 and was divided up into tenements. Pengwern and Cymerau Isaf remained in the possession of a collateral descendant until 1919, when all the lands were sold. Part of the estate, including Cymerau Isaf, semms to have been bought by the Newborough family, and was sold by them again in 1937.

An adjacent holding, Cymerau Uchaf is recorded in 1739, and again on the 1818 2” ordnance survey, though the 1” ordnance survey of 1839-1841 records the farm simply as ‘Cymerau’, as does the tithe award schedule of 1843. The farm is named as Cymerau Isaf on the first edition 6” ordnance survey.

However, despite the comparative paucity of information relating specifically to Cymerau Isaf and to general agricultural management within the holding, more general information survives relating to the woodlands both of Cymerau and the areas immediately adjacent.


Key historic landscape characteristics

Wooded slopes

The steep valley sides are almost entirely covered in broadleaved sessile oak woodland, much of which is SSSI and some of the most important ancient and semi-natural woodland in north Wales. The area includes the important sub-medieval dwelling known as Dduallt (a lsied building), around which the Dduallt estate was based. The steep slopes appear to preclude the existance of earlier relict remains within the woodland, which is the chief characteristic of the area, although there may be scope for further work.


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