Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here. In September 2020, when it was permissible for us to travel and hike in North Wales, me and my human walked the Mawddach Trail. The route took us from Dolgellau to Barmouth and we passed through one of my human’s favourite places. Penmaenpool, or Llynpenmaen, is a small hamlet on the southern bank of the Afon Mawddach. It grew up around the ship building industry in 1770 with over one hundred ships being built here, up to 1827.

Our first view of Penmaenpool Tollbridge

Ships were built in the surrounding creeks from locally felled oak. They were towed by rowing boats to Barmouth, or Abermaw, where the rigging and masts were added. The ships exported coarse flannel made in Dollgellau, around the globe. Other goods were shipped from the area including slate, sheep and cows, and tree bark (to Irish tanneries). Limestone from North Wales and coal from South Wales were also shipped from the area.

If you have ever read one of our blogs before, you will know by now that I quite often have to put up with my human and his shabby attempts to sing as we walk. I use the term ‘sing’ lightly. If you can imagine a cross between fingernails being scraped on a blackboard and a cat having its paw trodden on by a size 10 hiking boot, then you have got it. On this occasion, it was ‘Under the Bridge’ by the Red Hot Chili Peppers that he decided to massacre. I honestly never want to hear that song ever again!

Signal Box

Also within the hamlet is the signal box of the Penmaenpool Railway Station. This is now used by the RSPB as an information centre. The station buildings and platform have been amalgamated into the hotel annexe but, have maintained their character.

From 1827 a decline in the volume of ship building hit the area. The railway line from Ruabon to Morfa Mawddach forced the decline in the ship building industry in the area in 1868. The railway closed in 1964 when the route was deemed unprofitable and the route was converted to a multi-functional recreational path. The path is shared by walkers, cyclists and is wheelchair accessible.

The wooden Penmaenpool tollbridge
Upstream from the bridge

As we stood on the bridge, while my human admired the scenery and took photographs, the odd car would rumble across, very close to us. OK, they were driving slowly but, I still didn’t feel safe. My human told me to ‘man-up’. I thought to myself, wait till we are in the mountains soon and he is peering over a cliff edge and he has to sit down because his legs ‘have turned to jelly’. He will need to ‘man-up’ and he will be fine. Ha!

Downstream from the bridge
George III Hotel from the bridge

This was a section of the trail that I had to stay on-lead. I don’t understand why? Does he think that I will jump into the river? Well, he would probably be right if his back was turned. I am a ‘Cockerdile’ after all!

Penmaenpool bridge

The prominent structure in the hamlet is the Grade II Listed wooden tollbridge that crosses the Afon Mawddach. The bridge was constructed in 1879 to replace the ferry crossing at the same point. It can only take light vehicles under 1.5 tonnes. Some two hundred vehicles cross the bridge each day and pay 80p each with a fee of 40p per pedestrian. We made a detour from the trail to cross the bridge and to return a few minutes later. Our toll was offered back to us at the tollbooth but, Mr. Generosity, declined!

The bridge from the quayside

A sad incident occurred at the bridge in July 1966 when fifteen people drowned in a boating accident. It was the first day of the school summer holidays and four of the dead were children. The Prince of Wales pleasure boat was turning around at the bridge when it hit a leg of the bridge and sank. Forty two passengers and the captain, were on board of the regular two hour sightseeing trip, when it hit the bridge. Many lives were saved by the proprietor of the hotel, John A. Hall, and David Christopher Jones along with Robert Jones in their rowing boat ‘The Daisy May’.

The old station – George III annexe

We didn’t stop for refreshments at the pub. MY human said that we had all the food and drink that we needed in his overweight rucksack. The truth is more likely that he is a cheapskate. I thought that he needed to get his hand in his pocket. He acts as if it is full of broken glass!

George III Hotel and quayside

On the southern side of the Mawddach is the George III Hotel, a popular resting point for those travelling along the trail. The dog-friendly, pub serves food and drink and is situated directly on the quayside of the river. A popular and very picturesque refreshment stop. It also has ten bedrooms in the hotel section. The George was originally two buildings, a pub and a ship’s chandlers’. The buildings were joined together in 1890 to form the hotel that is on the site nowadays.

From the quayside – Cadair Idris, left and Rhinogs, centre right

The reason for this area being one of my human’s favourite places is because of the scenery. The view across the Afon Mawddach with the reflections of the surrounding hills, is breathtaking. From various viewpoints, the Rhinogs, Yr Aran and the Cadair Idris massif can be seen. When the hamlet is quiet, which is rare, the setting is so tranquil and magical. We left Penmaenpool behind us as we continued on our journey towards Barmouth. We have written a blog about our full hike along the Mawddach Trail, if you are interested. Till next time!


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