Ancient fish trap discovery in the Teifi Estuary

Tivyside Advertiser: Arial view of the v-shaped Teifi fish trap Arial view of the v-shaped Teifi fish trap

A HUGE ancient fish trap more than 250 metres long and probably at least 1,000 years old has just been discovered in the Teifi estuary.

The underwater structure was first identified on aerial photographs and a recent exploratory dive at the site near Poppit has revealed the structure is protruding about 30 cm above the sand, allowing for a fuller investigation by divers.

A collaborative project is currently underway between Pembrokeshire College and the Dyfed Archaeological Trust, and members of the public are being asked to help with information for research into the conundrum of the ‘Poppit fish-trap’.

Dr Ziggy Otto, lecturer in the coastal zone and marine environment research unit at Pembrokeshire College, explained: "A large, underwater structure has been identified on aerial photographs and there can be little doubt that this rather impressive – and quite apparently man-made -structure is an ancient fish-trap.

"The structure is entirely underwater (at all stages of the tide); it has never been surveyed, but is approximately 260 metres long, and is possibly made of locally quarried rock, although use of boulders carried in during the last glaciation cannot be ruled out either.

"Its age is unknown, but because of its now entirely subtidal position, this fish-trap is very old, possibly dating back more than 1,000 years, when the sea level was lower and the entrance to the Teifi Estuary further towards the Poppit side."

He adds that the structure’s orientation precludes the possibility that it was designed to catch migratory fish, such as salmon and sea trout, going up the Teifi.

"The structure is a true conundrum, and certainly worthwhile investigating further, because it forms part of the historic and cultural seascape of the area."

The fish-trap can be viewed on Google Earth, north-west of the RNLI station at Poppit in front of the cliffs. If members of the public have any information, however anecdotal or minor, the investigators would like to hear from them.

Jen Jones, scientific diver and co-proprietor of the West Wales Diving School at Mathry, who undertook the first exploratory dive with Dr Otto, said: "This fish-trap is probably the oldest man-made structure in Wales ever to be scientifically investigated by way of scuba-diving."

She added that the section of the fish-trap dived is buried in the sand; it is about one metre wide and protruding about 30 cm above the sand. The rock boulders used in the construction of the fish-trap are encrusted with tube-dwelling worms, including the highly protected honeycomb worm (Sabellaria), a dense carpet of a variety of red algae species, with some sea anemones.

"This fish-trap has therefore metamorphosed from an entirely man-made structure to a naturally functioning reef, which adds to the biological diversity not only of the local area but also to that of the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation as a whole," she said.

Louise Austin, head of heritage management at the Dyfed Archaeological Trust, said: "Fish-traps were a widely used means of catching fish in the past which made a significant contribution to the economy of many coastal and estuarine communities. Today only a few are known to survive in Wales. Recent aerial survey work has identified a handful of additional sites, such as the Poppit example, but there are few opportunities to investigate and record in detail these important underwater sites."

Further dives are now planned by Ziggy and Jen to complete a full underwater survey of the fish-trap.

Ziggy and Jen would like to express their gratitude to Paul Oakley (Cardigan Outboards), and Ray and Lynda Jordan for providing boat support for the dive.

If you have any information about this underwater structure contact Ziggy on z.otto@pembs.ac.uk or Jen on jenjones04@btinternet.com.

Comments (3)

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5:43pm Fri 13 Mar 09

xznofile says...

a trap for basking sharks?
a trap for basking sharks? xznofile

6:40pm Tue 17 Mar 09

Dr. Dyfed James says...

Whilst the finding of a possible mediaeval fish trap at Poppit is exciting, it can hardly be described as a new discovery.

The structure has been well described for almost 2 years on the website of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales:

http://www.coflein.g
ov.uk/en/site/24568/
details/FISH+WEIR%2C
+PENRHYN+CASTLE/

"Striking remains of V-shaped timber fish trap, opening to the south-west with splayed arms facing the shore, and converging to a point to the north-west some 80m east of the harbour wall of Cei-Bach. Both arms of the V-shaped trap measure approximately 130m in length. The structure appears to be built of individual piles or posts and is mostly complete. It is difficult not to speculate about the size and symmetry of this fish trap, and a possible relationship with St Dogmaels Abbey just under 4km to the south. The fish trap was recorded during RCAHMW low-tide reconnaissance, partly through shallow water, on 1st August 2007 (image refs: AP_2007_2418-2428)."


