The Dysynni lowlands, Tywyn

button-theme-powThe Dysynni lowlands, Tywyn

The Wales Coast Path crosses what used to be the mouth of an estuary between Tywyn and the footbridge over the river Dysynni. The bridge has a 50-metre span and was the biggest of its kind in the UK when installed in 2013. Previously the coast path made a 21km detour through Bryncrug.

The sea once covered this area at high tide. The shoreline north of Tywyn probably featured a quay. One expanse of water, named Broadwater, still exists, north west of the reclaimed land, and is a Site of Spcial Scientific Interest.

The current topography was fixed in the 1860s when upper and lower drainage systems were installed. Water was diverted into a channel running parallel to the river for c.8km. The channel goes beneath the coast path and railway to empty into the sea near the site of RAF Towyn airfield. There were also two channels beneath the river, draining the Llanegryn marshes on the north bank.

The result was a new expanse of fertile farmland, but the sea’s actions gradually moved the river’s course further north, where the riverbed was higher. This slowed the river’s flow and siltation built up, impairing the land drainage.

Matters came to a head in 1918, when much of the reclaimed land was so waterlogged that cultivation was impractical. Britain needed to maximise food production because of the First World War. A government engineer was dispatched and prepared plans for improvements, but floodwater lay on the lowlands from August to Christmas 1918.

German prisoners of war were drafted in as labour for improving the drainage system. In September 1918 one prisoner died of pneumonia as a result of exposure while working on the marshes. He had slept at Perfeddnant, near the upper reclaimed lands.

There was a temporary work camp for German prisoners on the south side of Tywyn during and after the war.

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