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.
Exploring Mid Wales
Exploring Mid Wales - bespoke guided tours for the curious mind.
We offer bespoke guided tours, walks and cycle rides in the Mid Wales area. If you would like to make the most of your stay then allow us to show you some of the many hidden gems of the area. We are keen walkers and mountain bikers. We also offer specialist historical, geographical and literary tours.
Willow Globe Open-air Theatre
The Willow Globe is planted from living willow rods and powered entirely from green electricity; almost certainly the first venture ever of its kind.
We have high quality professional and community productions on offer from April to September as well as our workshops, fun days and festivals. We have a new Shakespearean art and nature trail around our organic farm which hosts workshops and performances, a barn which acts as our wet weather performance and workshop space, an extensive costume store, a conference space and camping and B&B available. Please see our website for full details of events + booking.
36 mile Gwastedyn Church Trail
This circular 36 mile trail over an established pilgrimage route begins and ends in Rhayader and Cwmdeuddwr. Linking seven historic churches, the route uses mountain paths, lanes and old railway lines to guide you into the heart of our magnificent mountain, river and lake country. To follow the Trail takes you into a world of history and literature derived from the world of the Celtic Saints, the Romans and Romano British, the Normans, the Welsh princes, the medieval monks through to the romantic poets and the Victorians.
Mae’r llwybr hwn, sy’n dilyn llwybr pererindod sefydledig, yn 36 milltir o hyd ac yn dechrau a diweddu yn Rhaeadr a Chwmdeuddwr. Mae’r llwybr sy’n cysylltu saith o eglwysi hanesyddol, yn eich tywys drwy ardal odidog mynyddoedd yr Elenydd gyda’i hafonydd a’i llynnoedd, dros lwybrau mynyddig ac ar hyd ffyrdd a hen reilffyrdd gwledig. Mae dilyn y Llwybr yn eich cyflwyno i fyd hanes a llenyddiaeth o gyfnod y Seintiau Celtaidd, y Rhufeiniaid, y Brythoniaid Rhufeinig, y Normaniaid, y Tywysogion Cymreig, mynachod y canol oesoedd, hyd at y beirdd rhamantaidd ac oes Fictoria.
This trail is divided into more manageable six sections - see our Walking and Cycling page.
The Gwastedyn Trail is funded by the Community Welcome Scheme, which is managed by Powys County Council Tourism Section and is one of sixteen Rural Development Plan projects, which aims to assist local communities with small scale community based tourism projects.
Abbeycwmhir Village Visit
Abbey Cwm Hir (Abaty’r Cwm Hir) - The Abbey in the Long Valley. Here, in 1143 the building of an Abbey commenced which had it been completed, would have been the largest in Wales and where the headless remains of Llewelyn ap Gruffydd (Llewelyn ap Gruffudd) the last of the Welsh Princes, are reputed to have been buried. The abbey ruins can still be seen and nearby the Hall at Abbeycwmhir has been splendidly restored, decorated and furnished and is a visitor attraction open by appointment and well worth a visit.
Abbeycwmhir, a village situated in the centre of Wales amongst the Cambrian mountains in the old county of Radnorshire steeped in history and natural beauty,virtually undiscovered by the modern world.
The name Abbeycwmhir derives from the Cistercian monastery built here in 1143 and translates as Abbey in the long (hir) valley (cwm). Abbeycwmhir is also the burial place of the last native Prince of Wales "Llewellyn the Last".His head was taken to London and his body buried here,there is a memorial stone for him in the ruins of the old Abbey. The village sits in the base of the valley close to the Clewedog brook and is surrounded by hills.Glyndwrs Way national walking trail and cycle route 25 pass through the village making it an ideal location for these activities. Hanging oak forests, rocky outcrops and unpolluted farmland make this the best place in the country to watch rarities such as red kites, peregrines, pied flycatchers and redstart,daily feeding can be seen at the UK's leading Red Kite Centre, Gigrin Farm just six miles away. Over 150 kites gather for the daily afternoon feeding sessions at Gigrin Kite Centre, not to mention scores of buzzards and ravens.