My spouse exclaims that we need to wear a woollen vest with sleeves as we make our way down the slippery steps to the sandy beach in Rhyl. This is a play on the famous “I must go down to the seas again” poem by John Masefield. The intense rain, wind, and sleet remind us of the impact of climate change, which has led to more severe winter storms. These storms have revealed evidence of past climate change on this coast during the Mesolithic period.
The immense roots of brown trees protrude from the sand, resembling massive fingers. These roots are not fossils but are still spongy to the touch and estimated to be around 6,000 years old. They have been protected by waterlogging and intermittent sand cover during summers, allowing for their preservation. Larger versions of these roots can be found at Borth and Trearddur.
There are numerous stories along the coast of Britain about submerged fertile lands and communities, where the sound of church bells can still be heard beneath the waves. One such tale is the Welsh legend of Cantre’r Gwaelod (Lowland Hundred), which dates back to 1250 and has been told in various versions. It recounts the existence of a productive land with abundant orchards, located in what is now known as Cardigan Bay.
The trees found on Rhyl beach have been classified as oak, pine, hazel, and beech. They are not fruit orchards, but evidence of human presence has been found nearby. Professor Martin Bell from Reading University has conducted thorough excavations in this region and has recorded large piles of discarded mussel shells, suggesting the presence of rocky shores. He also discovered cockle shell middens from a later period in the nearby sandy and muddy areas.
The tale of submerged territories could potentially stem from a societal recollection of individuals being compelled to relocate inland for centuries as the coastline gradually advanced, attributed to the rapid melting of glaciers at the conclusion of the ice age. Similar to the current rise in sea levels caused by human actions, this change did not occur instantaneously, allowing for rationalizations to dismiss its significance. It makes me curious about how distant descendants will interpret the underwater amusement arcades of Rhyl, thousands of years from now.