Saturday 29 June 2013


A magical place, and a memory of childhood holidays in Wales - the wooden toll bridge at Penmaenpool, on the beautiful Mawddach estuary. Look it up.

The area was a popular tourist destination for affluent Victorians - Tennyson and Charles Darwin were visitors, and John Ruskin kept a cottage in nearby Barmouth. Ruskin set up the 'Guild of St. George', an agrarian educational movement which inspired a local woman, Mrs. Fanny Talbot, to fund a project in nearby Barmouth based on his ideas.

Long before the toll bridge was constructed there was a ferry and Gerard Manley Hopkins once came up river by boat with a party of Jesuit priests, and drank beer at the inn, and wrote about it:

Penmaen Pool
For the Visitors' Book at the Inn

Who long for rest, who look for pleasure
Away from counter, court, or school
O where live well your lease of leisure
But here at, here at Penmaen Pool?

You'll dare the Alp? you'll dart the skiff?--
Each sport has here its tackle and tool:
Come, plant the staff by Cadair cliff;
Come, swing the sculls on Penmaen Pool.

What's yonder?--Grizzled Dyphwys dim:
The triple-hummocked Giant's stool,
Hoar messmate, hobs and nobs with him
To halve the bowl of Penmaen Pool.

And all the landscape under survey,
At tranquil turns, by nature's rule,
Rides repeated topsyturvy
In frank, in fairy Penmaen Pool.

And Charles's Wain, the wondrous seven,
And sheep-flock clouds like worlds of wool.
For all they shine so, high in heaven,
Shew brighter shaken in Penmaen Pool.

The Mawddach, how she trips! though throttled
If floodtide teeming thrills her full,
And mazy sands all water-wattled
Waylay her at ebb, past Penmaen Pool.

But what 's to see in stormy weather,
When grey showers gather and gusts are cool?--
Why, raindrop-roundels looped together
That lace the face of Penmaen Pool.

Then even in weariest wintry hour
Of New Year's month or surly Yule
Furred snows, charged tuft above tuft, tower
From darksome darksome Penmaen Pool.

And ever, if bound here hardest home,
You've parlour-pastime left and (who'll
Not honour it?) ale like goldy foam
That frocks an oar in Penmaen Pool.

Then come who pine for peace or pleasure
Away from counter, court, or school,
Spend here your measure of time and treasure
And taste the treats of Penmaen Pool.

The toll bridge and its associated buildings have just come onto the market - for around £200,000 the new owner has the right to collect the 60p toll from travellers, and with an average of 200 cars either way each day that seems to be an easy living.

The agents handling the sale don't mention the fact that the bridge was also the site of a terrible boating accident on July 22nd 1966, when fifteen passengers, four of them children, were drowned as their ferry from Barmouth, the Prince of Wales, hit the bridge and promptly capsized.

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