The Elan Valley trail is a glorius accessible, route forming 9 traffic free miles of National Route 81 which connects Aberystwyth and Wolverhampton via Shrewsbury and Telford. This section of the route is truly stunning as you cycle on the old railway line which helped to create the Elan Valley dams and reservoirs.
Things To Do
Elan Valley Trail - Sustrans Cycle Route 81
Following the line of the old Birmingham Corporation Railway for most of the way, the Elan Valley Trail offers families, novice cyclists and committed enthusiasts the opportunity to experience this beautiful part of the country at its best whilst staying healthy and helping the environment.
The trail starts from the pretty community of Cwmdeuddwr on the western side of Rhayader. Parking is available locally and Rhayader contains a number of cafes, shops, pubs, a bike shop and toilets. The linear Elan Valley Trail can be ridden in either direction but most people head west from the town towards the valley.
After leaving Cwmdeuddwr the route climbs over the impressive Rhayader Tunnel, a Radnorshire Wildlife Trust Reserve that is home to many bat species. Approximately half a mile later the route crosses a road, it's at this junction where Lon Las Cymru splits off and the Elan Valley Trail continues straight along the path.
At the next junction you can either continue along the trail up to the spectacular dams and reservoirs, or drop down to the Elan Valley Visitor Centre where you can stop off for refreshments at the cafe, delve into the history of the area and visit the tourist information centre.
The trail climbs steadily from the northern end of Garreg Ddu Reservoir, providing stunning views of the surrounding valleys and the four reservoirs that feed Birmingham's water supply, and continues up to the finish at Craig Goch Dam where toilets are available. A large part of the trail has a tarmac surface, so it is also suitable for less able users, but the northern end is not surfaced.
9 mile traffic free section of the Lon Cambria National Cycle Route 81. National Route 81 connects Aberystwyth and Wolverhampton via Shrewsbury and Telford.
Nantmel to Ysfa Walk
A fairly level 4 mile walk beginning from St Cynllo's Church at Nantmel (Grid ref: SN 034 664), past Llyn Gwyn Lake to St Mark's Church at Ysfa.
St Cynllo’s Church, Nantmel
A Georgian Church rebuilt in 1792 on an ancient site in a circular enclosure and restored in 1881. The lower part of the tower is though to be 13th C. The lytchgate is 18th C. Sundial dated 1773. It was the main church of the area for some enturies and has six bells. The list of incumbents starts in 1349. The font having been thought to be from the Cistercian Monastery, Abbey Cwm Hir, which lies to the north of the Church has been identified as being made out of a Jacobean chimney pot. The dedication of the Church is to St Cynllo circa 5th C. It is said of this saint that wherever his knelt or his horse trod the marks remained permanently in the ground. The hills behind the church contain many ancient monuments, standing stones and the site of a prehistoric village. The walk down from Camlo Hill to the Church provides some of the most stunning long distance views of the Trail.
Eglwys Sant Cynllo, Nantmel
Eglwys Sioraidd a ailadeiladwyd ym 1792 ar safle hynafol mewn tir caeedig ar ffurf cylch ac a adferwyd ym 1881. Credir bod rhan isaf y tŵr yn perthyn i’r drydedd ganrif ar ddeg. Mae porth y fynwent yn perthyn i’r ddeunawfed ganrif ac mae’r dyddiad 1773 ar y deial haul. Hon oedd prif eglwys yr ardal am rai canrifoedd ac mae ganddi chwech o glychau. Mae’r rhestr o ddeiliaid swyddi yn yr eglwys yn dechrau ym 1349. Nodwyd y bedyddfaen fel un a wnaed o gorn simnai Jacobeaidd. Cyflwynwyd yr Eglwys i Sant Cynllo tua’r 5ed ganrif. Dywedir am y sant hwn pryd bynnag y byddai’n penlinio neu lle bynnag yr oedd ei geffyl yn cerdded fod y marciau yn aros yn barhaol yn y ddaear. Mae’r mynyddoedd y tu ôl i’r eglwys yn cynnwys llawer o henebion, meini hirion a safle pentref cyn-hanesyddol. Wrth gerdded i lawr o Fryn Camlo at yr Eglwys gellir gweld rhai o’r golygfeydd pell gorau o’r Llwybr.
Waun Capel Park Wildlife Walk
A circular walk from car park at the end of the Gasworks Lane off Bridge Street. where there are picnic benches by the river. The walk makes a circuit of Waun Capel Park and the castle mound, a distance of just over one mile / 2 kilometres that takes about an hour to enjoy. Parts of the walk suitable for push chairs are marked on the map.
Rhayader has a wonderful variety of wild plants and animals living among its buildings, parks and gardens. The fast flowing, boulder strewn River Wye passes right through the town forming a very important natural corridor along which wildlife travels, enriching the town for enjoyment of everyone.
St Clements to Nantgwyllt Walk
The first section of the trail begins at St Clements Church in Rhayader (Grid ref SN 962682), and follows the Elan Valley up as far as the church at Nantgwyllt, a distance of 5 miles.
St Clement’s Church, Rhayader
St Clement’s is an imposing 17th Century building much altered by the Victorians overlooking the River Wye adjacent to the old Welsh Rhayader Castle. The Church is of Norman origins, probably built by the Mortimer family who captured and restored the castle in 1200. The dedication is to St Clement and this could have stemmed from the fact that the Normans were rebuilding the Church of St Clemente in Rome at the same time. A large cast iron fence surrounds the reburied remains of the garrison of the castle, one of whom was said to be a giant. The Church has some very fine stained glass windows.
Eglwys Sant Clement, Rhaeadr Gwy
Mae Eglwys Sant Clement yn adeilad mawreddog o’r ail ganrif ar bymtheg a gafodd ei newid yn helaeth yng nghyfnod Fictoria. Mae’n edrych i lawr dros afon Gwy ac wedi ei lleoli ger hen Gastell Cymreig Rhaeadr Gwy. Mae’r Eglwys yn tarddu o’r cyfnod Normanaidd, ac fe’i hadeiladwyd mae’n debyg gan y teulu Mortimer a gipiodd ac a adferodd y Castell ym 1200. Cyflwynwyd yr eglwys i Sant Clement a gallai hyn fod wedi deillio o’r ffaith fod y Normaniaid yn ailadeiladu Eglwys Sant Clement yn Rhufain yr un pryd. Mae ffens fawr o haearn bwrw yn amgylchynu gweddillion garsiwn y castell. Cafodd aelodau’r garsiwn hwn eu hail-gladdu, ac yn ôl y chwedl roedd un ohonynt yn gawr. Mae gan yr Eglwys rai ffenestri lliw gwych iawn.
Elan & Claerwen Valleys
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.
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.