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Elan Reservoirs

 

Water Valley

Known as the lakes of Wales the whole of the Elan Valley is Wye catchment. In fact the River Elan, which it takes its names after is the main feeder into the Wye from this region of the Wye basin. The Afon Claerwen feeds into the Elan from the West of the Elan as it heads through Caban Coch Reservoir. With a thousand and one streams coming in off the mountains it's a fascinating area with five main reservoirs supplying water to Birmingham. 

Elan Estate

Owned by Welsh Water Dwr Cymru the estate is allied to the Elan Valley Trust. With clean water provision being the main function, the area has become synonymous with environmentally sensitive management to ensure the best water. The knock-on effect is that the estate is an ESA an Environmentally Sensitive Area in the Cambrian Mountains. There’s also an SPA Special Protection Area, SAC Special Area of Conservation and an SSSI Sites of Special Scientific Interest attached.

The total area of waterlogged high tops the estate is landlord to is 72 square miles, which has at its core 6 dams 1 unfinished, 28 farms and 38 houses, 8 blocks of in hand farming land (totaling in excess of 7,000 acres), holiday cottages and public facilities. Within this wild Mid Wales landscape there are a host of opportunities to enjoy some peaceful and full on outdoor activities.

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Birmingham's water comes from a wild place

Map Elan Valley

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Photo by: Peter Walker geograph.org.uk

Caban Coch

Caban Coch is the first or lowest of the 6 dams. Simple and functional in design it can, during overflow, resemble a natural waterfall as water pours over the dam wall.

"..in time of flood, when the storm water rushes over the crest and falls to a depth of over 120 feet, the dam at Caban Coch will present the appearance of a magnificent waterfall". These were the words of Eustace Tickell a chief engineer on the project. 

When water levels are normal it’s this dam that contributes water to Birmingham. However, what with the needs of the Elan and Wye to consider downstream it also supplies compensation water to these rivers.

Built between 1893 & 1904 it has a total capacity of 8,000,000,000 gallons and a top water area of 500 acres. For more details click here. It is without doubt a great example of British engineering although many came from across Europe to build it. 

The stone buildings on either side of the river just below the dam wall house electricity generating turbines whilst further downstream is the visitor center and car park. .

Activities Walking

Our favorite activity in the area is hiking and wild camping. You can of course use the Bothy at Lluest Cwmbach pictured, which is part of the network of Bothy's maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association. There are numerous others in the mountains. For a preview and a little Welsh Pronunciation click here for a 2 minute video. 

Other activities include mountain biking, walking, waterfall hunting, bird watching, star gazing, trail running, film and drone, photography, painting, poetry, angling, off road driving, horse riding, motorcycling, climbing (near Caban Coch), hang & paragliding over the estate with permission and yeah crystal hunting. Whatever it is outdoors it's in the Elan Valley. 

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Interconnecting reservoirs with ancient woodland habitat

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Claerwen Reservoir

The Claerwen feels the most remote. It's certainly the largest in area stretching into a part of the Cambrian Mountains that's not that well served by road. There is a single track service road that will take you into the upper reaches but that's as far as it goes. 

With a capacity of 48,300,300 m3 it took roughly 370 men to complete it in 1952 with a late Victorian effect so as to blend in with the earlier dams. 

Opened by Queen Elizabeth in popular culture it was the scene of Richard Hammonds winched Land rover challenge in Top Gear. It certainly provides an impressive backdrop as you have a brew in your motor home. Close by are some public toilets. 

There are numerous hikes above the dam or into the mountains. The fantastic Afon Arbon Valley is to the South while to the West is Llyn Gynon natural Lake and the Teifi Pools source of the river Teifi.  

The views down the Claerwen Valley from the dam are spectacular, fantastic, thrilling and on  a mist filled morning simply stupendous. Click here for pictures and or diary. With the dolymynach on the way it's well worth exploring. 

Garreg Ddu Reservoir

Llyn Carw is in the Cambrian Mountains at an altitude of 540 meters. It's a small fresh water lake in the Wye basin just South of the Claerwen Reservoir, Llyn Gynon is a relatively large lake 70 acres in size in the Cambrian Mountains. It holds abundant, free rising wild brown trout, averaging about 8oz, although fish to 1lb have been recorded. As a Wye feeder lake it's fairly significant. Llan Bwch-llyn Lake is a natural lake situated at the base of Llandeilo and Llanbedr hills just off the Wye Valley. It's edged with reed bed lush fen vegetation that aids breeding reed warbler and great crested grebe. Mentioned before Brechfa Pool is a valuable eco system in the Wye Valley. Pant Y Llyn is situated a few miles South of Builth Wells and is home to some hard fighting carp. It's truly a remote mountain lake on the Eastern fringe of the Epynt Mountain.  

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We are water through & through

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Penygarreg Reservoir

Monmouthshire hasn't got anything in the way of lakes but it has a plethora of pools, springs and fisheries. In the Lower Wye valley at Redbrook, for example, entire valleys are peppered with pools as a result of its industrial heritage. See here for an article. So, lets take a look at Valley Brook. 

Valley Brook starts up near Clearwell and heads for the Wye via a meandering course at the very base of a valley that reaches to a height of 160/70 meters. Along the way you will pass by a series of pools that served various industries. They are now natural havens. See Photo one Photo two Photo three. We've passed through here and can vouch for its splendor. For mid point in what could be a loop walk see Grid Ref SO 543083.

Immediately to the West is a real gem of a pool, which you can swim in with Angela Jones if you book via the Old Lands Estate. Farmed and run using slower land management principles it's a place for wild life and wild meadows. There are walks through the estate and beside the pool. For the path through the estate and nearby the pool see Grid Ref SO 455097.

Ravens Nest Fishery River Angiddy. This is a trout fishery made up of a series of 3 pools amid the Angiddy valley and thick woodland. It's simply a nice spot to sit and chat with the anglers if walking the solitary valley. Grid Ref SO 504000. In fact, the whole walk is punctuated by pools and weirs. 

 

There are others and we'll be adding decent pools as we come across them. But if you have any suggestions please contact us. We'd love to hear from you. 

Craig Goch

Llyn Carw is in the Cambrian Mountains at an altitude of 540 meters. It's a small fresh water lake in the Wye basin just South of the Claerwen Reservoir, Llyn Gynon is a relatively large lake 70 acres in size in the Cambrian Mountains. It holds abundant, free rising wild brown trout, averaging about 8oz, although fish to 1lb have been recorded. As a Wye feeder lake it's fairly significant. Llan Bwch-llyn Lake is a natural lake situated at the base of Llandeilo and Llanbedr hills just off the Wye Valley. It's edged with reed bed lush fen vegetation that aids breeding reed warbler and great crested grebe. Mentioned before Brechfa Pool is a valuable eco system in the Wye Valley. Pant Y Llyn is situated a few miles South of Builth Wells and is home to some hard fighting carp. It's truly a remote mountain lake on the Eastern fringe of the Epynt Mountain.  

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There's nothing like a good body of water to come by