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Afon Mawddach | by John K Thorne
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Afon Mawddach

The Afon Mawddach (English: River Mawddach) is a river in Gwynedd, Wales, which has its source in a wide area SH820300 north of Dduallt in Snowdonia. It is 28 miles (45 km) in length, and is much branched; many of the significant tributaries are of a similar size to the main river. The catchment area is bounded to the east by the Aran Fawddwy massif and to the west and north by the Harlech dome which forms a watershed just south of Llyn Trawsfynydd.


Barmouth Bridge (Welsh: Pont Abermaw), or Barmouth Viaduct is a Grade II* listed single-track wooden railway viaduct across the estuary of the River Mawddach near Barmouth, Wales. It is 699 metres (764 yd) long and carries the Cambrian Line. It is the longest timber viaduct in Wales and one of the oldest in regular use in Britain.


Barmouth Bridge was designed by and constructed for the Aberystwith and Welsh Coast Railway on its line between Aberystwyth and Pwllheli. Work was authorised in 1861 and commenced in 1864. On 10 October 1867, the completed bridge was officially opened. Following the discovery of severe corrosion on underwater sections of ironwork, an intensive restoration programme was performed between December 1899 and late 1902. By 1980, the viaduct was under attack by marine woodworm, which led to concerns that it would have to be closed and demolished. Because of its value to tourism, it was repaired between 1985 and 1986 when it was closed for six months. Since 2005, weight restriction on the bridge have been relaxed, allowing locomotive-hauled trains to cross for the first time in two decades.


The bridge between Morfa Mawddach and Barmouth in Gwynedd, is used by rail, cyclists and pedestrians and is part of the National Cycle Network. To allow the passage of tall ships, the bridge incorporated a drawbridge, which was replaced between 1899 and 1902 by a swing bridge which is no longer operational due to a lack of demand. There is no provision for road traffic. Tolls were collected for foot and cycle traffic up to 2013 but this has been voluntary since 2017.


A bridge across the Mawddach Estuary at Barmouth was proposed by the Aberystwith and Welsh Coast Railway, who constructed a line between Aberystwyth and Pwllheli.[4] Authorisation for the railway was received in 1861 - 2 and the detailed design of the bridge was started.[4]


Barmouth Bridge was designed by the civil engineers Benjamin Piercy and Henry Conybeare.[4] Conybeare wanted a timber viaduct because it was about four times cheaper to import wood from the Baltic by sea than to construct an iron bridge.[4] The decision was influenced by the incorrect belief that the estuary was free from marine borers, which attack and weaken the timber over time. During this era, timber pile viaducts were commonplace on coastal railways, particularly in Wales, although the bridge at Barmouth would be longer than most.[4]


Construction began in 1864.[4] The contractor was Thomas Savin, and the ironwork was produced by John Cochrane & Sons. Early on, progress was hindered by strong tidal currents which caused multiple failed attempts to sink the bridge's piers from barges.[4] Between March and June 1866, staging was built from the northern abutment for the bridge, and the piers were dropped into the water and filled with concrete.[4]

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Taken on August 17, 2015