The first section of the trail begins at St Clements Church in Rhayader (Grid ref SN 962682), and follows the Elan Valley up as far as the church at Nantgwyllt, a distance of 5 miles.
Arts, Culture and Heritage
St Clements to Nantgwyllt Walk
St Clement’s Church, Rhayader
St Clement’s is an imposing 17th Century building much altered by the Victorians overlooking the River Wye adjacent to the old Welsh Rhayader Castle. The Church is of Norman origins, probably built by the Mortimer family who captured and restored the castle in 1200. The dedication is to St Clement and this could have stemmed from the fact that the Normans were rebuilding the Church of St Clemente in Rome at the same time. A large cast iron fence surrounds the reburied remains of the garrison of the castle, one of whom was said to be a giant. The Church has some very fine stained glass windows.
Eglwys Sant Clement, Rhaeadr Gwy
Mae Eglwys Sant Clement yn adeilad mawreddog o’r ail ganrif ar bymtheg a gafodd ei newid yn helaeth yng nghyfnod Fictoria. Mae’n edrych i lawr dros afon Gwy ac wedi ei lleoli ger hen Gastell Cymreig Rhaeadr Gwy. Mae’r Eglwys yn tarddu o’r cyfnod Normanaidd, ac fe’i hadeiladwyd mae’n debyg gan y teulu Mortimer a gipiodd ac a adferodd y Castell ym 1200. Cyflwynwyd yr eglwys i Sant Clement a gallai hyn fod wedi deillio o’r ffaith fod y Normaniaid yn ailadeiladu Eglwys Sant Clement yn Rhufain yr un pryd. Mae ffens fawr o haearn bwrw yn amgylchynu gweddillion garsiwn y castell. Cafodd aelodau’r garsiwn hwn eu hail-gladdu, ac yn ôl y chwedl roedd un ohonynt yn gawr. Mae gan yr Eglwys rai ffenestri lliw gwych iawn.
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.
Elan & Claerwen Valleys
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: 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.
Llanwrthwl Village Visit
Llanwrthwl lies on the River Wye south of Rhayader. To the north west is the RSPB nature reserve called Carngafallt, a heather clad hill with slopes clothed in beautiful ancient hanging oak woodlands and thorn scattered fridd. Gafallt was King Arthur’s dog, and legend says that he left his paw print in a stone somewhere on Carngafallt. It was also here that a second hoard of gold jewellery was found – a set of bronze age torques, now in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. In the churchyard next to the parish church of St Gwrthwl is a huge standing stone.
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.