Rhoscolyn to Four Mile Bridge via a Tea Clipper, an Airforce Base, an Iron Age Discovery and a Lady Smuggler
On this morning the wind was blowing with some enthusiasm from the North West. We decided to check out the conditions at Borth Wen, Rhoscolyn, with a view to enjoying the coastline either to the West or East. The sea beyond the bay was lively with white caps due to the antagonistic action of the wind on the flooding tide. We soon decided on an eastwards downwind run to the Cymyran Straits, as this would provide for some nice surfing opportunities and, hopefully, result in an interesting journey.
As you approach Cymyran Bay it is worth knowing that the area around this Bay and the straits can become particularly treacherous in the right conditions. These “right” conditions manifest themselves when the Cymyran Straits is ebbing into a strong opposing wind. The surf can become huge and respite from this surf, in the lee of the bay’s islets, can be very difficult to maintain due to the strong current sweeping the area. Many vessels have become wrecked in Cymyran Bay, the most famous of which is the “Norman Court”, which ran aground in 1883. This magnificent ship was a tea clipper, of similar design to the “Cutty Sark”. It could sail at great speed, up to 16 knots, and was ideally suited to carrying seasonal products like tea. The first imported teas of a season commanded the greatest prices and inspired the well publicised and popular Great Tea Race events of the 1860’s and 1870’s.
Guarding the head of Cymyran Bay is RAF Valley. This busy airbase was constructed on a vast area of sand dunes during the Second World War. The sand posed a challenge to the engineers as it could impede the operation of aircraft. The solution was to stabilise the sand by covering it with peaty material from neighbouring farm land. One such farm, “Yr Ynys”, was tenanted by my grandparents. It included an area of wetland where the livestock could graze in the summertime. The wetland’s centrepiece was a lake that was covered by a vegetated floating mat, of horse tail, that bounced underfoot. The engineers dredged this lake, for peat material, inadvertently revealing 150 impressive bronze and iron votive offerings, gifts to the gods or goddesses. This is the famous Iron Age Llyn Cerrig Bach hoard – a source of much pride to the Roberts family.
Moving up the Cymyran Straits it is easy to picture the story of Einir Wyn or Madam Wen and her smuggling ship. According to local legend and immortalised in W.D. Owen’s novel “Madam Wen”, Einir Wyn was a wealthy aristocrat whose family lost their wealth to the Roundheads during the Civil War. To regain her fortune Einir Wyn turned to smuggling and highway robbery. The stronghold of Madam Wen’s gang was the wetland area, including Llyn Cerrig Bach. Madam Wen’s struggle to evade the attention of the authorities and regain her family’s former glory has inspired generations of Welsh readers.
The enthusiastic wind had now subsided and backed to become a southerly breeze gently pushing us towards our destination – Four Mile Bridge.
Paddling today were: Dave, Kathy, Paul, Rich, Rachael, Ed and Geth