Pont Briwet, near Penrhyndeudraeth

Pont Briwet, near Penrhyndeudraeth

penrhyndeudraeth_pont_briwetThe Dwyryd estuary is crossed here by a bridge carrying a road, the Cambrian Coast railway, the Wales Coast Path and the Lôn Las Cymru cycle route (North-South Wales). The current bridge opened in 2015 after a £20m investment which resulted in a two-lane road and a traffic-free path in place of the previous single lane with traffic lights.

The original timber trestle bridge here (similar to the much longer Barmouth Bridge) was opened in October 1867 by the Cambrian Railways Company as part of the route connecting Pwllheli to Machynlleth and on to Shropshire. The railway detours inland to cross at this narrow point in the estuary.

Local variants of the bridge’s name are Pont y Briwet and Pont Briwat. Briwet may derive from briwo – to crush or pound. This could refer to the stone foundations of the two turf embankments which enabled the drainage and reclamation of hundreds of acres of arable land in this vicinity.

The road over the bridge cuts out a 13km (8-mile) detour via Maentwrog. This was a major boon to residents in 1867, summed up that year by local poet Dewi Emoel in the lines:

Ymdynaf uwch afon donog – Y Briwet
Dros bont ardderchog;
Yn lle gwau drwy’r creigiau crog,
Hynt erwin i Faentwrog.

penrhyndeudraeth_gwr_boundary_postThis tells of travelling on an excellent bridge above the waves instead of weaving past the rocks to Maentwrog.

A less popular feature of Pont Briwet was the toll for road vehicles. In 1909 the local council supported efforts to abolish tolls on this bridge and the Cob, further north, but the Briwet toll survived until the old bridge closed for demolition, 104 years later! Toll prices in 2009 were 40p for cars, 30p for trailers and motorcycles.

The photo above shows an excursion train crossing the original bridge in 2009 while cars queue at the toll booth.

A Great Western Railway boundary post (pictured left) still stands near the north end of Pont Briwet. It marked the limit of the land which the GWR inherited when it took over the Cambrian Railways in 1923. If you’ve just scanned the HistoryPoints QR codes, you can find the boundary post by following the small path which leads up a hillock to the right. The post is near the shore.

With thanks to Prof Hywel Wyn Owen, of the Welsh Place-Name Society, for place-name information

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