Category Archives: Gwynedd Council

Day Trip: The Grade II listed Pont Abermaw (Barmouth Bridge)

After walking up to Castell y Gaer hillfort in mid September, I drove to Morfa Mawddach railway station, a short drive away, and parked up.  This is a favourite route for cyclists of all sorts.  Some go there to do some serious peddling around the Mawddach on a marked out on the Mawddach Trail (following the route of the disused “Dolgelley Branch” of the Aberystwyth and Welsh Coast Railway line, which opened in 1869), others had hired bikes in Barmouth.  It’s the same with walkers – some are there to do the trail, others are just walking the bridge.  Fortunately, it was a very quiet day, at least on the bridge itself.  The views on a sunny day are great, and when the wind drops, the high-pitched sound of the oystercatchers is lovely.

The railway viaduct in c. 1869.  Source: Wikipedia

Barmouth Bridge, or viaduct, was built between 1864 and 1867 in  to carry the Aberystwyth and  Welsh Coast Railway, now the Cambrian Railway, across the Mawddach estuary, which it still does.  It cuts off an 18 mile trip around the estuary that would otherwise have had to be taken by the railway between Morfa Mawddach and Barmouth.  Designed by Welsh civil engineer Benjamin Piercy, and English civil engineer and architect Henry Conybearet, it has a span of c.800m, the longest wooden-framed viaduct in Britain.  It was grade II listed in 1988.

Although most have been replaced long ago, timber pile viaducts of the Barmouth bridge type were once common on the Welsh coastal railways.  Conybeare’s decision to choose timber as the main construction material was probably driven by much the same concern to save costs, rather than employing iron,.  Baltic timber could be brought to the site very cheaply by sea, and was a fraction of the cost that an iron viaduct would have been.  Although it was well known that Teredo navalis, a boring worm, could do considerable damage to vessels and sub-surface wooden structures, it was thought not to inhabit the Mawddach estuary, and may not have done when the viaduct was built.

The original design included a rolling drawbridge section that pulled back across the track and  enabled vessels to use the navigation channel into the estuary.  This was replaced by the twin-hogback steel lattice swing bridge in 1899, which, with a span of 41.5m, could swing open to let vessels pass, shown on a vintage postcard to the right.  The swing span was operated in March 1984 and April 1987, but permanent rails indicate that it is unlikely to be opened in the future.

After a number of repairs and renovations, the wooden elements supporting the span are composed of 113 timber pile trestles 5.5 metres apart, which are now encased in concrete sleeves reinforced by glass-fibre.

The viaduct has had quite an exciting life, with a number of challenges to its longevity.  It caught fire in 1892, and it was only thanks to a local boy, who raised the alert, that the fire was swiftly extinguished.  It had a lucky escape in 1946 when a live mine came in on the tide and touched one of the wooden pillars, but fortunately failed to detonate. In 1980, considerable dismay was caused by the discovery that Teredo navalis had eaten into 69 of the supporting pillars.  The bridge had to be closed, and restoration work was carried out over a six month period, during which a rail replacement service was run by the Cambrian Line between Barmouth and Tywyn.  In August 2015, there were real fears that the footbridge would be closed as part of a cost-saving exercise announced by Gwynedd Council.  The bridge had been a toll bridge, with a couple hired to collect small sums from users of the walkway, but with 90,000 visitors a year, these sums added up very nicely and contributed towards £38,000 that Gwynedd Council paid to Network Rail to keep the walkway open.   An online petition was immediately organized by a local resident, collecting over 20,600 names in support of keeping the bridge open.  A £1.00 honesty box system was implemented, but even on my one walk to Barmouth and back, it was amazing how many people didn’t contribute anything.  In October 2016 a fire broke out and the bridge had to be closed again, but only for a fortnight, with a rail replacement service also running between Barmouth and Tywyn.

On its 150th anniversary a celebration was held, and a special train was run from Shrewsbury to Pwllheli, pulling Riviera Trains Mark 1 carriages.  In March 2020 it was announced that the bridge was to receive a £25 million revamp from Network Rail to replace a large number of the timber and metal elements and install a new track along the entire span.


Barmouth Railway Viaduct. Coflein.

Barmouth Viaduct. Engineering Timelines

Closing Barmouth Bridge will have ‘big effect’ on economy warns charity.  North Wales Live.  20th August 2015

20,000-name petition to keep Barmouth Bridge open to all. 21st August 2015.  BBC.

Fire shuts Barmouth Bridge until next week.  North Wales Live. 4th October 2016

150th Anniversary of Barmouth Bridge Celebrated with Special Train Service.  Forwarder Magazine. 10th October 2017

Barmouth Bridge £20m plan on its 150th anniversary.  BBC News. 10 October 2017

Barmouth Viaduct to get £25m revamp. BBC News.  26 May 2020

Dai’s Shed and the Aberdyfi Village Stores

Having moved in on a permanent basis only last month, it has been great to find that the local shops are useful resources, not just souvenirs, ice cream and fish and chips.

I had a lovely little shopping spree at Dai’s Shed on the wharf this morning.  Dai has a fishing boat moored in Church Bay and goes out daily, weather permitting.  I bought a tub of cockles in vinegar, a beautifully prepared dressed crab (I was presented with a huge tray and allowed to pick one out)  and a gorgeous fresh mackerel, an absolute beauty.   I always gut my own fish just before cooking because I think that it helps to retain both shape and flavour, but I seriously appreciated the offer to do it for me.  I always cook mackerel on the day I buy it, but was contemplating a second one for the freezer.  However, Dai told me that, like strawberries, mackerel turns to mush in the freezer.  Very welcome advice.  I still haven’t psyched myself up to coping with a live lobster, but he had plenty of live lobster and crab in a tank.   The shop closes at the end of October and opens at Easter.