Whilst the finding of a possible mediaeval fish trap at Poppit is exciting, it can hardly be described as a new discovery. The structure has been well described for almost 2 years on the website of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales: http://www.coflein.g ov.uk/en/site/24568/ details/FISH+WEIR%2C +PENRHYN+CASTLE/ "Striking remains of V-shaped timber fish trap, opening to the south-west with splayed arms facing the shore, and converging to a point to the north-west some 80m east of the harbour wall of Cei-Bach. Both arms of the V-shaped trap measure approximately 130m in length. The structure appears to be built of individual piles or posts and is mostly complete. It is difficult not to speculate about the size and symmetry of this fish trap, and a possible relationship with St Dogmaels Abbey just under 4km to the south. The fish trap was recorded during RCAHMW low-tide reconnaissance, partly through shallow water, on 1st August 2007 (image refs: AP_2007_2418-2428)." Dr. Dyfed James

9:11am Fri 20 Mar 09

Angharad Dafis says...

Beth bynnag ddywed yr archaeolegwyr, mae gwybodaeth am bysgota goryd ger Trwyn y Garreg Ddu (sef y lleoliad sydd i'w weld yn y darlun uchod) wedi bodoli ar gof gwlad erioed. Yn 1983 fe fum yn cyfweld a nifer o drigolion Llandudoch a'r cylch fel rhan o broject ymchwil gynhaliwyd o dan adain Coleg Prifysgol Llanbedr Pont Steffan i gofnodi tafodiaith dyffryn Teifi yn ei gyfanrwydd. Ymhlith y siaradwyr yr oedd Eilir Phillips, sy'n dal i fyw yn Llandudoch, a gyfeiriodd yn benodol at y goryd hwn a'r ffaith fod yr olion i'w gweld yn glir o gyfeiriad Castell Penrhyn ar ddiwrnod clir. Un arall o'r bobl a holais oedd pysgotwr San o'r enw Jim Sallis a aned yn 1901. Fel hyn y disgrifiodd yntau'r pysgota goryd yn ardal gorllewin Cymru:

"Ma 'na beth i ga'l - ma'n 'n'w'n galw goryd arno fe, a ma 'licence' goryd i ga'l nawr, ... dim ond dwy 'w i'n wbod oedd yn bosib amse' wen i ar y 'River Board' yn 'ynan. Wedd un, lan yn Shir Abyrteifi a un lawr 'ma yn Llandudoch - yn Abyrarth, ag yn Llandudoch. Wedd yr 'Abat' a'r Mynachod lan yn Strata Florida. o'n n'w'n cerdded yn gro's o Tregaron - o Strata Florida trw' Cors Caron a ma'na lwybyr, ma 'na 'steps' yn mynd yn gro's y gors 'ma wrth bo' chi'n mynd am Aberarth. Wel nawr i ddisgrio'r goryd 'ma i chi yn Llandudoch - 'chi'n gwbod walle am Trwyn y Garreg Ddu ma'n 'n'w'n galw fe - wel, beth wen 'n'w'n neud o'dd bildo wal pan wedd y teid mas - reit mas - pen 'gored bob pen - a fel cylch rownd, a o'dd y teid yn do' miwn nawr a o'dd e'n llenw dros ben y wal 'ma ac yn llanw miwn hyd y top. A wedd y pysgod yn dod miwn tu fiwn ffyr 'na a o' rhai o'n 'n'w'n aros ar ol... pan we'r teid yn myn' mas wedyn fydde hwn yn sychu a dim on' codi'r pysgod o'dd 'da 'n'w. Yn nineteen fify dw i'n meddwl taw can punt wedd y 'leisen'. On' wrth gwrs dyw 'im wedi ca'i 'i iwso 'ma - dw i ddim yn gwbod prys cas 'i iwso ddwetha 'ma."

Gyda llaw, mae rhai o'r cyfeiriadau hyn at bysgota goryd ger Trwyn y Garreg Ddu wedi eu croniclo gennyf mewn ysgrif ar y San yn y gyfrol Wes Wes Pentigily (golygydd Gwyn Griffiths), Gwasg Gomer 1994.

