Beautiful Elan Valley Powys

East Cheshire Ramblers stayed at the Elan Valley Lodge in Powys on a great weekend away trip organised by Ann Thompson.

The Elan Valley Reservoirs are a chain of man-made lakes created from damming the Elan and Claerwen rivers within the Elan Valley in Mid Wales. The reservoirs, which were built by the Birmingham Corporation Water Department in the late 1800, still provide clean drinking water for Birmingham in the West Midlands of England. The five lakes are known as the Claerwen, Craig-goch, Pen-y-garreg, Garreg-ddu, and Caban-coch.

The River Elan runs through the wide expanse of upland moors, traditionally known as Elenydd, in central Wales. Its valley is known as the Elan Valley. The name probably arises from ‘elain’ meaning ‘hind’ or ‘fawn’ in reference perhaps to the rushing, bounding nature of its course. It has its source in wet moorland on the eastern flank of Pen y Deunant in Cardiganshire. It is joined by Nant Dderwen, Nant Cwta and Nant Hirin before entering the top of the Elan Valley Reservoirs at Craig Goch Reservoir which in turn discharges to Garreg-ddu Reservoir and then Caban-coch Reservoir. It emerges from this chain of reservoirs in a north-easterly direction and forms the county border between Radnorshire and Brecknockshire for the rest of its journey. It passes through Elan Village before turning south-east after two miles and making its confluence with the River Wye.

Saturday 30th September

On the first day we set off in two groups to enjoy two walks with flexible walking lengths which aimed to satisfy everyone. The scenery was fabulous; we walked through golden deciduous woodlands, copper coloured bracken and velvet green fields. We were led by two local guides who shared their extensive knowledge of the Elan Valley. The history of the area amazed us all!

Having reached the Nantgwyllt Church the group of walkers divided. Those wanting a longer, more strenuous walk departed over the dam while the others looked at the church and then took the Elan Valley trail back to the Lodge. The longer group turned north-east on the trail and then east up a valley between Y Foel and Y Glog Fawr. A steep pull took us to open moorland and then steeply down to a track reaching the road to Elan from Rhayader. We then followed the Valley trail back to the village and lodge. Around 11 miles altogether with about 2000feet of ascent and only a little dampness

Long Walkers tackling the steep ascent high above the valley
All the way down and all the way back up the other side!

Sunday 1st October

Woodland walkers
Water pouring into the reservoirs!

Our second day proved to be very, very wet and it was no surprise to any of us that the Elan Valley is known as the Welsh Lake District! It poured with rain all day. We had two more guided walks on the Sunday. The long walk began at the Lodge and involved a walk to Nantgwyllt Church; from there the group walked along the Garreg-ddu Reservoir to the Pen y Garreg Dam and then continued on to the Craig Goch Dam, often referred to as ‘The Top Dam’.  Construction on the dam began in 1897, and it was completed in 1904.

Top Dam
We couldn’t get much wetter!

From there the group turned and traced their way back to the Lodge along the Elan Valley Trail. The shorter walk started from the church and followed the same route round the Garreg-ddu Reservoir.  At the end of the reservoir the shorter walk split into two groups. One group had a coffee and cake and then walked back along the other side of the reservoir to Elan Valley Lodge whilst the other group decided to walk further and walked on to the ‘Top Dam’ before making their way back to the Lodge.

Monday 2nd October

The final day of ECRs weekend away proved to be the best day in terms of weather! The walkers enjoyed a pleasant five mile walk which took in the confluence of the River Elan and the River Wye.

Eight members set of in dry weather and had a very good walk from Rhayader, learning more about the Birmingham pipeline which they crossed twice. They also reached the waterfall on the Wye which gives the town its name along with the location of the railway lines.  The group enjoyed a superb coffee break at the confluence of the Wye and Elan followed by a walk past the Laura Ashley farm.  Crossing a suspension bridge added to the fun and most of the group managed to get across using their hands. The sun peeped out, the views were clear and it made a splendid end to the weekend.

All the walkers expressed their appreciation to Ann Thompson for organising the weekend away in an area very few of us had every visited. Thank you Ann.