I went afterwards into the Aberdyfi Village Stores at 4 Seaview Terrace, and was so impressed by what I found.  It has a Costcutter logo over the window so I wasn’t expecting much, but it is a little treasure trove of very good quality products on wooden shelves and fresh goods in refrigerated units, many Welsh and some with a distinctly continental twist.  There is a nicely presented vegetable selection with good, fresh produce.  The asparagus that I bought looks really super – fit healthy spears – and the locally made fresh bread is gorgeous.  My other purchases included fresh double cream, natural yogurt, a pack of couscous, a jar of Welsh Lady Hell’s Mouth Mustard that has paprika, garlic and chilli to liven it up (yet to try it but wow), a pack of dried juniper berries in the excellent Green Cuisine range and some eggs.  A great mix of the basics as well as a generous supply of some more exotic items in tins and jars.

Some of today’s haul from Dai’s Shed and the Aberdyfi Village Stores in Aberdovey

The expedition was somewhat tainted by the £3.30 minimum charge for parking in the big car park on the seafront for over three hours.  There’s not much choice at this time of year when it is so busy and all the short-term parking spaces are taken.  Why does Gwynedd Council not provide a 1-hour charge for quick visits?  Such a heavy fee just to dump the car for half an hour doesn’t really offer much incentive for local people to shop in Aberdovey when parking in Tywyn at the Spar and Co-Op is free.  It is like imposing a penalty fee for using local shops.  All very well to take exercise and enjoy the view by walking down into the village on a dry day, but it was chucking down when I left the house.

Here’s what I did with the mackerel from Dai’s Shed:  Gutted it, cut slits in it on both sides, rubbed in a mixture of garlic, paprika and olive oil and baked it stuffed with lemon slices in foil painted with olive oil in the oven.  I served it with lemon slices (should have been limes, but I didn’t have any), the juices from the foil poured over the top and a salad made of diced purple onion, mint leaves from my garden, diced salad tomatoes, capers, shredded little gem lettuce, giant chives from the garden, a home made mustard vinaigrette and a good shake each of salt, pepper and piri piri.  Spot the deliberate mistake with the layout of the cutlery 🙂  Couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it until I started trying to eat!


A Critical Path snafu – and why is there no rubbish tip?

I am a big fan of Critical Path Analysis, essential in project management to track what needs to happen before something else can take place.  I did a very simple CPA chart for the very first steps towards making the house suitable for full-time rather than holiday-home living, a lot of which involves finding places to put my stuff, currently blocking up several rooms of my father’s house and his entire double garage.  This involves disposing of a lot of things out of the garage, and moving new and existing shelving units into it, creating space in the house for bigger and better shelving and extending the storage capacity of both house and garage.

So my CPA looked something like this yesterday:  before I can move in boxes of things, I need to sort out the garage, including removing all the rubbish in there, painting the walls and floor, fixing the leak in the roof, blocking the gaps between the roof and the wall and then putting up heavy duty shelving.  Amongst the stuff that needs removing are two huge chests of draws.  As there is no council or commercial dump around here since the one at Machynlleth closed, the next step was to order Gwynedd Council’s bulky goods removal service, which would also get rid of a single bed and a futon that are taking up much-needed storage and desk space.  So I went ahead and ordered the low shelving for the spare bedroom where the spare single bed currently stands, the high shelving for the main bedroom (replacing the low shelving in the bedroom that will go at the back of the garage), the desk and chair for where the futon sits and the heavy duty shelving for the right side of the garage.  Then I went on to the Gwynedd website and ordered my bulk goods removal.

My Critical Path snafu was ordering the furniture before checking out bulk waste collection dates, based on an erroneous assumption that collection of my bulky items would take place within a couple of days.  The earliest that Gwynedd can come is 9th August – 10 days away.  So all this stuff from Amazon is turning up and there will be nowhere to put any of it until the 9th!

It is going to be interesting to see how I can fulfil Gwynedd’s requirement for me to get all five objects (two chest of draws, the futon, the bed and the mattress) outside where they are “easily visible” on my own, but I dare say I’ll manage.  God help the elderly and the infirm.

Gwynedd Council’s charges a whopping £23 for 5 items, £46 for 10 items.  Southwark Council, from which I have just come, charged me £16 for 10 items just before I left.  It would be less of a shock if there was anywhere around here where I could take the stuff to dump myself, but since the council dump in Machynlleth closed down a few years ago, there has been nothing.  I drove to Dolgellau last year, where the Gwynedd website said there was a recycling centre, but that was a rather pathetic little affair, designed for local recycling of food, tins and bottles, not the disposal of bulk items like an eight-draw chest of draws, a bed base, mattress and a futon.  Someone told me that the Machynlleth tip closed because there was a problem with the contractor that operated it on behalf of the council.  Whether this is true or not I don’t know, but it would have been handy if Gwynedd had come up with a replacement local solution to disposing of household and similar items.  However, I am counting my blessings because my friend Cheryll, who lives in Gloucester, informs me that Gloucester Council charges £24 for three items, £8 for each additional item and take an eternity to arrive.