Storm Reveals 4,500-Year-Old Forest of a ‘Sunken Kingdom’ in Wales
A storm has revealed an amazing sight on a beach in Wales. High gusts of winds have exposed an ancient forest of dead trees that are 4,500 years old. These submerged trees are believed to have inspired a legend about a sunken kingdom that has played a very important part in Welsh mythology.
The Revealing Storm
Storm Hannah struck Wales on the 27th of April and it left a trail of devastation. Its highs wind caused a great deal of damage and felled many trees. The strong gusts also drove great amounts of sand from beaches along the coast of Wales. This left exposed a “prehistoric forest which was buried under water and sand more than 4,500 years ago” according to the Daily Mail. This dates the trees to the Bronze Age, almost to the time when Stonehenge, was being constructed.
Once there was a forest of alder, oak, and birch, near the village of Borth, on the shores of Cardigan Bay in central Wales. The forest stretched “for up to three miles along the shore between Ynys-las and Borth” according to the Daily Mail. The Metro reports that when the sea level rose it was slowly ‘buried under layers of peat, sand, and saltwater’ over the millennia. The petrified trees remained sunken under the waters but were preserved by the layers of peat.
The submerged forest has been visible for years but much more of the remains of sunken kingdom, Cantre'r Gwaelod was uncovered during a recent storm. (Badgernet / CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Forest Re-Emerges From the Sea
For centuries parts of trees and stumps have been exposed by storms and at exceptionally low tides, and archaeologists have been long aware of the Bronze Age forest under the surface. Some tree stumps about 1 foot high (0.3 meters) were revealed in a storm during 2014, according to Infosurhoy “but locals said they were soon mostly recovered by sand.”
However, Storm Hannah blew so much sand off the beach that it revealed large trunks, tree stumps, and roots networks. Locals believe that the storm was so strong that it tore some of the ancient trees from the sand. This in conjunction with very low tides allowed for the prehistoric trees to emerge from Cardigan Bay.
The ancient trees were shown to the world by a local photographer Wayne Lewis when he was walking the beach near Borth. He came across the forest and was amazed and naturally took many photographs. According to Infosurhoy, he is quoted as saying “the trees really are stunning.”
The reemergence of the sunken kingdom and forest was discovered by amateur photographer walking on the beach. (Badgernet /CC BY-SA 3.0)
In the past archaeologists have conducted excavations in the area and have found some items of historical importance, including fossilized footprints. They even found some tools. It is clear that there was once land here before the sea level rose and it was possibly the site of human settlements.
The Myth of the Sunken Kingdom
The locals have known about the sunken forest for centuries at the very least. This according to the Daily Mail “led to the local legend of the mythical Sunken Kingdom of Wales, called Cantre'r Gwaelod” in Welsh. This sunken realm is also known as the Sunken Hundred or the Lowland Hundred in English.
There are several versions of the legend, which date from the early Middle Ages. The most popular holds that there was once a rich and fertile land sunk beneath the waves of Cardigan Bay. It was a very large area and it stretched for up to 20 miles (35 kilometers). The submerged land was held to be the location of powerful kingdom which had its own capital and was ruled by a powerful ruler. It also had many rich farms, churches, and strongholds.
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The deluge of the sunken kingdom, Cantre'r Gwaelod. (Jason.nlw / Public Domain)
The stories about the sunken kingdom all agree that during some mythic period it sunk beneath the waves. The land was low-lying, and it was protected against the sea by a dike or causeway and a network of sluices.
In one version of the myth, a watchman got drunk and failed to close a sluice gate and this allowed the sea to flood the kingdom. In another version of the tale, a drunken prince failed to close the gate, and this led to the realm of Cantre'r Gwaelod being lost beneath the waves. Then there is the tale of a fairy who allowed an enchanted well to overflow and this led to the kingdom becoming submerged.
There is no archaeological evidence for the existence of the kingdom of Cantre'r Gwaelod or the Sunken Hundreds. The locals are very fond of the legend and there are many stories about the submerged kingdom. One well-known tale is that the sunken bells of a church from the kingdom will ring out if the area is in danger.
Map showing position of Cardigan Bay off Wales' west coast location of the sunken kingdom, Cantre'r Gwaelod. (Wereon / Public Domain)
Top image: Close up of the revealed ancient trees of the sunken kingdom. Credit: Stuart Herbert / Flickr
By Ed Whelan