St Tudwal’s Islands
The St Tudwal’s Islands (St Tudwal’s East and West) are situated just off of the coast of the Llyn peninsula at Abersoch. Both islands contain archaeological and structural remains that span the early medieval period to the modern day. St Tudwal’s West is most famous for its lighthouse which was built in 1877 at the request of the Parliamentary Lighthouse Committee. St Tudwal’s East is known to have had a monastic settlement upon it with an associated Augustinian priory constructed in 1291. In 2017 CHERISH commissioned an ALS survey for the islands from which archaeological features were able to be mapped and recorded.
The Warren, Abersoch
The Warren beach near Abersoch is interesting both for its archaeology and its dynamic natural coastal landscape. Along the beach are the extensive remains of ancient inter-tidal peat and tree stumps along with two post-medieval shipwrecks. Their sandy beach location means that both the peats and shipwrecks are only very occasionally visible when intense storms remove the sand from the foreshore.
Inter-tidal peats can be valuable archive of past environments. Organic material can be dated by radiocarbon dating, and other environmental indicators such as pollen can be extracted to reconstruct vegetation changes through time. We are hoping to use them to uncover important information about sea-level rise in Wales over the last 8,000 years. Preliminary work by CHERISH has already dated tree remnants to determine that they grew in 2 distinct period – the first about 7,700 years ago and the second about 4,200 years ago. Amongst the tree stumps are also the rare remains of hoof prints that may have been created by ancient animals who wandered the landscape in the last 4,000 years.
There are also the remains of two likely 19th century shipwrecks on the beach which have been named as the ‘Fosil’ and the ‘Maria’. Recent research undertaken by the project has in fact indicated that both wrecks could relate to any of at least 28 shipwrecks known to have been wrecked in the Abersoch area during the 19th century. Regular visits to the site are undertaken by CHERISH after periods of intense stormy weather to both assess and record the visible remains as well as any changes caused as a result of storms.
Why are we working here?
The main threat to this project area is the increasing frequency and severity of storms and their impact upon the culture heritage on the beach. The peats at The Warren were previously unknown prior to CHERISH investigations and limited historical and archaeological research had been carried out for the two shipwreck sites. UAV and terrestrial photogrammetry have been used to record these sites for erosion monitoring as well as further research into both the ship structures and animal footprints on the peats. The collection of 3D ALS data also addressed a previous lack of high-resolution 3D data for the islands. Beyond the project this data will be used to model the impacts of future sea-level rise on the islands and its structural heritage and important sea bird habitat.