Elan Valley Dams – a day out in Wales -x

A day out in wild Wales

It is not often that we actually go out when we are in Abergavenny, but on Friday we decided that we would make a change and visit the spectacular Elan Valley Dams which turned out to be a lovely day out in the centre of Wales.

Having packed a luxury picnic we set off for the Dams.  The picnic included our own fresh squeezed apple juice, some fabulous cheese and olive bread together with the ubiquitous ‘cake/pudding’ for him – not, of course, forgetting sandwiches for Beetle (homemade bread with Mascarpone cheese filling). OK so I spoil the dog, but if she has her own picnic she does not nag for bits of mine!

The pit stop for lunch – a narrow lane yielded a useful gateway where we could enjoy the scenery and our lunch.

P1160719stormy sky

This blog is going to be mostly pictures because the images presented to us on the day need very little description – it was all about weather and atmosphere with some history about the dams.

P1160722sunlight green P1160721Wales day out

As we got nearer to Rhyadar we somehow took the wrong turning and decided to risk disappearing into the wild depths of Wales.  http://www.rhayader.co.uk/ 

P1160736blue road

We found ourselves driving along one of those roads that normally has grass growing down the centre, but this road had a band of moss.  We were in an ancient woodland which was literally swathed in a green coat which rolled over the rocks, crept up the trees and spread along the centre of the road.

P1160728moss wood P1160729moss blanket P1160730moss wood 2 P1160731moss wood3 P1160733moss wood4

Many years ago we were guests of the famous Kyoto moss garden guardians.  Although there were not obviously the great variety of mosses there was the same atmosphere of those famous gardens laid out across the floor of this ancient woodland.  Probably due to the fact that these valleys have an exceptionally high rainfall – it was damp and gloriously green.  There was the neatness that you have when there has been a few inches of snow fall on the ground tidying up all the chaos of autumn decay.

Elan Valley Dams on a September day out in Wales.

Not for us the massive flow of water over the dams which we were expecting because of the heavy and continuous rainfall we had been experiencing.  But the river was clear and full and magical in its variety of colours reflected from the lush banks, the stormy sky with vibrant cuts of bright blue.




P1160748fern and rocks

Discovering architecture and engineering on the estate of the Elan Valley Dams.

The estate covers an area of 70 square miles.  It is dramatically bleak in places and darkly wooded in others interlaced with hundreds of water ways all making their way down into the valleys.

We knew nothing of the history except having an idea that it was constructed in Victorian times. History | Elan Valley www.elanvalley.org.uk/discover/history

Unlike modern constructions there is always attention paid to decorative detail.  Finials, stonework, copper clad towers overhanging the water.

P1160776old bridge P1160775old bridge

What a shame that this very decorative bridge is not restored and recommissioned as a walkway – it is so pretty and its replacement incredibly boringly ugly.

There are plenty of pictures of the dams and except for the picture of the one dam taken because the light was particularly magical we did not capture any large expanses of water.

P1160803elan dam

I just loved the way that the natural and built landscape zig-zagged in harmony across the countryside.  Added to this we had the sun painting bright bands of colour across the water and the hills.

P1160767electricity gen

This reminder of the practical workings of the dams was so interesting.  A Pelton Wheel once used to generate electricity – now replaced with more efficient generators powered by the water.  A refreshing change to see a massive piece of engineering painted this glorious colour instead of the usual industrial green or black.

All the roads and lanes that we drove along showed very little sign of habitation – a remote farmhouse, a cluster of houses perhaps once part of the management living quarters while the dam was under construction.

P1160790barn in green


P1160780 sheep

Conservation of wild-life on the estate of the Elan Valley Dams

At this time of the year the hilly sides of the watery valleys are bruised with the purples and golds of late summer and early autumn.  The heather in sheltered areas still singing colour and buzzing with bee activity.  The grasses are tip bleached and the bracken glowing gold in the occasional bursts of warm sunshine.

This landscape is so painterly and must have inspired many artists to try to capture the atmosphere of its treasures.


P1160772 tree dark sky P1160771birch trees P1160770 tree dark horizon

And then there are the clouds – always much more exciting than plain blue.  Somehow a dramatic cloud display somehow enhances the drama of the land.


P1160788clouds 3 P1160785 clouds 4

P1160824rainbow sheep

And finally on the way home we chased the most amazing rainbow which coloured the sky in the most dramatic way.




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