Barmouth bridge was built in 1867 to serve the railway and pedestrians. Trains from Shrewsbury to Pwllheli stop at Barmouth. Coming into the Barmouth on the train, across the bridge, from Shrewsbury gives wonderful views of the esturary.
The distance across the bridge is about half a mile. The views of the estuary are amazing. The water area around the bridge is popular with kayaks as the tide coming in and out creates currents which can be challenging. It is also popular for fishing.
This single-track, mainly wooden railway viaduct crosses the estuary of Afon Mawddach river; incorporated in the structure is a footbridge whereby pedestrians and cyclists can walk/cycle alongside the track across the river for a small toll.
At a distance of around 900m, the viaduct carries the Cambrian Line which runs from Shrewsbury to Pwllheli. The bridge was built by Aberystwyth and Welsh Coast Railway, opening in 1867 and was the mastermind of Thomas Savin. Construction was often difficult due to the strong currents in the estuary and the lives of two men were lost as they drowned during construction. The original construction was entirely of wood and included a drawbridge section to permit the passage of tall ships; this section was rebuilt in 1901 as a swing bridge with two steel spans which, whilst still available, is rarely used.
With serious doubts regarding the safety of the wooden structure in 1980, a ban was imposed on locomotive-hauled trains with freight traffic re-routing via Maentwrog Road railway station and the Conwy Valley line. The main problem for the bridge was the the timbers were under attack from teredo worms who live in salt water and bore holes in timber to secrete their larvae.
In April 1986, the re-introduction of locomotive-hauled trains followed repairs which were conducted in 1985/6 and weight restrictions were further relaxed in 2005 after major repairs which allowed locomotive-hailed trains to again cross the Barmouth Bridge. Services run infrequently to Machynlleth.
TOLL PRICES (as at August 2012) :
Adults - 90p
Juniors (under 16) - 50p
Weekly (Adults) - £3.00
Weekly (Juniors) - £1.50
Annual tickets (Adults) - £20.00
Annual tickets (Juniors) - £10.00
Adults & Bikes - £1.50
Juniors & Bikes - 60p
Motorcycles & Adults - £2.50
But if you're really lucky, the staff will be on holiday and you can cross for free!
This sculpture of three generations of fishermen landing a net is made from a block of marble recovered from an 18th century shipwreck which lies on the seabed near Talybont, a few miles north of Barmouth.
This piece is by local sculptor, Frank Cocksey. It is said they are saying "That's it, we've had enough, we can't make a living out of this any longer".
If you visit Ty Gwyn museum in Barmouth, you may have the opportunity to watch a DVD of the documentary which tells the story of these old marble blocks which are now known to have come from the Carrara quarries of Tuscan Italy, a place known for its exquisite white marble of highest quality.
For me, I love how the marble has not been over-worked and there is plenty of the original surface from when the block was in the sea which shows how the sea-life had attempting to make their homes on the block.
Barmouth's Roundhouse (Ty Crwn in Welsh) is a stone building with slate roof located near the seafront.
It was erected in 1834 as a jail for petty offenders and drunkards with two sections, one for males and one for females. It was built on the instructions of the county's magistrates and is a single storey, circular building which is constructed of rough stone.
Today, the building can be viewed from the exterior, with each side having its own, appropriate mock-up.
Located near the quayside, this first floor hall house, dating back to 1460, is described in a poem by Tudur Penllyn and said to be used by Jasper Tudor (Earl of Pembroke and uncle to the future King Henry VII) to meet supporters while plotting the overthrow of Yorkists during the Wars of the Roses. Jasper is said to have plotted the downfall of his hated rival, Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet dynasty, here prior to the historic Battle of Bosworth in 1485 which was fought in Leicestershire, where Richard met his end and Henry VII acquired the throne and established the Tudor dynasty on the throne of England and Wales.
These days, Ty Gwyn is home to a museum which houses an exhibition on the origins of the building and the seafaring history of the town. In particular, the museum tells the history and finding of the Bronze Bell, whose shipwreck was scattered to the shores near Talybont. Alongside the Bronze Bell were 43 blocks of marble, two of which were raised and one used to sculpt the town's monument, The Haul, which depicts three generations of fishermen bringing in the last haul (located near the entrance to the harbour).
During your visit to the museum, it is possible to watch a DVD of a documentary which details an investigation into these large blocks of marble and the journey they were undertaking at the time of the wreck.
Admission to the museum is free, although donations are requested.
After crossing the wooden toll bridge between Dolgellau and Barmouth, we came across another wooden toll Bridge at Barmouth -It was the weekend, and a notice (pic 2) informed us that as there were no staff there, there was no toll!
By the constant traffic of cyclists/walkers/runners that we encountered, I guess this is a regular occurance,
Well, we spent quite a while on the bridge, enjoying the peace and quiet, and the stunning scenery.
While we were here, we didn't witness a train passing alongside, which we'd been hoping for.
To be continued...
