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Goredi or Fishtraps
If you look out to sea as you travel from Aberarth to Aberaeron. If the tide is just over halfway out you may notice two semicircular stone "walls". They are now only the low foundations of the last two Goredi or fishtraps once fairly common along the Cardigan Bay coast.
The first record of them is in 1184 of Rhys ap Gruffydd granting the goredi "on the land and in the sea between the Aeron and the Arth" to the Cistercian monks of Strata Florida Abbey. "The Red Book of Hergest", a thirteenth century jumble of 58 poems, one of which is the Romance of Taliesin tells the legend of how Cerridwen gave birth to a child which she disposed of by sewing him into a leather bag and throwing him into the sea. He got caught in a Gored between Aberystwyth and Aberdovey and was recued by Elphin son of Gwyddno Garanhair, king of Cantre'r Gwaelod - the lost land of Cardigan Bay. This is legend handed down by Bards whose origin is lost in time. It is thought that the traps may have been in use in the sixth century.
In the 1850s there were a dozen or so in use. In 1896 the Cambrian Archaeological Society reported that six were still in use and the last two ceased to be used around the 1930s. It is said that in the heyday of the herring one could take a horse and cart on to the beach and fill it!.
I quote from a report by Evelyn Lewes to the Cambrian Archaeological society in 1927 -"The making of a gored is a matter of strength rather than of skill, for a strong wall of stones taken from the beach and piled one upon another is erected on the shore until it encloses a large oval-shaped portion of the beach ; the extension of the wall being usually about 200 yards or more. At the deepest point in the gored between two of the lower stones there is an opening, bridged by one very large stone supporting others. A drain is thus provided, and across the drain are placed strong, slender sticks, or sometimes, in these later days, an iron grating. The in-coming tide gradually rises to the walls and washes over to fill the enclosure, and finally covers and conceals the gored. At the turn of the tide, the water gradually drains away, leaving only one pool; where are found the fish which have been washed into the trap and are helpless to pass the walls and grating. Salmon, whiting, grey-mullet, sprats and rock-salmon are captured in this fashion by the owners of the goredi ; but the villagers when questioned on the subject of present gains and past profits will shake their heads sadly, and leave the stranger to imagine that it was never anything but a poor business at the best; indeed, a certain air of mystery ever surrounds the gored-keeper of Aberarth.
In olden times the ownership of a gored would pass from father to son and remain in the same family for generations ; and occasionally it would pass into the possession of a woman. I am myself well acquainted with a certain Miss Davies, now well advanced in years and, alas, quite blind though fortunately in comfortable circumstances who is a retired gored-keeper, and stills holds a gored in her own right. When I was a child I well remember her coming with her basket early in the morning to my home, she having tramped some four miles over the hills to sell a fine salmon just taken from the gored. She has told me how hard for a woman, was the life of gored-keeper; for she had often to keep night-watches, alert with lantern and net, that she might be ready when the tide receded to secure her haul; for if she delayed a poacher might be there before her. In the spring of every year she was obliged, as she expressed it, to " codi gored," raise the gored, or, in other words, repair the ravages of the storms, and this was no mean effort, for it entailed occasionally the lifting and replacing of some exceedingly heavy stones.
Another interesting quote from an unacknowledged source tells
of the building and use of the traps:- "These were crescent-shaped walls
of stone partly enclosing hollow areas in the beach. They were strongly built,
five feet high with the arms tapering landwards. Covered with water when the
tide was in, those fish enjoying shallow water were trapped when the tide
ebbed. A leat and a grating in the wall helped to empty the trap and the owner
with a net made large catches of mackerel, sprats conger eels, sewin and
salmon. These traps are believed to have been built by the monks of Strata
Florida but since the dissolution they have belonged to the people of Aberarth.
There is a tradition, however, that in the 5th century, Gwyddno Garanhir. the
Prince of :he legendary drowned land of Cantre'r Gwaelod owned, in this region,
a fish trap having such amazing fish-catching properties that it was included
in the "thirteen precious things of the Isle of Britain".
Return to Home PageIf this was of interest then BBC Local History site might interest.