Coed Cyrnol reserve, Menai Bridge

Logo of Welsh Place Name SocietyLink to Welsh translationLink to French translationCoed Cyrnol nature reserve, Menai Bridge

This area was originally known as Cerrig y Borth (“Porthaethwy rocks”). This was a reference either to the stones of the causeway to Ynys Tysilio (Church Island), at the foot of the slope here, or more likely to the rocky outcrop overlooking the Menai Strait.

The land’s strategic location perhaps explains why 37 Roman coins form the 3rd century AD have been discovered here, as well as pottery and an Early Bronze Age stone battle axe.

In 1814, the Earl of Uxbridge (later Marquess of Anglesey) acquired 41 acres and created a woodland here. In time it came to be known locally as Coed Cyrnol (“Colonel's woodland”), after a Colonel Sandys who lived nearby in the early 1900s. Eventually the family sold the land to Menai Bridge Urban District Council. It formally opened as a public space in 1951. It’s now a Local Nature Reserve.

Gerald of Wales and the Archbishop of Canterbury crossed the Menai Strait in 1188 during their tour of Wales to preach and recruit for the third crusade. Gerald recorded that sermons were given by the Archbishop, local archdeacon Alexander and Seisyll, abbot of Strata Florida, at a spot near the shore where an arc of rocks formed a kind of theatre. It’s thought the location was what we know today as Coed Cyrnol.

The preachers had tried, in vain, to persuade a group of young men to enlist for the crusade. Three days later, robbers attacked the youths, killing and wounding some. The survivors immediately enlisted. Gerald’s journal also informs us that Anglesey had always been known as “Môn Mam Cymru” (Anglesey, mother of Wales) because it produced more grain than any other area of Wales and was productive when crops failed everywhere else.

To the east of Coed Cyrnol, beside the main road, is the site of a horse fair which was held from 1690 onwards. Over the years the site was variously known as The Smithfield, Cae Sêl (“Sale Field”) and Mart, before being demolished to make way for a supermarket, owned in succession by Leo's, Co-op and now Waitrose.

With thanks to Prof Hywel Wyn Owen, of the Welsh Place-Name Society, and Menai Bridge Town Council

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