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.
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.
Riverside Wildlife Walk
A circular walk from the Rugby Club car park at the end of Water Lane off Bridge Street. The walk follows the river bank with picnic benches along the way and returns via the town centre clock, a distance of 1 mile / 1.5 kilometres that takes about an hour to enjoy.
Rhayader has a wonderful variety of wild plants and animals living among its building, 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 the enjoyment of everyone. This walk is part of a series of three walks to help you explore the variety and beauty of the wildlife on our doorstep.
Our aim is to show off the best of the area and enable visitors to discover more for themselves, to make them want to come again
Wildlife Centre of Wales
Rhayader and surrounding areas are important habitats and home to a variety of wildlife, flora and fauna.
With so many differnet places to experience nature as it should be, we've complied a pack of local wildlife sites for you here.
Download the map of the sites to help you plan your wildlife adventures.