Ancient forest revealed at Llanrhystud following Storm Francis

Ancient Forest at Llanrhystud

While out for a family walk on Saturday, 29 August, 2020, following Storm Francis, we discovered tree stumps protruding from the shingle on the upper part of Llanrhystud beach. This unusual sight led me to reach for my camera as I had not seen this sight before.

Ancient forest revealed at Llanrhystud following Storm Francis
Ancient forest revealed at Llanrhystud following Storm Francis

Tree stumps on Llanrhystud Beach

The tree stumps were still in situ, sitting in the subsoil with their gnarled root systems for all to see, with branches also embedded within the same soil. The sight was unusual, but I understand the stumps do emerge from time to time following storms. Subsequent tides soon covered the stumps with cobbles and shingle from the beach hiding them from sight again.

Coflein Research

Observations of a post-glacial land surface at Llanrhystud, Cardigan Bay, recorded by the Royal Commission
Observations of a post-glacial land surface at Llanrhystud, Cardigan Bay, recorded by the Royal Commission

Further research led me to Royal Commission’s free online archive, which has a wealth of information about our historic environment. Would the database have a record of this lost environment? Not only did Coflein have a record, but fabulous photos too, taken by the Commission’s former Maritime Officer, Deanna Groom. The site description details her findings on 21 August 2012.

Here’s a snippet:
Lying beneath the present-day artificially maintained cobble and beach head shingle at Llanrhystud there is an exposure of a post-glacial land surfaces. The exposure appears not to attain a depth greater than 0.40m, but may exceed 400m in length orientated north-northwest/south-southeast in line with the coast edge. The width most obviously exposed at time of visiting (21 August 2012) was approximately 3-4m. The exposure is capped by a layer of peat on average about 0.15m deep. It exhibits root systems, twigs/branches, plant macrofossils and even occasional tree stumps. [ … ]

This exposure is subject to erosion at high tide. The peat dries out at low tide, shrinks and fragments. The clay deposit beneath is also reported to dry out, assuming a white, kaolin-like appearance and becoming powdery. Substantial pieces of timber have become exposed and lost over the years. Futher pollen and sediment analysis is really required to confirm the the nature and date of the peat/woodland environment.

Read the full site entry here: Submerged Forest, Llanrhystud.

CHERISH Project

The Royal Commission’s CHERISH Project, in partnership with Aberystwyth University: Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, the Discovery Programme: Centre for Archaeology and Innovation Ireland, Geological Survey Ireland are all involved in an exciting, 6-year European-funded project, which aims to raise awareness and understanding of the past, present and near-future impacts of climate change, storminess, and extreme weather events on the rich cultural heritage of the Irish and Welsh regional seas and coast.

I will certainly be keeping my eyes open on future walks around the Welsh coast and depositing my photos with the Royal Commission for their online database Coflein for future generations.

Borth’s submerged forest (scientifically dated to around 4000 BC) is well known but the ancient trees at Llanrhystud are little known and their date remains to be established.

Comment below to let us know your thoughts.

For information about the submerged forest at Borth and other aspects of the changing maritime landscape see our latest publication, Wales and the Sea. 10,000 years of Welsh Maritime History.

Charles Green, Public Engagement Officer

09/17/2020

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