Back to September for this post and day two of our mini camping adventure to mid Wales. As a recap we’d spent Saturday walking from Abergynolwyn to the enigmatic Castell y Bere and when we last spoke our tent had been pitched and we were safely tucked up for the night. In truth the weather had looked a little iffy as darkness fell so it was a pleasant surprise to wake to blue sky and a bone dry tent! How often does that happen? Never if you’ve got my luck let me assure you of that. As a result the tent was packed away within a few minutes, breakfast consumed and our feet already set on the days walk before most of our fellow campers had shed their dressing gowns. We even heard an overflying Chough as if to reinforce the unusual sighting of the day before. As least this time the sea was actually in sight and what a joyous spectacle it made. There are those who don’t rate Tywyn that highly but for me it is the epitome of a quintessentially down at heel British seaside resort, and where else would this coastal devotee feel more at home.
Following the promenade northwards there were at least sixty Gannet feeding offshore with a constant passage of Manx Shearwaters numbering some fifty plus individuals in the space of half an hour or so. Best of all though was an immature male Eider which was happily loafing about some thirty meters off shore. Cracking bird and a great start to the day.
I should probably explain at this point a little of Tywyn’s history and where we were to be heading on this route. As with many coastal settlements the town was a hub for shipbuilding during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with most activity taking place on the nearby Dysynni estuary. The vessels constructed there were typically small sailing boats used to carry peat from the numerous local peat bogs but by the end of the century it was all over. Heavy silting of the estuary had rendered it virtually cut off from the sea forming a large lagoon which today is known as Broad Water. Left mostly to its own devices Broad Water has developed into a haven for wetland birds and, as you’ve probably guessed by now, is exactly where we were heading. To get there involved walking a mile or so behind the Cambrian railway line where, after clearing the caravan parks and holiday homes, expansive views began to open up towards Cadair Idris in the distance.
The grasslands in the foreground were home to an extensive military presence for many years with both an airfield and training ground for amphibious warfare landings being present at one time or another. Today a couple of ruined pillboxes and several huts are the most visible remains but at certain times of year it’s still possible to pick out the outline of a running track amongst the grasses. Today nature has reclaimed much with three Wheatears present amongst innumerable Meadow Pipits and a smattering of Pied Wagtails, plus this adult Rook feeding a well developed youngster.
Probably the most unexpected thing about Broad Water is that it remains virtually invisible right up until the moment you arrive at its shore. This is a curious quirk of the landscape here and probably one of the reasons why many visitors leave Tywyn none the wiser as to its existence. All I can do is encourage you to head for the Dysynni railway bridge where all will be revealed.
Whilst on the subject of bridges there used to be the remains of a road bridge here which for as long as I can remember existed as nothing more than a couple of isolated piers. No longer. The coming of the Wales coast path has meant that a brand spanking new footbridge has been constructed in its place, a brilliant investment for those walking the route but I can’t help feeling a little disappointed that one of my favourite scenes is no more. At least the birds were as good as promised with at least thirteen Red Breasted Mergansers spotted almost immediately, closely followed by over two hundred Cormorants. Commoner species such as Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Pintail and Curlew were also present but top bird of the day goes to the Reed Warbler which popped up whilst we were eating lunch. It was far too quick for my camera but I did manage to capture this Swan taking off directly towards us.
We found another Wheatear perched up on one of the embankments which were built to further drain the surrounding marshland and before long we were walking up a narrow channel instead of the wide open expanses of the lagoon proper. Fish (species unknown) were numerous in the shallows and it was not without a slight wrench that we bid farewell to Broad Water and headed towards what, on the map at least, appeared to be nothing more than a small area of woodland. What we hadn’t expected to find within were the remains of a demolished country house and walled garden, Ynysymaengwyn, complete with ornate dovecote in a remarkable state of preservation. I couldn’t resist a peak within and soon found myself with a Swallow for company. We watched each other for a while before I took my leave, leaving him to his thoughts in what I presume must have been a nest site earlier in the year.
Full credit must go the current owners of this site for the restoration and preservation work that they have been undertaking on what remains, a fine example to other landowners with such historic sites under their control. We’d have probably explored a little further had we the time but instead pushed on towards Cynfal Farm. Here we once again picked up the route of the Talyllyn Railway and followed it all the way back into Tywyn.
We arrived on the seafront in much the same conditions as when we’d left i.e. warm, sunny and feeling every bit the summer seaside holiday that we were always promised as kids but which was rarely delivered. Driving home in such glorious weather was a real wrench but I rest happy that next year we will be making time for a few more of these mini-adventures under canvas.