#111 – A soggy day in the hills of Mid-Wales

Mid-Wales.  The small red rectangle is map view 2

Mid-Wales. The small red rectangle is map view 2

Map view 2 – Our Route around Esgair Penygarreg

If you wanted to describe Wales in one word, you wouldn’t go far wrong with “hilly”!  What’s more, hills are usually a good excuse for a walk, so when we visited friends at Llandrindod in Powys over Christmas, the rucksacks took up more car room than the Christmas presents!  The plan was to follow a circular walk around Esgair Penygarreg above the reservoirs of the Elan Valley.  I hadn’t realised, however, that the road to the start point passed by Niagara Falls!

The dam at Caban Coch Reservoir, with water overflowing the top

The dam at Caban Coch Reservoir, with water overflowing the top

 Another view of the Caban Coch dam pretending to be Niagara Falls

Another view of the Caban Coch dam pretending to be Niagara Falls

Above the small market town of Rhaeadr, the Afon Elan (River Elan) is dammed in four places, creating the reservoirs of Caban Coch, Garreg Ddu, Penygarreg and Craig Goch.  As we arrived at Caban Coch dam above Elan Village we saw a white wall stretching across the valley.  We stopped the car for a photograph and immediately heard the sound of the water surging over the dam.

Starting near Penygarreg dam on a forest trail

Starting near Penygarreg dam on a forest trail

Gaining height, looking down to the dam ….

Gaining height, looking down to the dam ….

…. before emerging on open moorland

…. before emerging on open moorland

The Afon Elan that feeds the four reservoirs is a river that (according to Wikipedia) “… has its source in wet moorland”.  The start of our route was also shaping up to be soggy, but as we gained height onto open moorland it seemed that it might not be too wet after all, despite the amount of water flowing over the dams.

Barbara with a miniature Chris

Barbara with a miniature Chris

The author joins in the fun

The author joins in the fun

Back to normal size, the team continues

Back to normal size, the team continues

On the outward section of the walk we had a bit of fun taking photos of a diminutive Chris.  Some visitors to last week’s blog might have wondered how we managed to shrink Chris for the photos.  It’s quite simple really, and obvious when you think about it – I shook some magic ‘shrinking dust’ over her just before taking the pics…..!

Looking down towards Carreg Ddu Reservoir

Looking down towards Carreg Ddu Reservoir

Crugyn Ci, our high point at 533 metres

Crugyn Ci, our high point at 533 metres

Having had our fun (and restored Chris to the proper size) we carried on past our high point for the day at Crugyn Ci – this translates as “Dog Heap” which brought all sorts of possibilities to mind, but ‘Mist’ showed perfect manners and didn’t add any more ‘dog heaps’.

Heading down to the Mountain Road from Rhaeadr, with white water showing dead centre

Heading down to the Mountain Road from Rhaeadr, with white water showing dead centre

Ruined building seen from the detour route

Ruined building seen from the detour route

We crossed the watershed and dropped down to the Mountain Road out of Rhaeadr, where the intention had been to cross the stream to get to the road, before joining a bridleway to return to the start point.  It became obvious as we got closer to the road that the stream was in spate.  I managed to find a place where it was safe to cross, though it was going to be a ‘boot-filler’!  At this point it appeared that a mutiny was brewing within the remainder of the party, so out came the map – I soon had a detour sorted.

Above the marsh, heading for the Roman Camp

Above the marsh, heading for the Roman Camp

The idea of detouring just because a stream is in the way will make Munro-bagging bloggers such as Mountain Coward laugh, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Unfortunately my detour took us through a bog not marked on the map, a product of the recent weeks of almost continual heavy rain.  Instead of a short, sharp soaking in the stream, we had an extended soaking crossing the mire, proving beyond doubt that cheats don’t prosper.

Drying out time!

Drying out time!

On the move again, heading down to Craig Goch Reservoir

On the move again, heading down to Craig Goch Reservoir

Having regained firm ground, we made a short stop at the site of a Roman marching camp, first occupied almost two thousand years ago.  The faint line of a ditch could be seen, but wasn’t clear enough to make a good photograph.  Whilst I checked that out, the remainder of the party decided to wring out wet socks, escaping the chilly wind in my ‘bothy shelter’.  After coffee and cake, the boots went back on and we headed down to Craig Goch reservoir.

The track next to Craig Goch reservoir ….

The track next to Craig Goch reservoir ….

…. with the weather turning drizzly

…. with the weather turning drizzly

The views from the track above the reservoir were of a wild and empty landscape, with the reservoir looking like a natural lake, not a man made construction.  The illusion was dispelled as we passed the Craig Goch dam, but the power and force of the water flowing over the top was a reminder that nature will generally prevail over our puny human efforts.

Craig Goch dam

Craig Goch dam

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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12 Responses to  #111 – A soggy day in the hills of Mid-Wales

  1. Fancy not fitting Mist into your bothy tent…. 🙂
    I like the way you did the big map before the more detailed one – means that I could understand exactly whereabouts the walk was!

    • Hahaha …. Mist did go in the shelter briefly, but decided it wasn’t for her 🙂

      I’m glad the maps helped Chrissie. This is not (for most of us) a well known walking area, and I doubt if many readers would have maps for the area, digital or paper. The route shown follows almost exactly the track log I recorded on GPS, including the diversion into the bog 😀

  2. Mark Kelly says:

    The area looks very much like around me – great moors and reservoirs (and a Roman road) , just as wet – but on a larger scale 🙂 I really need to do more walking in Wales, I realise that pretty much all of it is unknown to me!

  3. LensScaper says:

    That’s not an area I know at all – but looks like a nice walk and some amazing ‘Niagaras’ overflowing the dams. Wales always seems to have impressive bogs – if I come up your way this summer I’m packing wellington boots!

  4. Those dam overflows certainly are impressive. Much nicer than Niagara which is surrounded by trashy shops and casinos, and people wearing yellow plastic macs!
    I suppose you could say there is a serious side to the mini people – amazing how easily our sense of perspective can be fooled.

    • We’ve been to the Elan Valley a few times now, but never seen the dams like that before – there will probably be a hosepipe ban next week!

  5. I’ve never actually walked in that area but we have driven our camping van up round there – I’m pretty sure a road went all the way round ‘cos I remember we drove up and then my Mum decided we were going to coast the several miles back down – was a bit hairy in places, especially in a huge Commer camper, but great fun! 😉

    I’ve never seen the Elan Dams in spate though – not surprising considering the year we’ve had/are having.

    As to the beck detours, Richard always goes for that option but I much prefer to whip my boots and socks off and just wade across. Saves a lot of time and saves that worst of disasters – falling off stepping stones and getting water inside your boots! It can also warm your feet up afterwards if the water is cold enough…

    • You have almost certainly driven round our walk Carol, and we finished off this day by driving round – the hill country round there isn’t mountainous but it has an untamed wildness about it that you would never find in Snowdonia.

      As for the becks, yours is the most efficient way as far as saving time and keeping dry is concerned – perhaps I should have ignored the impending mutiny from the other two 🙂

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