River Elan

The River of Reservoirs

The Elan River starts (Map Link) on top of the Ochr Lwyd at 544 meters (1,784 Ft) in the Cambrian Mountains Wales. From a distance it melds into a a remote and rugged landscape, which has the nickname of being the 'Desert of Wales' on account of the miles and miles of acid grass land and elephant grass that covers the mountains.

The river gathers water from the surrounding slopes of Banc Yr Wyn 527 Meters (1,729 Ft), Geifas 572 Meters (1,876 Ft) and Ban Hir as well as direct rainfall that soaks the immediate earth around it. The source resembles a huge bowl that appears like a depression and or plateau seemingly as a result of the sheer amount of water it contains. Very quickly a stream is formed from source carving out a cleft into the ground as it does so. It's as if the very mountain is sweating.

It tumbles now for about 4 KM through bog land, which is unchartered by ordinary folk. Waters add to its volume from other surrounding slopes such as Banc Cerrig Fendigaid at 500 Meters (1,640 Ft). The views down the valley as you descend are epic on a good day.

Pretty soon the river appears to be a river as trout make their way amid the subtrate in search of food, which constitutes aquatic insects, terrestrial insects, other fish, crustaceans, leeches, worms, and other foods. Once Salmon made their way upstream to spawn but the reservoir system that ends with Craig Goch, the nearest to its source, has since prevented them from doing so. Having said this the Wye Usk Foundation have started replenishing lost gravels below the Caban Coch dam, which has reported some success with Salmon and other species returning. This is good news!

It's still an impressive mountain water course that passes through stupendous scenery. It has its challenges as can be witness throughout but it's future is beginning to look good in light of recent conservation efforts.

The Elan Valley, which takes its name after the River Elan is home to a series of reservoirs constructed during the Victorian era. Caban Coch, Claerwen, Garreg Ddu, Penygarreg and Craig Goch all supply water to the Birmingham conurbation some 70 miles to the East of the Cambrian Mountain range in which the reservoirs are situated.

Over the years it has forged a reputation for its wild life, outdoor activities and remote tranquillity. The hiking is glorious (in great weather), the drives stupendous and the wild life uplifting.

This valley though still remains one of water as Dwr Cymru Welsh Water manage the estate to good effect delivering, not just water, but conservation programmes and education. As a visitor attraction it's worth every effort. Click on image left for link to website.

Video: Wild Elan Way P1

We start in the spectacular cwmystwyth, camp and hike up tpo the source of the Elan taking in the awesome views of the mountains as we do. At source we deliberate and remember my twin Paul and follow the riever down through bog to the road leading to Craig Goch Reservoir. There we Bothy at Lluest Cwm Bach Bothy. Along the way we meet some mountain folk and outdoors enthusiasts.

Wild Elan Way P2

The morning of day 3 is wet but beautiful. After a good evenings rest and a chat with people staying in the Bothy (I chose my tent) we head towards the Elanvalley proper passing by Pennygarreg whilst visiting the chapel beyond that was moved when construction got under way. From there we walk alongside Caban Goch, visit the visitor center and finish off at the Elans confluence with the Wye all the while speaking with great people.

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