We did not go inside the castle on our recent visit to Harlech on the Mid-Wales coast. To tell the truth I’m rather offended by the tyranny that these brutish bastions of Edward I represent. He, the irascible English monarch (1272-1307) built a whole string of overbearing fortifications between 1277 and 1304 (Caernarfon being the very grandest), this in a bid to subjugate the Welsh. Of course, in a nice twist of historical irony, the castles are now major international tourist attractions, bringing welcome income to the Welsh economy. (Take that, Edward Longshanks!)
What interested me was a little photo exploration of the castle’s present setting.
For instance, the header photo is something of a trompe l’oeil. Quite misleading in fact. The castle does not sit among the massive sand dunes that have invaded much of the Welsh coast over past centuries and are still growing. It sits on a 200 foot (61 metres) eminence of ancient Cambrian rock (the Harlech Dome), whose footings were once lapped by the sea, and where ships bringing in supplies would once have docked.
So yes, here we have a fascinating case of falling sea levels, or rather, rising land levels. Parts of Britain’s landmass have risen, and apparently some are still rising (e.g. Scotland) in response to the post-glacial ice weight reduction (isostatic rebound), as in ten thousand years after the event, while others, e.g. south east England, where there are newer rocks and/or compacting clay strata (as in London), are sinking or eroding each year.
Geology has much to answer for. It is ongoing, never static. A pity that most of us (and that very much includes Mrs. Farrell) know so little about it, or the forces that have shaped and continue to influence the planet. I seem to remember my geography teacher, aeons ago, telling us that Britain was tilting. And it’s far from being the only place where geology is still moving upwards or downwards. [e.g. an unrelated phenomenon in the Pacific where satellite data show many atolls and islands are growing in size rather than eroding].
But back to Harlech. There’s a diagrammatic reconstruction of the early 14th century castle’s outer defences and setting above the sea here:
This photo above gives you a glimpse of the golf course that lies between Harlech (castle and lower town) and the massive dune system behind the now distant beach.
And looking from the other direction:
It should be said that the Welsh people did not take English oppression lying down. There were a good few revolts and uprisings, and one in particular in 1400 under Owain Glendwyr, an actual Prince of Wales (as opposed to the fabricated English ones of recent times). He captured Harlech in 1404 and made it his family home and military HQ for four years. He also held his second parliament there in 1405. However, for all that, Welsh rule was short lived. English forces retook Harlech in 1409 during the reign of Henry V.
Looking from the castle towards North Wales, to Eryri, the mountains of Snowdonia, and the plain below where once there was sea.
It is intriguing how things change, and how if we fail to grasp in what ways they change and why, we truly risk losing the reality plot. As we headed to the beach I was amused by this sign on the golf course:
Where once there was passage for ships, the biggest risk is now flying golf balls. Who’d’ve thought it.
And finally an old image of the castle around 1890-1900 courtesy of the Library of Congress on Wikipedia:
More about the Morfa Harlech dune system HERE. Yes, it is still growing.
Lens-Artists: One Subject Three Ways Patti wants us to look at our subject from different angles.