Seasons Greetings from a (briefly) sunny Newborough, Anglesey.
Twr Bach (little tower) and Twr Mawr (big tower) are the two towers / lighthouses on the south-east and south-west tips of Ynys Llanddwyn.
Twr Bach has been there a little longer than Twr Mawr, though there seems to be no precise record of when either tower was built.
It’s also quite hard to find the truth about why the towers were built, but it seems Twr Bach was originally built as a landmark and day beacon (an unlit lighthouse). However, it was built in the wrong place – it couldn’t easily be seen by ships approaching from the west. Therefore, Twr Mawr was built to replace it.
Twr Mawr is on a higher, more westerly promontory and definitely more visible from most directions. As its name suggests it is bigger than Twr Bach, standing nearly 11m tall. The first navigational beacon was put in Twr Mawr in 1845 and it became a working lighthouse on 1st January 1846.
For nearly 130 years Twr Mawr continued as a lighthouse, while Twr Bach lay dormant at its side. But in 1975 when Twr Mawr ceased operation, Twr Bach became the site for the installation of a new, modern navigation beacon. So now, Twr Bach is the working tower, while Twr Mawr is a striking and iconic landmark for Ynys Llanddwyn.
The main footpaths on Ynys Llanddwyn both lead you to Twr Mawr. It’s about a mile and a half walk from the main car park at the end of the forest toll road. Be careful of the tides: when the tide is high, Llanddwyn is cut off for a while.
There is interesting information about the history of the towers at Coflein (The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales) and at tpwilliams.co.uk (a miscellany of local historical information).
A Celtic and a plain cross dominate the skyline of Llanddwyn from many directions. One cross was erected at the end of the 19th Century, the other at the start of the 20th. Both were erected by the island’s then owner, F G Wynn.
The poignant inscriptions on the Celtic cross read: “they lie around did living tread, this sacred ground now silent – dead“. In English on one side, and Welsh on another. Apparently F G Wynn erected this cross to commemorate Llanddwyn Church, which at that time was largely ruined and overgrown.
The inscriptions on the plain cross, one on each side, read: “Dwynwen“; “in the sixtieth year of Queen Victoria 1897“; “in memory of St Dwynwen Jan 25th 1465“; and, “erected by the Hon F G Wynn owner of the isle“.
Dwynwen (or some say Dwyn Wen – Blessed Dwyn) is the patron saint of lovers for Wales. Her Saint’s Day is celebrated on 25th January: a very popular day for couples to visit the island!
As with everything historical, there are lots of conflicting stories surrounding the story of Dwynwen. The manuscript of Iolo (available in full at archive.org) gives the following version:
“Maelon Dafodrill, and Dwynwen, the daughter of Saint Bry-
chan, mutually loved each other : Maelon sought her in unappro-
priated union, but was rejected; for which he left her in animosity,
and aspersed her, which caused extreme sorrow and anguish to
her. Being one night alone in a wood, she prayed that God would
cure her of her love ; and the Almighty appearing to her, while
she was asleep, gave her a delicious liquor, which quite fulfilled
her desire; and she saw the same draught administered to Maelon,
who, thereupon, became frozen to a lump of ice.
The Almighty, also, deigned to give her three choices ; and she
first desired that Maelon should be unfrozen ; — ^next, that her sup-
plications should be granted in favour of all true-hearted lovers ;
so that they should either obtain the objects of their affection, or
be cured of their passion ; — and, thirdly, that, thenceforth, she
should never wish to be married: and the three requests were con-
ceded to her ; whereupon she took the veil, and became a saint.
Every faithful lover, who, subsequently, invoked her, was either
relieved from his passion, or obtained the object of his affection.”
While the Museum of Wales’ version of the story has a bit of a different slant to it. But the essence of the blessing that Dwynwen can bring (lasting love or release from unrequited love) remains the same.
It doesn’t happen very often. And when it does, it doesn’t last for long. But when the snow comes down to the sea, Newborough Beach and Forest, and Llanddwyn Island become especially magical.
Over the winter, an awful lot of work has been taking place in Newborough Forest. A new easy access trail for wheelchair users is one part of the works. The trail, a wooden boardwalk, provides access to an elevated viewing platform giving stunning views across the beach.
Work on the trail is very nearly completed and it is open for use while the final finishing touches are put in place.
The work has been done by Jones Bros, working through a bone numbingly cold winter, so fair play to them. Chwarae teg.
This is what remains of the brig Athena. The ship ran into trouble during a winter storm in December 1852. It was sailing from Alexandria to Liverpool; it seems particularly tough to have come so far and then meet with disaster.
However, it isn’t a totally sad story because thanks to the courage of the local lifeboat men, the 14 crew of the Athena were rescued and taken to safety on Llanddwyn.
Now the Athena makes a beautiful and much photographed landmark on the long, and often deserted, Penrhos Beach (Traeth Penrhos) – the beach to the north side of Llanddwyn Island.
You can walk to the wreck either from the Malltraeth car park, or the main Newborough Forest car park. Its approximate grid reference is SH385645 and it’s about a mile and a half or two miles from either car park, or from the village.
Click here to see the approximate location of the wreck in Streetmap.
I’m starting this blog with a photo from long ago. It’s a bit grainy, but I think you can make out how things looked before the trees of the forest grew tall.
This photo is taken from an old “Official County Guide – Isle of Anglesey”, published by the Anglesey Tourist Association. It doesn’t have a publication date, but maybe mid 1960s?
The guide only gives Newborough, Brynsiencyn and Malltraeth two paragraphs between the three of them saying:
“Westward also lie Brynsiencyn and Newborough, two villages which, with Malltraeth to the north, are becoming increasingly popular as holiday centres, mainly because they give easy access to the beaches and other natural attractions of this corner of the island.
Of these, there is certainly one that no visitor to Anglesey can afford to miss – picturesque Llanddwyn Island, with its massive stone crosses; its ruined church dedicated to Dwynwen, the protectress of true lovers, and the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine; its quaint lighthouse; and its snug little row of pilots’ cottages. Nowhere does the sea break on fine gravelly coves with quite the same sound as it does on Llanddwyn Island.”
Clywch clywch: hear hear!