Old river bridge, Abergwyngregyn

As you start your walk to the Aber Falls, take a moment to view the old bridge over the river. The bridge probably dates from before the 1750s. Records from that period refer to individuals who lived in Bontnewydd, the house near the bridge. The name means “new bridge”. It’s also still the name of the centuries-old bridge!

Drawing of Abergwyngregyn bridge c.1830The bridge it replaced was a little further downstream. A part of its foundations survives.

The ancient river crossing in this vicinity enables the road from the coast at Abergwyngregyn to cross the river and continue along Cwm Anafon, the valley which diverges to the west as you walk to the falls. The Romans used the route along Cwm Anafon as part of the road between their forts at Caerhun (Conwy Valley) and Segontium (Caernarfon).

The same route was strategically important to medieval Welsh princes during their resistance to Norman and English occupation of the lowlands. The Normans built the motte you can see in Aber village but were ousted by Gruffudd ap Cynan (1055-1137), King of Gwynedd, who established a court at Abergwyngregyn.

Photo of Abergwyngregyn bridge c.1890The bridge in its mountainous setting has attracted countless artists. The print shown here dates from c.1830 and shows the falls in the distance. Smoke rises from the chimney of Bontnewydd as walkers, horse riders and cattle proceed along the narrow track west of the river. Notice how few trees are visible!

The old photo shows the view down the valley c.1890. The track has been turned into a road. Several carriages and horses await the return of their passengers, probably visiting the falls.

The land south of the bridge now forms the Coedydd Aber national nature reserve, managed by Natural Resources Wales. The woodland consists mainly of oak, hazel and alder, and is interspersed with grassland. Wood warbler, tree pipit and redstart are among the many bird species here. The humidity along the riverbanks and below the falls promotes growth of mosses, ferns and more than 100 species of lichen. Follow the link below for more information.

With thanks to Hywel Thomas

Coedydd Aber visitor information – Natural Resources Wales website

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