If you’re going to call yourself the “Atlantis” of somewhere, you’d better have a good ‘lost city underwater’ story to back it up. If it’s in Wales, that story better include a lot of references to mythical places with few vowels in their names. We may have a winner! Storm Francis, the record-breaking wind and rainstorm that pounded England and Wales in late August has uncovered a petrified forest which was buried in sand more than 4,500 years ago, and researchers believe it is part of Cantre’r Gwaelod, the legendary Atlantis of Wales, also known as the Sunken Hundred or Lowland Hundred, an ancient sunken kingdom once occupying land between Ramsey Island and Bardsey Island in what is now Cardigan Bay.
In the peaceful evening time,
Oft I listened to the chime,
To the dulcet, ringing rhyme,
Of the bells of Aberdovey.
One, two, three, four, Hark! they ring!
Ah! long-lost thoughts to me they bring,
Those sweet bells of Aberdovey.
Most people know of Cantre’r Gwaelod from the folk song “The Bells of Aberdovey” which refers to a church in the submerged lost kingdom whose bells are said to be heard ringing in Aberdyfi (Aberdovey), often in times of danger. However, the first reference to it is found in Black Book of Carmarthen, a 13th century book that is the earliest surviving manuscript written solely in Welsh. It contains 9th–12th-century poetry describing Welsh legends and heroes, some connected to the legend of Arthur and Merlin. In the Black Book of Carmarthen, Cantre’r Gwaelod was lost in the 6th century during the reign of king Gwyddno Garanhir when a well-maiden named Mererid neglected her duties and allowed the well to overflow. In more modern versions, Cantre’r Gwaelod was protected by dykes, but a drunken, carousing prince (is that redundant?) named Seithenyn forgot to close the gates and caused the flood.
“The petrified trees, uncovered at Llanrhystud on the west coast of Wales, are thought belong to the Cantre’r Gwaelod forest – subject of the local legend of the mythical Sunken Kingdom of Wales.”
“Experts had suggested the ancient forest stretched for around three miles along the shore between Ynys-las and Borth before eventually being buried under layers of peat, sand and saltwater. However, the new finding at Llanrhystud suggests the woodland could be far bigger and wider reaching than previously thought.”
According to The Daily Express, the BBC and other media sites, the petrified pine, alder, oak and birch trees (photos here) are thought to have stopped growing between 4,500 and 6,000 years ago when sea levels rose and a thick blanket of peat formed to suffocate and bury them. The scientific, non-drunken-prince-or-negligent-maiden reason for their sinking is the same as the reason given for their modern uncovering due to a violent storm – climate change. As Dr. Hywel Griffiths, an Aberystwyth University researcher looking at coastal environmental change, tells The Daily Express:
“It’s exciting because it’s additional evidence of these climate change processes that have been going on for so long. But also worrying because we are seeing these landscape changes occur more often. It’s due to the impact and influence of the storms that feel like they are happening more.”
In addition to the petrified trees and the mythical tales, fossilized human footprints and some human tools have been discovered in the area, lending real evidence to the legend of Cantre’r Gwaelod, the Welsh Atlantis.
Has any heard the bells lately?