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The Quay

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A time when Barmouth quay was not the way it is today

The quay takes one's breath away with the tide at full flood or at full ebb and the Mawddach estuary has a view that once you stop to look, will steal away your day. There are usually rowboats for hire and ferry rides up the river. A ferry ride across the river takes you to the Fairbourne peninsula where you can ride on a narrow guage steam engine to the seaside town of Fairbourne. The quay often has fishing boats moored at the dockside and lobster is a common site. Don't forget to try the "fish and chips" at the harbour cafe.

The quay has changed a little since I lived in Barmouth, but the changes are for the better - the wooden parapet running around the quay's edge has been replaced by concrete and the last time I was there (May,1998) the wooden pilings were being taken down. We used to dive off them at high tide when we were younger and less concerned by the coldness of the water. Also one fork of the the estuary has been blocked off by a causeway which was built next to the buiding known as 'The Bath House' which is next to the small pier at the West end of the quay. The causeway now links the quay to what was once an island (Ynys Y Brawdd) when I was growing up in Barmouth. When the tide was on the rise a fierce current would rip through the channel that was there and a number of children were killed as a result of drowning in that area.

One feature that was added to the quay during my youth was Davy Jones' Locker, the coffee shop. It was highly controversial at the time because it was claimed to be a historical site. I believe it was 'Ty Gwyn' (White House) before it was converted. It is the oldest known historic building in the town and one of the oldest in the region. It dates from some time in the 1460's and was built by Gruffudd Vaughan of Cors y Gedol in Dyffryn Ardudwy. It is said to have been a safe house to meet supporters of the future Henry VII. I know the headmaster of Barmouth primary school (W.D. Williams) was up in arms about it being converted to a coffee shop. Progress marches on however thank goodness, because we spent many a wet summer's day in the locker when Cliff Probert owned it (He put it together). The arrangement was always - 'As long as there are seats for the tourists you can stay and nurse your coffees, but when the tourists need seats - out you go!). In May 1998 it looked no different than it had in 1965. Last I knew it was owned by a member of the Ellis family. (I used to work for Jack Ellis, who owned 'Aspinalls', a very large gift shop in town, when I was a high-school student. I also went to school with Maureen Ellis who's sister it is who runs the Locker now).

The character of the quay has not changed significantly for years, and it is one of the main attractions in my mind. I love it particularly at high tide when the water covers everything and the river looks enormous, flat with murmuring currents.

Pick an evening at about 8:00 pm in the summer when the tide is high and watch the night creep in - it's magic.

The other site that can be seen behind the 'Locker' is the old Roundhouse which used to be used a long time ago as a jail. It was empty when I was living in Barmouth, but it may serve some useful function now. Another place worth mentioning is 'The Last Inn', which is a pub that lies near the railway line on the Dolgellau road at the far end of the harbour. Go and have a pint or two while you're waiting for the sunset.

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A view of the concrete parapet with Davy Jones' Locker in the background

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This is a view looking back from Davy Jones' Locker toward the river on the quayside. Lobster boats are common and are always interesting to watch unloading                               

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With Davy Jones' Locker on the left, this is a view looking towards the railway bridge and the hills beyond

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John Pugh
Copyright 2001 [Digital Imagery]. All rights reserved.
Revised: February 20, 2002 .