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.
Arts, Culture and Heritage
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.
St Harmon to Nantmel Walk
This 9 mile walk beginning from St Harmon Church (Grid Ref: SN 989 728), follows tarmac lanes and farm tracks giving panoramic views from Camlo Hill before reaching St Cynllo's Church at Nantmel.
St Harmon Church
St Harmon Church was rebuilt in 1821on an ancient circular site and restored in 1904. The diarist, Revd Francis Kilvert was curate here 1876 to 1877 and wrote rather unflattering remarks about the poor state of the building. The church is dedicated to St Garmon of Auxerre who is believed to have established a monastery on the site in around 500 AD. He and his monks are said to have spent 40 days praying for relief from the sins of Vortigern, the Romano British king who was responsible for inviting the Saxons into Britain to aid him against the Angles and Picts. The retaining walls of the churchyard are of great antiquity. There are both Roman and Bronze age roads in the vicinity as well as many ancient monuments.
Eglwys Sant Garmon
Ailadeiladwyd Eglwys Sant Harmon ym 1821 ar safle cylchol hynafol ac fe’i hadferwyd ym 1904. Roedd y dyddiadurwr, y Parch. Francis Kilvert, yn gurad yma o 1876 i 1877 ac ysgrifennodd sylwadau braidd yn gas am gyflwr gwael yr adeilad. Cyflwynir yr eglwys i Sant Garmon o Auxerre y credir oedd wedi sefydlu mynachlog ar y safle oddeutu 500 OC. Dywedir ei fod ef a’i fynaich wedi treulio 40 diwrnod yn gweddïo am ryddhad o bechodau Gwrtheyrn, y brenin Brythonig-Rufeinig a oedd yn gyfrifol am wahodd y Sacsoniaid i Brydain i’w gynorthwyo ef yn erbyn yr Eingl a’r Pictiaid. Mae muriau cynnal y fynwent yn hen iawn. Mae ffyrdd o’r oes Rufeinig ac o’r oes Efydd yn yr ardal yn ogystal â llawer o henebion.
Nantmel Village Visit
Nantmel means ‘Mael’s Valley’, Mael was a prince in the Dark Ages. It is a very large parish that includes the settlements of Nantmel Village itself, Doldowlod, Gaufron (Geufron), Gwystre, Nant-glas and the Ysfa. It covers nearly fourteen thousand acres and has a population approaching seven hundred. The highest point is the top of Camlo Hill, with an excellent panorama of the Carneddau, Mynydd Epynt and most of the Brecon Beacons to the south and to the north on a clear day it is claimed that Cader Idris can be seen.
Rhayader Town Trail
Beginning from the Smithfield Market this walk will take about an hour at a leisurely pace allowing for time to stop and look. It is all accessible for wheel chairs and push chairs although there is a steep 50m climb in Waun Capel Parc.
Print off your copy of the Town Trail and map and learn about Rhayader’s past qnd appreciate its architecture.
St. Harmon Village Visit
St Harmon, to the north of Rhayader, with its Church of St. Garmon, was for a short time served by the famous diarist, Reverend Francis Kilvert (1840-1879) whose writing about the ordinary people and the way they lived is recognized as a minor classic. The parish of St Harmon contains numerous ancient remains including tumuli and long barrows, the graves of Neolithic people, and the bronze age ridgeway, a road that ran from the Kerry Hills to Carmarthenshire.
St Harmon have their own football team playing from 'The Bryn', ask the locals when their next home game is if you'd like to watch.