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River Cleddau

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River Cleddau

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The River Cleddau (Welsh: Afon Cleddau) consists of the Eastern and Western Cleddau rivers in Pembrokeshire, west Wales. They unite to form the Daugleddau estuary, which forms the important harbour of Milford Haven.

The Welsh name Cleddau (more properly Cleddyf) is similar to the Latin “gladius” and means “sword”. The eastern and western branches are called respectively Cleddau Ddu (black) and Cleddau Wen (white). These names do not seem to refer to actual colour: it is common in Wales for eastern and western river headwaters to be named in this way. The name of the combined estuary – the Daugleddau – means “the two Cleddaus”.

Eastern Cleddau
he Eastern Cleddau rises in the foothills of Mynydd Preseli at Blaencleddau in the parish of Mynachlogddu. It flows southwest through a broad moorland valley to Gelli Mill, where the Syfnwy river joins it. It then flows south through a deep picturesque valley past Llawhaden and becomes tidal at Canaston Bridge, the lowest crossing point. The estuary joins that of the Western Cleddau at Picton Point. Length about 34 km of which about 7 km is tidal.

Western Cleddau
The Western Cleddau has two branches: the eastern branch rises at Llygad Cleddau in the parish of Llanfair Nant y Gôf, 4 km south-east of Fishguard. It flows southwest past Scleddau, and meets the western branch at Priskilly. The western branch rises at Penysgwarn in the parish of Llanreithan and flows east to Priskilly. The combined stream flows through Wolf’s Castle, where it enters the spectacular 90 m deep Treffgarne gorge, cutting through the hard volcanic rocks of Treffgarne Mountain. It then flows south to Haverfordwest, where it becomes tidal, this being the lowest bridge crossing. The tidal estuary expands into a deep ria, and unites with the Eastern Cleddau estuary at Picton Point, to form the Daugleddau estuary. Length (Penysgwarn to Picton Point) about 40 km, of which about 9 km is tidal.

The Western Cleddau is an example of a “misfit” river: the valley is deep, often spectacularly so, although the stream that flows in it is small. The valley was formed at the end of the last Ice Age, when the River Teifi, swollen with melt waters, was prevented from flowing into the Irish Sea by an ice dam, and flowed instead westward through the valleys of the Nyfer and Gwaun, then south along the course of the Western Cleddau.

Historically, the tidal estuary enabled sea traffic to reach Haverfordwest. It was important also for the export of anthracite, which was mined on its west bank and shipped from Hook.

Daugleddau Estuary and Milford Haven
The combined estuary – the Daugleddau - from Picton Point to the Blockhouses guarding the harbour entrance, is a massive ria which is deep and wide, but sufficiently serpentine to be sheltered from high winds and rough seas, and is thus an excellent harbour. Because it can easily accommodate super-tankers of 300,000 tonnes and more, it became from 1957 an important centre of the oil industry, with Esso, BP, Texaco, Gulf Oil and Amoco operating terminals and refineries. In the mid-1970s, it became briefly the UK’s second biggest port in terms of tonnage. The Daugleddau and its several tributary tidal reaches are known collectively as Milford Haven. Length (from Picton Point to the Blockhouses) about 27 km.

Historically, the estuary gave seaborn access to castles such as Pembroke and Carew, allowing these to be used as depots in the Norman conquest of Ireland. It was important in the early Industrial Revolution, shipping anthracite from Llangwm, Landshipping and Crescelly, and limestone from Lawrenny and West Williamston. A small fishing industry operated from harbours such as Pill, Angle and Dale, but in 1790 the building of the new town of Milford was commenced, and a large herring fishery grew up based on its docks. In its heyday, it became the UK’s seventh largest fishing port, operating several hundred trawlers, but with exhaustion of inshore fishing grounds, the docks were too small for large ocean-going trawlers, and fishing is now virtually extinct. Milford was originally built for a naval dockyard, but this project was transferred in 1814 to Pembroke Dock on the opposite side of the estuary, where it operated until closure in 1926. The town of Neyland, originally known as New Milford, was also purpose-built, this time by the Great Western Railway as a transatlantic shipping terminal. Its functions were largely transferred to Fishguard in the early 20th century.


 

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