THE ELAN VALLEY RESERVOIRS AND DAMS
Magnificent landscapes and structures are one of the United Kingdom’s glory. Breathtaking views everywhere – old buildings and houses, castles, farms, hills and mountains, rivers and lakes – will definitely make your jaws drop. In my whole time in the UK, I only stayed in England. However, before I go back to my home country, I did encounter a tiny part of Wales; the Elan Valley Reservoirs and Dams.
It was built a hundred years ago to supply clean water to Birmingham. Consisting of six dams: four in Elan River and two in Claerwen River; these places can furnish every biker, hikers, and especially photographers all year round! Though I was not able to visit all six of them, I totally enjoyed my whole day in the Elan Valley, particularly because I spent it with my family.
We started our journey from Leinthall Starkes where we stayed for few days before my flight back to the Philippines. More than an hour’s drive, we followed my fiance’s sister’s family going to Rhayader. The weather was wet in England that time but knowing UK’s forecasts – it changes every time – we didn’t lose hope for a good weather (at least in Wales). And we were lucky enough that even the sky was gloomy on our way, it was a bit fair when we arrived at our first stop.
We first went to the lowest dam in the Elan River, the Caban Coch. This is where you will find the Visitor Center and is an ideal starting point in visiting the reservoirs and dams. As the lowest, this place is perfect, particularly if you have kids. It also has a wide car park perfect for cyclists who can leave their cars as they wander around the area.
Before we hiked up the dam, we first went inside the center, and there we found an exhibit about the dams of Elan Valley (though I’m not sure if it’s still there at this moment). There’s also a cafe inside, but we brought our own lunch, so we went to the play park behind the center where you can find picnic tables beside the playpen. Then after we ate, we started hiking up the dam. It was not a strenuous hike, but if you are not into hiking, it will make you sweat. Though the water of the Elan river was low that time (maybe because it’s summer?). and the Caban Coch Dam was not overflowing and picture perfect, the view still impressed me when we reached the top.
We were not able to spend much time in this area. However, I’ve seen cyclists and hikers here. This is the second dam in Elan River, and it will also lead you to the valley of River Claerwen (where you can see the other two dams).
This is the third dam from the lowest point, and I’d say the one I enjoyed the most! We started our trek on the car park where we also had a chance to play in the water. According to Susie (my fiance’s sister), it was her first time to see the river’s water too low that you can totally see the huge mossy rocks that were usually underneath the waters.
My fiance and I went up to the dam and enjoyed the walk until we reached the top and found out that it will lead you to a road (that we passed by later on our way to our last stop). And yes, we still had to go back down as well (we left the car down the car park and the others were still playing in the waters). The hike down was harder because the steps were steep and wet.
Our last stop was the top dam, Craig Goch. The most striking of all the Elan Valley Dams, very sophisticated and the highest, this dam really made my jaw drop! With the appealing backdrop of the hills surrounding the area, you will definitely fall in love with the place. It has an elegant design that also serves as a roadway across the top dam. The water pressure by that time was just perfect and gave me a chance to take wonderful pictures. Though we were not able to roam around the area that much, the entrance way was enough to leave us breathless.
How to get there:
If you are from a different part of the world and purposely came to the UK for a vacation, here are some ways that you can do if you want to visit the Elan Valley Dams:
- Car rental – it might be the easiest way to get there as it will only take you more than three hours from Heathrow airport. And it could also be the best option if you plan to travel all over the UK. The downside, it might cost you a fortune. Look for the cheapest rate for car rentals online to get a good deal.
- Bus or Coach – if you are coming from Heathrow or anywhere in London (assuming you explored London first), you can ride the bus to Cardiff, Greyfriars Road and from there, take another bus going to Rhayader. Though it may take more than seven hours travel time.
- Train and Bus (Great Western Railway) – from London Paddington station, take the two-hour train ride to Cardiff, Greyfriars Road and then just like the number two, take a bus going to Rhayader. It may take you more or less six hours including an hour and a half transfer.
NOTE: the information above was taken from www.rome2rio.com
- Plane – take a flight to the nearest airport in Rhayader which is Cardiff International Airport then take a bus to Rhayader. This is ideal if you want the fastest way and won’t bother to roam around England first (maybe you can put it last in your itinerary).
- Coach Parties – Elan Valley also caters for a large group of visitors through their Coach parties. To know more about it, please visit Elan Valley – Coach Parties.
DID YOU KNOW?
A small village used to reside in the Elan Valley before the project. More than a hundred residents were forced to leave their lands to give way for the construction of the dams and reservoirs to supply clean water to Birmingham. The said village was flooded and the people’s livelihood was taken away from them. Most of the evacuees moved to Rhayader and were not compensated except the landowners. Ruins of the village are believed to be still standing underneath the reservoir until now and sometimes visible when the water is very low.
***Wellies/Wellington Boots – Referring to the popular wet weather rubber footwear.
Please visit this Gallery for more photos!