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!
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.
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.
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…..!
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’.
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.
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.
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 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.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock