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 & Cycling
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.
Gwyn Llyn Gallop - Rhayader Walk
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.
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.
Llanwrthwl to Cwmdeuddwr Walk
A relatively easy 3 mile walk beginning from St Gwrthwl's Church in Llanwrthwl (Grid ref: SN 970 638), mostly along tarmac lanes, crossing the River Elan where it meets the River Wye, and finishing at St Bride's Church at Cwmdeuddwr, just south west of Rhayader.
St Gwrthwl’s Church, Llanwrthwl
A late Victorian building on a 4,000 year old site with large sacrificial stone. The font is 13th century, possibly from Abbey Cwmhir. The valley leads up to the original abandoned village. The area abounds in bronze age cairns, standing stones and circles. Legends surround Carn Gafallt, named for King Arthur’s hound, Saith Maen, seven maidens turned to stone by St Gwrthwl for dancing on Sunday and Drygarn Fawr and Gamriw with their massive cairns. Little is known of St Gwrthwl, “The Confessor” who could have founded his church in the 5th or 6th Centuries with connections with Vortigern or St David and St Afan. His saint’s day is the 2nd March. Of note is Penuel URC Chapel to the South dating from 1832
Eglwys Sant Gwrthwl, Llanwrthwl
Adeilad o’r cyfnod Fictoraidd diweddar ar safle 4,000 mlwydd oed gyda charreg aberthol fawr. Mae’r bedyddfaen yn perthyn i’r drydedd ganrif ar ddeg, o bosibl o Abaty Cwmhir. Mae’r dyffryn yn arwain i fyny at y pentref gwreiddiol sydd bellach yn anghyfannedd. Mae llu o garneddau, meini hirion a chylchoedd o’r oes efydd yn yr ardal. Mae chwedlau yma sy’n gysylltiedig â Charn Gafallt, a enwyd ar ôl ci’r Brenin Arthur; Saith Maen, saith o forynion a gafodd eu troi’n garreg gan Sant Gwrthwl am ddawnsio ar Ddydd Sul a Drygarn Fawr a Gamriw gyda’u carneddau enfawr. Ychydig sy’n wybyddus am Sant Gwrthwl, ‘Y Cyffeswr’ a allai fod wedi sylfaenu ei eglwys yn y 5ed neu’r 6ed ganrif ac a oedd â chysylltiadau gyda Gwrtheyrn neu Ddewi Sant a Sant Afan. Dydd y nawddsant hwn yw 2 Mawrth. Mae Eglwys Ddiwygiedig Unedig Penuel a leolir i’r De ac sy’n dyddio o 1832 yn werth ei nodi.
St Brides Church, Cwmdeuddwr
Dedicated to St Bride which reflects the presence of a sacred well just outside the churchyard, which is a prehistoric circular site . It was here that Lord Rhys, the Welsh prince called together a gathering in the 13th century to present the vast area of the Elynedd to the monks of Strata Florida. The common of Cwmdauddwr Grange provided food for Rayader Castle. These ancient areas still exist in designated commons and sheepwalks. The present Church is Victorian but has some interesting plaques from Nantgwillt Church which was submerged when the Elan Valley dams were built in the late 19th Century. One of these commemorates the fact that Emmeline Lewis-Lloyd, who was a pioneering Alpininist, was the 8th woman to climb Mont Blanc. The Church has a very fine ironwork rood screen.
Eglwys Santes Bride, Cwmdeuddwr
Mae’r eglwys hon, a gyflwynwyd i’r Santes Bride, yn nodi presenoldeb ffynnon gysegredig yn union y tu allan i’r fynwent, lle sy’n safle cylchol cyn-hanesyddol. Yma y galwodd yr Arglwydd Rhys, y tywysog Cymreig, gasgliad o bobl ynghyd yn y drydedd ganrif ar ddeg i gyflwyno ardal enfawr Elynedd i fynachod Ystrad Fflur. Roedd tir comin Plasty Cwmdeuddwr yn darparu bwyd ar gyfer Castell Rhaeadr. Mae’r ardaloedd hynafol hyn yn dal i fodoli o fewn tiroedd comin a ffriddoedd dynodedig. Mae’r Eglwys bresennol yn perthyn i oes Fictoria ond y mae yma blaciau diddorol o Eglwys Nantgwyllt a gafodd ei boddi pan adeiladwyd cronfeydd dŵr Cwm Elan yn niwedd y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg. Mae un o’r rhain yn coffau’r ffaith mai Emmeline Lewis-Lloyd, a oedd yn un o’r gwragedd cyntaf i ymddiddori yn yr Alpau, oedd yr wythfed ddynes i ddringo Mont Blanc. Mae gan yr Eglwys groglen wych iawn o waith haearn.