In search of the cultural geomorphosites of Wales: Evidence from medieval poetry

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The landscape of Wales is characterised by glacial valleys, dramatic coastlines and fluvial forms ranging from narrow upland valleys to wide floodplains, active and stable meandering reaches and wandering, entrenched and mixed bedrock-alluvial rivers. Some landforms (eg. picturesque waterfalls) have assumed a cultural significance due to their aesthetic qualities, are important sites for tourism, and are recognised by geomorphologists and artists as inspirational features. In general, however, conservation of these landscapes is based on ecological, geological and purely geomorphological characteristics. Landscapes where geomorphology and culture intersect are less frequently recognised, studied or presented to the public. Sources such as historical literature and art
can provide clues to sites that were geomorphologically significant, but whose cultural importance has been lost over time due to a lack of awareness of the sources and/or modification of the landscape itself and the context in which it was lived. This paper focuses on four case studies from medieval Welsh poetry to identify cultural geomorphosites on Welsh floodplains. Selected poems by four 14th and 15th century poets–Guto’r Glyn, Dafydd ap Gwilym, Lewys Glyn Cothi and Dafydd Llwyd o Fathafarn–were analysed. We present the geomorphosites identified in these poems. These include sites where rivers in flood either prevented these travelling troubadours from reaching their destinations, or were used as metaphorical tools in satirical, elegiac or love poetry. The poetry presents the geomorphological features vividly, and provides glimpses of the nature and perception of floodplains in medieval Wales. These sites have now been modified either by anthropogenic activities (channelisation and drainage) or geomorphological processes. We argue that these sources should be systematically analysed in order to fully appreciate the influence of geomorphology on both historical and contemporary culture.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2013
Event8th IAG International Conference on Geomorphology - Paris, France
Duration: 27 Aug 201331 Aug 2013


Conference8th IAG International Conference on Geomorphology
Period27 Aug 201331 Aug 2013


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