Ancient Forest Remains at Whiteford

Old tree trunks in beach deposits at Whiteford Sands

Not a lot of people seem to know that the remains of old trees are slowly emerging from the glacial and post glacial deposits at Whiteford Sands as the surface layers of the  beach have been eroding in recent decades – or at least I have been unable to find any published reference to their gradual exposure in this location. In fact, last winter (2012/2013) produced significant changes to the appearance of the beach towards the Point, with massive quantities of sand being stripped away and redeposited elsewhere. Subsequently, many new examples of old wood were revealed on the shore.

I believe that these boughs and trunks could be further remains of woodland that was inundated and buried in sediment following the last period of glaciation in Gower. Better known examples are the tree stumps of the submerged woodland at Broughton Bay, which is the next bay along the Loughor Estuary in the direction of the Bristol Channel. The whole area is known to have been covered in woodland about 10,000 years ago.

COPYRIGHT JESSICA WINDER 2013

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Submerged forest at Broughton Bay

Ancient buried forest at Broughton Bay (1) - Remains of trees from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales.

The ragged tree stumps and roots, strewn over the seashore at Broughton Bay on the north coast of the Gower Peninsula, are the remains of a birch tundra woodland that once covered the ancient land surface. They lie in position, just as they were growing before they were inundated. Ten thousand years ago in the Pleistocene Period, a large river, fed by tributaries such as the Loughor, occupied what is now the Bristol Channel with its Atlantic waters. The last extension of the ice sheets in this area, during the late Devensian Period, had been about 8,500 years earlier. As the ice receded up into the valleys of South Wales, the climate had warmed up and allowed vegetation to flourish. The sea level at that time was about 22.5 metres lower than it is at the present.

By the beginning of the Neolithic Period 5,700 years ago, however, the sea level began to rise because of the increasing volume of global meltwater and  its accompanying land subsidence. The forests and peat bogs of the coastal margins were submerged and buried in sediment…..until the 1980s when the remains began to reappear on Gower shores as the surface sediments began to erode away. Now, large expanses of Broughton beach have been stripped of sand showing the strata and entrapped woodland beneath.

Wood from these ancient forests is visible on the seashores of  Swansea Bay and Port Eynon on the south Gower coast as well. Large blocks of peat dating from this time also wash up on the sand at Whiteford – the next bay to Broughton. The plant species already recorded include silver birch, hazel, alder, elder, deergrass, rushes, irises and spurges. As I understand it, no full investigation of this palaeo-environment has yet been conducted. I hope that full attention can soon be given to this valuable evidence before the rapid rate of erosion destroys all that is readily accessible between tides. 

ncient buried forest at Broughton Bay (2) - Remains of a tree (in clay) from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales. The stump of the tree trunk and the radiating roots indicate that the tree is still in situ as it was growing around 10,000 years ago.

Ancient buried forest at Broughton Bay (3) - Remains of trees from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales.

Ancient buried forest at Broughton Bay (4) - Remains of a tree (in clay) from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales. The stump of the tree trunk and the radiating roots indicate that the tree is still in situ as it was growing around 10,000 years ago.

Ancient buried forest at Broughton Bay (5) - Remains of a tree (in clay) from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales. The stump of the tree trunk and the radiating roots indicate that the tree is still in situ as it was growing around 10,000 years ago.

Ancient buried forest at Broughton Bay (6) - Remains of a tree from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales. The stump of the tree trunk and the radiating roots indicate that the tree is still in situ as it was growing around 10,000 years ago.

Ancient buried forest at Broughton Bay (7) - Remains of a tree, still in situ, from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales.

Ancient buried forest at Broughton Bay (8) - Remains of a tree from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales.

Ancient buried forest at Broughton Bay (9) - Common winkles grazing on the remains of a tree from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales.  

COPYRIGHT JESSICA WINDER 2013

All Rights Reserved