THE day after the Lemming and I walked from Llanon to Borth, we jumped in his car and headed a couple of miles further up the coast to Ynyslas, a village at the mouth of the River Dovey (Afon Dyfi). The beach at Ynyslas shows evidence of a sunken forest at low tides and I was keen to finally see one of those, as I’ve managed to pass several others when the tide was annoyingly high. So that’s what we did.
I was aided in this endeavour by the recent storms, which had largely scoured the sand away from the layer of densely matted peat that forms the beach. This part of Cardigan Bay was a mixed deciduous forest until about five and half thousand years ago, when rising water first turned it into a salt marsh and then finally swallowed it.
The trees are not petrified and still feel organic. One could break bits off if one was so minded (and utterly disregarding of their preservation for five and a half millennia). It’s the peat bog environment that kept them so preserved, the arboreal equivalent of Lindow Man and his ilk.
Legend associates this forest with the Lowland Hundred (Cantre’r Gwaelod), a fertile kingdom that sank beneath the waves. Flint and antler tools have been found along with footprints and the skeleton of an aurochs. And in nearby Borth, where carbon-dating shows the trees to have died two thousand years later than those at Ynyslas, the storms exposed a Bronze Age walkway made from wattle, the better to navigate the treacherous marsh that the forest there had become.
We didn’t see an aurochs but we did see a dead sheep. Quite how it got onto the beach we really weren’t sure. And it wasn’t telling.