On the wall of the Harbour Masters Office, is this plaque, honoring Harold Godfrey Lowe (21st November 1882 – 12th May 1944).
Harold ran away from Barmouth for a life at sea at the tender age of 14.
He rose through the ranks to become Fifth Officer of the RMS Titanic.
This was to be his first Trans-Atlantic voyage.
Harold reported to White Star's Liverpool offices on the 26th March 1912, before heading to Belfast, ready to board The Titanic the following Day.
Lowe slept through the impact of the iceburg, but soon awoke and 'sprung into action.
Lowe survived this disaster,
to be continued..
What Wiki Has to say
Next door to The Shipwreck Museum is 'The Round House' or Ty Crwn, which was built around 1834
Barmouth was a busy shipping/trading port, with timbers, slate, lead and minerals etc being exported from here.
Sailors from Barmouth and further afield would amass here, waiting for their voyages, or returning from months at sea. The local hostelries providing respite.
Besides sailors, traders and other itinerant visitors would be found here in Barmouth.
Drunken brawls were common place.
Now 'All the Nice Girls Like a Sailor'! as did the 'naughty girls - hoping to relieve them of a few coins, in exchange for 'A Good Time'
The nearest police station was in Dolgellau, 4 miles away.
So, The Round House was built, where miscreants could sober up, or those committing criminal acts could be detained, until they could be transferred to the appropriate authorities.
The building cost £55 to construct.
This Lock-Up was divided into two cells of equal size - one for males and the other for the 'fairer sex' - an indication of how 'unladylike' the female inhabitants of Barmouth were!
This lock-up became obsolete with the completion of Barmouth Police Station in 1861.
I was taking photos on the other side of this building, and missed Alyson's scream at discovering a man in the cell - well it was a 'dummy' but he gave her a shock! There is a shawled woman in the other cell.
Information boards/photos near this building and outside the Shipwreck museum.
Again, a free attraction.
So there's Barmouths answer to 'What Shall We do With A Drunken Sailor..... Here are the words of this familiar Sea Shanty, which has many variations.
Words to What Shall We do With A Drunken Sailor All together now......
The Ty Gwyn Museum is also known as The Shipwreck museum and here the mystery of 'The Hidden Haul's marble blocks are revealed.....
Entrance to this small museum is free, which I thought might mean - nothing much to see!
How wrong was I?
The Cae Nest, diving group members, growing up in Barmouth heard 'local legends' of Italian ancestors, and 'buildings under the sea' and were inspired to learn scuba diving. Their skills and better equipment spurred them on to deeper depths.
Their efforts were rewarded, when they came across the wreck site of a large ship. The ship, long having broken up and dispersed. Here, they found the heavier objects including cannons and a bronze bell, then later the marble blocks mentioned in my 'Last Haul tip'
The Bronze Bell, was a particularly important find - the quality of decoration indicated that it came from an important ship, and that it came from the continent. The date 1677 is clearly seen. The latin inscription for 'Praise the Lord All People'
A profile of Christ with a crown of thorns, Virgin Mary and 2 cherubs complete the decoration.
This bell is the oldest ships bell in existance. The find is considered equal to that of The Mary Rose.
Later dives revealed plates, cutlery, coins and personal items, indicating that 'noble men' had perished during the shipwreck
Yes, I looked at the climate controlled glass cabinet displays of 'rescued ' pewter plates, and was interested to see the Venetian cutlery, weapons etc. and glimpsed at the information boards etc. But it wasn't until the gentleman curator/volunteer? offered to show us a DVD pertaining to the 'shipwreck' that the story came to life for me, Then I began to understand the significance of this find, and how 'The Last Haul' originated.
So, what was this Italian ship, with a cargo of precious marble blocks doing here?
One reasonable thought was that the marble was destined for London, as this was a major sculpting centre of the era. Due to the size and high quality of the marble, and the date of the shipwreck, excitement grew that this was a consignment intended for St Paul's Cathedral, which was being built by Christopher Wren.
The team from Channel 4's TV series 'Wreck Detectives' arrived in Barmouth in 2004, to try and solve the mystery of The Bronze Bell Shipwreck. It was this episode that we watched on DVD.
Well, it turned out that the marble wasn't intended for St Pauls after all. Though the detectives verified that the marble was from the Carrara quarries.
It had been thought that the shipwreck happened in 1703 - due to no coins being found from a later date, and in November 1703, one of the worst recorded storms hit Northern Europe and Britain. This was documented by Daniel Defoe as 'causing havoc on land and at sea' during the three days it raged.
Leaving Genoa, the ship would have headed through the Straits of Gibraltar, into the Atlantic, avoiding the Bay of Biscay, then swing into the English Channel, where the storm would have whipped it up the West coast and into Cardigan Bay, along with many other 'lost ships'
In 1999, records came to light, that revealed that the shipwreck had occurred 6 years later than thought.
