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sisters & sparrows

Poetry. Photography. Life.

I told you I’d tell you about Ynyslas.  Well, this is the legend {via here}:

This land used to be the Cantre’r Gwaelod, which extended some 20 miles west of the current shoreline into what is now Cardigan Bay, and was ruled as part of the Kingdom of Meirionnydd by Gwyddno Garanhir (Longshanks), born circa 520 AD.

The land was said to be extremely fertile, so much so that it was said that any acre there was worth four acres elsewhere. The catch was that the land depended on a dyke to protect it from the sea. The dyke had sluice gates that were opened at low tide to drain the water from the land, and closed as the tide returned.

Around 600 AD, one night a storm blew up from the south west, driving the spring tide against the sea walls. The appointed watchman, Seithennin, a heavy drinker and friend of the King, was at a party in the King’s palace near Aberystwyth. Some say he fell asleep due to too much wine or that he was too busy having fun to notice the storm and to shut the sluices.

The water gates were left open, and the sea rushed in to flood the land of the Cantref, drowning over 16 villages. The King and some of his court managed to escape by running to safety along Sarn Cynfelin, Gwyddno Garahir and his followers were forced to leave the lowlands and make a poorer living in the hills and valleys of Wales.

Another, more bawdy version, maintains that Seithennin was a visiting local King, who, at the time of the storm, was intent on amorously distracting the fair maiden Mererid, who was in charge of the sluice gates. Successful in his mission, Mererid was therefore unable to shut the gates, and the land was flooded.

Here’re my thoughts on the matter:

Cantre’r Gwaelod

by Francesca Fletcher


A dull day, studded with slack clouds.

The sun went like the belly of a fish

Across the sand and the fat mulch

At the edge of the spent waves

Made a damp thweat when we kicked it.

We gleaned scraps of driftwood,

Heart shaped stones, watched worms

Slide in and out of the grit.

We walked quickly and sometimes

Some rain fell from the sky

Or upwards from the sea

With that kind of panting wind


That catches you and spins you into euphoria.

The land was on our right shoulder.

It was a lonely arm.  All that was on it

Was the chewed ends of ice-pops

One green adder and miles of fence.

Some dead holiday homes too,

But I ignored those.


The tide was dragging back as we went

So that before we reached Ynyslas

The drowned forest was undrowned

Naked under the cold appraisal of the sun

The stumps, now stone, stared

Out of their wallowy green pools

Vined with slime.  They were surrounded

By sinking sand. We got an eyeful

And swapped stories about how it happened

This devouring of the land by the sea.


We had to walk five miles back

Against the wind. We left the dead trees like

Dead welsh kings on the cold shore

To be reswallowed.



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