Er nad yw Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru yn cofnodi'r union ffurf ar y gair sy'n gyfarwydd i ni bellach
yn y de-orllewin, mae'n amlwg
mai amrywiad ar 'gored' "sef ffurf dreigledig cored, Llydaweg Diweddar gored)" yw goryd. Roedd y gair 'coret' yn bodoli mewn Hen Lydaweg a 'cora' mewn Gwyddeleg sydd efallai yn tanlinellu hynafiaeth y dull hwn o bysgota ynghyd a'i gysylltiadau Celtaidd.

Beth bynnag ddywed yr archaeolegwyr, mae gwybodaeth am bysgota goryd ger Trwyn y Garreg Ddu (sef y lleoliad sydd i'w weld yn y darlun uchod) wedi bodoli ar gof gwlad erioed. Yn 1983 fe fum yn cyfweld a nifer o drigolion Llandudoch a'r cylch fel rhan o broject ymchwil gynhaliwyd o dan adain Coleg Prifysgol Llanbedr Pont Steffan i gofnodi tafodiaith dyffryn Teifi yn ei gyfanrwydd. Ymhlith y siaradwyr yr oedd Eilir Phillips, sy'n dal i fyw yn Llandudoch, a gyfeiriodd yn benodol at y goryd hwn a'r ffaith fod yr olion i'w gweld yn glir o gyfeiriad Castell Penrhyn ar ddiwrnod clir. Un arall o'r bobl a holais oedd pysgotwr San o'r enw Jim Sallis a aned yn 1901. Fel hyn y disgrifiodd yntau'r pysgota goryd yn ardal gorllewin Cymru: "Ma 'na beth i ga'l - ma'n 'n'w'n galw goryd arno fe, a ma 'licence' goryd i ga'l nawr, ... dim ond dwy 'w i'n wbod oedd yn bosib amse' wen i ar y 'River Board' yn 'ynan. Wedd un, lan yn Shir Abyrteifi a un lawr 'ma yn Llandudoch - yn Abyrarth, ag yn Llandudoch. Wedd yr 'Abat' a'r Mynachod lan yn Strata Florida. o'n n'w'n cerdded yn gro's o Tregaron - o Strata Florida trw' Cors Caron a ma'na lwybyr, ma 'na 'steps' yn mynd yn gro's y gors 'ma wrth bo' chi'n mynd am Aberarth. Wel nawr i ddisgrio'r goryd 'ma i chi yn Llandudoch - 'chi'n gwbod walle am Trwyn y Garreg Ddu ma'n 'n'w'n galw fe - wel, beth wen 'n'w'n neud o'dd bildo wal pan wedd y teid mas - reit mas - pen 'gored bob pen - a fel cylch rownd, a o'dd y teid yn do' miwn nawr a o'dd e'n llenw dros ben y wal 'ma ac yn llanw miwn hyd y top. A wedd y pysgod yn dod miwn tu fiwn ffyr 'na a o' rhai o'n 'n'w'n aros ar ol... pan we'r teid yn myn' mas wedyn fydde hwn yn sychu a dim on' codi'r pysgod o'dd 'da 'n'w. Yn nineteen fify dw i'n meddwl taw can punt wedd y 'leisen'. On' wrth gwrs dyw 'im wedi ca'i 'i iwso 'ma - dw i ddim yn gwbod prys cas 'i iwso ddwetha 'ma." Gyda llaw, mae rhai o'r cyfeiriadau hyn at bysgota goryd ger Trwyn y Garreg Ddu wedi eu croniclo gennyf mewn ysgrif ar y San yn y gyfrol Wes Wes Pentigily (golygydd Gwyn Griffiths), Gwasg Gomer 1994. Er nad yw Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru yn cofnodi'r union ffurf ar y gair sy'n gyfarwydd i ni bellach yn y de-orllewin, mae'n amlwg mai amrywiad ar 'gored' "sef ffurf dreigledig cored, Llydaweg Diweddar gored)" yw goryd. Roedd y gair 'coret' yn bodoli mewn Hen Lydaweg a 'cora' mewn Gwyddeleg sydd efallai yn tanlinellu hynafiaeth y dull hwn o bysgota ynghyd a'i gysylltiadau Celtaidd. Angharad Dafis

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