ancient sunken forest
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
September 23, 2020 ·  4 min read

Storm Francis Reveals an Ancient Underground Forest That Was Hidden for Thousands of Years

There are not many happy results from dangerous weather. However, this one is downright mesmerizing. As Storm Francis raged across the United Kingdom, the rain and winds revealed a petrified Welsh woodland area. A forest that has been hiding underwater for thousands of years. Its photos are like something out of a fairy tale. 

Revealing a Stunning Ancient Underwater Forest  

This underwater forest consists of oak, birch, pine, and alder trees. It’s believed to have stopped growing around 4,500 to 6,000 years ago as sea levels rose and suffocated the trees. Yet climate change helped the trees emerge from the sand and a high level of alkaline preserved the wood almost perfectly. The woodland stretches about two to three miles between the villages of Borth and Ynyslas. 

Dr. Hywel Griffiths photographed the forest and described the forest as “both exciting and worrying”.  He is part of a research project examining coastal environmental change. 

“It’s exciting because it’s additional evidence of these climate change processes that have been going on for so long,” he said. “But also worrying because we are seeing these landscape changes occur more often. It’s due to the impact and influence of the storms that feel like they are happening more.” [1] 

The stumps are growing in a three-foot-thick layer of dried peat. Researchers had tried to take samples of the dirt under the forest, the sand on it prevents the core drills from being effective.  

Historian Gerald Morgan commented, “It’s an addition to what we already know about the extraordinary number of petrified trees that have been found all along the coast of Wales. It’s exciting because we have found another one that hasn’t been recorded yet.”  

Read: Fulgurites: Magical Stones Formed When Lightning Hits the Ground

Other Times the Forest was Revealed 

The researchers found a sign of habitation near the forest: a walkway built from sticks. It could’ve sheilded passers-by from the rising sea levels.  

“The site around Borth is one where if there is a bad storm and it gets battered, you know there’s a good chance something will be uncovered,” says one of the people who helped discover the site, Deanna Groom, Maritime Officer of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. 

This isn’t the first time this mystical forest appeared. It’s a little like the myth of the giant sea turtle with an island on its back that appears mysteriously at random times in different places. Well, the forest doesn’t move but it had appeared in May 2014 and in 2019 after intense storms. 

“The remains of the forest’s tree stumps are well preserved, having been exposed by the storm moving vast quantities of stones, revealing the subsoil, peat, and tree stumps,” said Charles Green, a member of the Ceredigion Historical Society, after visiting the forest. “Could the land and myth extend as far south as Llanrhystud?” [2] 

The Legend of the Sunken Kingdom of Wales 

With all of its eerie whimsicality, it’s no wonder many people connect this forest to the mythical Sunken Kingdom of Wales, also known as Cantre’r Gwaelod or the Lowland Hundred. One expects to see a long-haired, barefooted sorceress walking among the trees with a glowing staff. 

Cantre’r Gwaelod was first mentioned in the Black Book of Carmarthen, one of the earliest surviving Welsh manuscripts written around 1250 A.D. According to legend, water flooded the kingdom when a maiden named Mererid allowed her well to overflow. In an alternate version, a lord called Gwyddno Garanhir ruled Cantre’r Gwaelod and protected a seawall called Sarn Badrig and multiple sluice gates. Two princes oversaw the gates, one of them a drunkard called Seithenyn. One night, he forgot to close the gates, causing the kingdom to flood. [3] 

Nowadays, San Badrig is the name of a reef created from the remnants of a glacial moraine.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence of physical habitation where Cantre’r Gwaelod was rumored to be, especially not one of a magical kingdom. Still, in the land where many folk tales originated, lack of evidence won’t stop the spreading of these legends.  

Keep Reading: The Beauty of Opalized Petrified Wood

[1] “Storm Francis uncovers more ‘sunken’ forest in Cardigan Bay.” Mari Grug. BBC. September 10, 2020 

[2] “New Section of Petrified Forest Uncovered on Wales Beach After Storm.” Theresa Machemer. Smithsonian Magazine. September 15, 2020 

[3] “British Storms Unbury an Ancient Welsh Forest.” Simon Worrall. National Geographic. February 26, 2014