The name of the ship remains a mystery, as does the destination and purpose for the marble.
Another mystery to be solved in the museum is the purpose of the item displayed (pic 4) It has a link to Patagonia. I got quite close - but no cigar!
Of course I'm not going to reveal the answer as it will spoil it for other visitors to the museum reading this.
Well, I really enjoyed visiting this museum - The building itself has historical interest.
It is the oldest building in Barmouth
Ty Gwyn (The White House), is a first floor hall house, - Built between 1460 and 1485 by local, Gruffudd Vaughan, during The War of The Roses. He was a Lancastrian Supporter.
It was thought to have been occupied by Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke (uncle of the future King Henry VII),who used to meet local supporters here, while plotting the overthrow of his enemy - Richard 3rd, the last of the Plantagenets.
Jasper fought at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 - the scene of King Richards death, resulting in Henry taking the throne and the start of the Tudor dynasty.
The upper part houses the museum, (which was donated by Gwynned Council) while the ground floor is Davy Jones Locker - where we ate lunch later.
There is a Donations Box and Visitors book near the door, along with photocopied information leaflets.
Well worth Visiting - I'll return here next time I'm in Barmouth ..
One of the first sights that we came across in Barmouth was this marble carving.
We took photos, and were impressed by the carving, but it wasn't until we visited the nearby Shipwreck Museum that we understood the significance of this piece of work.
Also, walking around the sculpture after visiting the museum, we spotted the information plaques, and more information on the nearby notice board. I'm quite pleased that I didn't know this information was here - having the story unfold through the exhibits and DVD, as well as the museum's 'curator' made it being here more special.
Well, this is the creation of local sculptor, Frank Cocksey. It depicts three generations of fishermen, hauling in their nets for the last time. Apparently they are saying 'That's it, we've had enough, we can't make a living out of this any longer' - The Last Haul!
The design was chosen by the people of Barmouth, while the Town Council commissioned Mr Cocksey to create this unique piece for the Millennium celebrations.
As you can see in the photo's the upper carving is smooth white marble, while the underneath is quite rough, and appears sponge like (pic 3)
Well this block of marble had been residing, deep under the sea, (on the Sarn Badrig reef, which starts about half a mile from Dyffren beach, and extends for about 12 miles). It was one of 43 similar sized blocks of marble.
The blocks were found in 1978 by a group of local sub-aqua diving enthusiasts - the 'Cae Nest Group' , thinking they were concrete mooring blocks, possibly having been used for target practice during WW2. Cutting into the blocks, however, revealed snowy white chippings - Marble! and not just any marble - this originated in the Carrara quarries of Tuscan Italy - noted for the exquisite pureness and quality of the marble!
The blocks had laid here since around 1709. One block has been removed - the one that was to become 'The Last Haul' (Although I've read that 2 blocks have been removed) It was given to the Town by the Cae Nest Group.
The other blocks are to remain where they are, to continue to be eroded by the shell fish, that live on them - hence the sponge like appearance.
This site has 'designated protection' and is heavily supervised, licenced teams only are allowed to dive here.
So how did these marble blocks from Genoa end up under the sea off the Welsh coast?
Was anything else found besides marble blocks?
OK, follow me across the road to the Ty Gwyn Museum ...... just behind Davy Jones Locker Restaurant .......
Like many British beaches, Barmouth has a shallow beach which results in great differences in the distance to the actual sea dependent on whether it is low or high tide.
The beach is edged with pebbles, but is then a pleasant sandy beach.
Barmouth has an extensive sandy beach providing something for everyone. Near the bridge there is a secluded little cove where you can get some peace and relaxation whilst watching the boats go up and down the Maddach Estuary. Nearer the town is a livlier part of the beach where there are Donkeys and trampolines or you can hide away in the sand dunes.
The Round House was erected in 1834 and was used to lock away the drunk and disorderly, presumably until they had sobered up!! It was also used as a place of detention pending the transfer of an accused to the nearest place where justice could be administered. As you can see from the pictures half was set aside for Men and the other half for Women. The building ceased to be a lock up in 1861 when the County Authorities built Barmouth Police Station.
For a small fee you can take a walk across the bridge or for a little bit extra you can ride your bike over. The views of the mountains, the estuary and beyond are outstanding. It is also a great spot for birdwatching or just watching the fishing boats go about their business. The footpath on the bridge runs parallel with the railway line. If you're lucky you might see the steam train from Fairbourne hurtle past. Sadly it wasn't running during my visit.
The Shipwreck Museum is a fascinating little exhibition dedicated to the findings of a Ship which was wrecked off the coast of Barmouth in the 17th Century. The main exhibit is an intricately carved bronze bell which was recovered from the ship. The other finds include buckles, coins, plates and some nasty looking weapons and cannon balls. Admission is free to this delightful little museum. On your way out make sure you sign the visitor book and for a donation of 50p you can pick up a really informative leaflet which tells the story of how the shipwreck was found and its' origins.