Cenarth village lies on both sides of the Teifi River, the county boundary of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.
Cenarth Falls lie upstream from the river bridge, built in the 18th century. It has circular holes built into the three arch structure which strengthens it and also enables water to flow through when the river is in full flow.
Upstream of the bridge are the famous Cenarth falls where the river Teifi emerges suddenly from a deep ravine and tumbles over a wide ledge forming the waterfall. This is the first significant barrier on the river Teifi that salmon and migratory sea trout have to navigate on their journey upstream to spawn.
The banks of the Teifi
On the banks of the river downstream of the bridge is a holy well, dedicated to 7th century St Ludoc, and the nearby church of St Llawddog dedicated to him has an ancient standing stone in the churchyard.
On the opposite bank is Cenarth Chapel and nearby a memorial garden, dedicated to a remarkable local woman, Eluned Phillips, who was not only the first woman to win the Crown at the National Eisteddfod (not once, but twice: 1967 and 1983) but also a storyteller and raconteur. Her memoir, ‘The Reluctant Redhead’, recalls her encounters with artists and writers including Dylan Thomas, Augustus John, Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso and how she met and got to know the singers Maurice Chevalier and Edith Piaf.
Upstream of the bridge is a former mill and the adjacent National Coracle Centre.
Coracles on the River Teifi
Below Cenarth bridge there are broad pools where you can see fishermen, sometimes in coracles, pitching their skills against salmon and sewin.
The coracle (curragh in Ireland) is a small boat traditionally constructed on wood frame (usually willow or ash ‘lathes’ ) and animal hide or calico cloth made waterproof with tar. Coracles are lightweight and easy to carry. The design varies from area to area, but all are flat bottomed, without a keel, which enables them to float even in only a few inches of water, yet are surprisingly stable, and ideal for fishing with nets.
Coracles have been used since the Bronze Age in most parts of Britain and Ireland but today they are to be seen only in a few locations, including the river Teifi and the Tywi in Carmarthenshire.
Until the 1960s sheep were taken to the river to be washed, and coracles were used to herd the animals safely through the water.
In 1974, Bernard Thomas, a coracle maker from Llechryd, steered his Teifi coracle across the English Channel to France. It took him just over 13 hours.
Today, coracle fishing is restricted to a limited number of licence holders only. The Coracle Museum at Cenarth has a display showing how coracles are made and used with examples of coracles from around the world, including Tibet and Iraq and boats from Vietnam used by the refugee ‘Boat People’ to escape from the Vietnam War.
There are also coracles races held on the river in summer.