Maps showing the vegetation cover of Ardudwy at different historical periods
The coastal storm shores of sand and gravel may have been further out than they are today. Scattered pines and the damp alder woods edge the salt marshes. Further inland, the gentle slopes are covered with open, oak woodland. Then the woods become a little thinner, emerging on occasional flat plateau. The river Dwyryd flows on both sides of Ynys Llanfihangel-y-traethau. Inland, craggy mountains with steep rocky cliffs, appear to the east. Birch trees grow thinly along the highest margins of the uplands. The land becomes increasingly bare and marshy in places.
Sand dunes have built up in front of pebble beaches on the shallow, emerging modern coastline of Ardudwy. It is 600 years before Christ. Tidal flats around the estuary give way to marsh. The slopes look different and the heavy rain has encouraged the trees to grow in dense oak woodlands along the coast and up into the valley of the river Artro. In places, there are small clearings of damp lowland oak and alder woods. Further up, the trees are replaced by birch and bracken on upland clearances. Cattle graze the rough pasture and heath and irregular livestock paddocks or ‘wandering walls’, prevent them from wandering too far. Further along, the birch trees do well in the wet weather but here and there are treacherous areas of marsh and bog. Occasionally, at altitudes between 200 and 400 meters, as at Erw Wen, single round houses appear with small lychets or terraces of cultivated land or field systems. Crops and vegetables are grown. Below, on the estuary, Harlech marsh is less extensive than it is today.
Inland in the uplands there are large areas of peaty bogs.
The weather was warm and dry in the early middle ages, attracting more people to the uplands where there is land to spare. Some people are able to survive in the uplands and cultivation takes place on the lower slopes as well as on the coastal strip. The weather deteriorates in the later years of the Iron Age. The rains increase, crops fail and there is sickness in the land. People move down from the uplands to marginal areas where life is a less harsh.
Small ships still use the haven at Mochras for local trade. Goods are brought in and the convenient local ferries are busy. The track way is used regularly between Harlech and Trawsfynydd. Cattle are driven to market and some lower ffriddoedd are enclosed by the developing estates of Corsygedol, Glyn and Maesyneuadd. Land is bought up to enlarge estates and farms and fields as we know them today are taking shape. The residual oak forests continue to be cleared for pasture. This is often unenclosed and provides local people with rights of pasture and a subsistence living. Bracken covers the higher, rocky slopes. 1600 Track Way
Vast areas of mountain and common land are enclosed, mostly by the owners of large estates. Long, straight dry stone walls cross Ardudwy, even to the summits of the highest mountains. No land is left unclaimed. The Crown holds much of the most marginal farming areas. These new ‘ffriddoedd’ are rented to tenants and the old traditional rights of pasture are lost. The upland areas of Ardudwy remain largely unchanged but on the coastal strips, considerable change takes place, mainly as a result of sea defences and new meadows on reclaimed land. This attracts new coastal roads and the railway.
1800 Track Way