Historic Landscape Characterisation

Vale of Ffestiniog - Area 29 Dwyryd valley floor

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

Historic background

This character area takes in the floor of the Dwyryd valley, including both the tidal lower section (as far as Maentwrog) and the non-tidal upper section as far as Rhyd y Sarn, where the valley sides close in (area 28 to the north). The valley itself was drained by William Oakeley (Plas Tan y Bwlch which has extensive views up and down the valley), for which he received a gold medal of the Society of Arts in 1797.

The valley floor is flat apart from the series of flood banks which criss-cross the area following the meandering course of the river, and where it is crossed by three bridges, Pont Dol-y-moch (right up the valley below Rhyd y Sarn (itself the site of an earlier ford), a scheduled ancient monument), the modern construction which carries the A487 lower down and the 1860s railway bridge (part of the Cambrian Coast railway) near the mouth. Another prominent feature of the lower stretch of the river is the (scheduled) slate quay, Cei Newydd, linked with the earlier phases of the quarries at Blaenau Ffestiniog (which has been well-documented by Lewis in his book 'Sails on the Dwyryd'.

The area is also mentioned in the fourth branch of the Mabinogi, Math fab Mathonwy. After crossing Traeth Mawr when fleeing south from the army of Math, Pryderi (leader of the army from the south) is killed in single combat by Gwydion at Felinrhyd where he crossed the river apparently following the Roman road. There are several Felinrhyd placenames (a wood, a farm and a bridge) along the southern bank of the river. This may imply that the Roman crossing of the river (and possibly a landing stage or harbour allowing coastal shipping to access Tomen y Mur) was in this area: this would make sense topographically as the short valley (Ceunant Llenyrch) which strikes up from this point is the only real access to the top land on which the fort stands.


Key historic landscape characteristics

Valley floor, meadowlands

A flat valley floor, extensively drained, with a number of important dwellings at or near the break of slope. These include the Oakeley Arms Hotel, an early 19th-century public house which may represent the original site of Plas Tan y Bwlch and Plas Dol y Moch further east (both listed). The Oakeley Arms preserves the distinctive arrangement of three parallel projecting bays built into a central rectangular unit, also to be found in Richard Pennant’s Ogwen Bank. There is some use of trees as boundaries and as wind-breaks, particularly on the upper part around Plas Dol y Moch. There are a number of quays on the tidal part of the river below Maentwrog, such as at Laundry Cottage at SH 6442 4007, as well as several once-riparian features which are now some way distant from the course of the river.

On the main road below the main house are a number of buildings associated with the Plas Tan y Bwlch estate, centred on the home farm which comprises several buildings including a substantial horse whim. These buildings erected by the Oakeley estate, which mostly make use of the distinctive Gelli Grin slabs, were a deliberate planned estate landscape of the 19th century.


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