To the west of Rhayader is the Elan Valley Estate, owned by Welsh Water and managed by the Elan Valley Trust, the series of reservoirs set in the outstanding scenery of the Elan and Claerwen Valleys have created a home for wildlife and a place to inspire us all.
Elan & Claerwen Valleys
Walking: With 72 sqaure miles of Elan Valley Estate, walking routes in this our part of the Cambrian Mountains is spectacular. See a selection of the Elan Valley walks here.
History: In the 19th century, at the time of the Industrial Revolution Joseph Chamberlain, then leader of Birmingham City Council, set about finding a clean water supply for the City.
The Elan and Claerwen Valleys had been identified by the engineer James Mansergh as having the best potential for water storage - with
• An average annual rainfall of 72 inches (1830mm).
• Narrow downstream valleys which made building the dams easier.
• Impermeable bedrock preventing the water seeping away.
• Altitude - the area is mostly higher than Birmingham enabling the water to be transported by gravity alone, without the need to be pumped.
An Act of Parliament was passed for the compulsory purchase of the area and in 1893 the building work began. Over 100 occupants of the Elan Valley had to move, only landowners received compensation payments. Many buildings were demolished, among them 2 manor houses, 18 farms, a school and a church (which was replaced by the corporation as the Nantgwyllt Church).
A railway line was constructed to transport the workers and thousands of tonnes of building material each day and a village of wooden huts was purpose built to house many of the workers on the site of the present Elan Village.
The Elan Valley Dams were officially opened by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on 21st July 1904, and the later built Claerwen Dam was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.
Present Day: The dams and reservoirs of the Elan Estate are situated within an area of outstanding scenic beauty. They provide a lasting amenity in their own right for visitors to enjoy. The protection of the water catchment area to prevent pollution of the reservoirs has safeguarded the habitats of numerous species of flora and fauna and now the 70 square miles of moorland, bog, woodland, river and reservoir are of national importance for their diversity of lower plants (ferns, mosses, lichens and liverworts) and the Estate is the most important area for land birds in Wales.
Waun Capel Park
Children’s play area, bowling green, multi-use games area including basketball, tennis and floodlit five-a-side football pitch. Situated next to the River Wye providing an excellent picnic spot and play area.
This is Rhayader’s premier play facility. It is located in the town’s Waun Capel Park that lies next to the River Wye. As well as the play area the park also includes a kick about grassed area that lies adjacent to the play area,tennis courts, bowling green, basket ball court and 5 a side football pitch.There is also a camping and a touring/static caravan park lying just to the north of the Waun Capel Park and the Park is linked to the Wye Valley Walk which runs through the site.
Access to the site is by foot only and is only accessible to the disabled visitor via the Wye Valley Walk which enters the site via a riverside footpath. Other pedestrian access can be gained from the town, but this is via steeply sloping pathways that lead down into the park.
The items of play on site include; Multiple sets of swings, a see-saw- various springies, a slide, a bucket spinner, climbing frame and a multi play item. There are also seats and a picnic table available for use.