The quiet Rheidol Valley (Cwm Rheidol) is the site of the largest hydro-electric scheme in England and Wales. For over 50 years it has generated renewable energy by making use of the rain which falls on the surrounding mountains – enough to power about 12 thousand homes each year. It is made up of an interconnected group of reservoirs, dams, pipelines, aqueducts and power stations, and covers a total area of 162 square kilometres. Starting at Plynlimon, the water descends via the Nant-y-Moch and Dinas reservoirs, driving generators on the way.
Power Station Visitor Centre
Enjoy displays and exhibitions explaining the scheme, along with free guided tours of the power station and its fish farm. It is open from 1st May to 30th Sept. There are interactive educational models for those who want to learn about renewable energy as well as a café for refuelling yourselves!
The reservoirs are stocked with varieties of trout and permits for fishing can be bought from the Rheidol Filling Station in Ponterwyd. Upstream of the power station a 'fish ladder' was cut into the rock to bypass the Rheidol Falls and thus opened up new spawning grounds to the fish. The fish ladder rises 6 metres and has 14 pools.
By the dam is a lovely picnic area, and a small purpose built garden overlooking the salmon tunnel, which is a great place just to sit and enjoy the sound of the falling water. The falls at the little Cwm Felin Reservoir near to the visitor centre are floodlit at night until about 11pm BST or 10pm GMT.
Also in the hills near Ponterwyd is the Llywernog Silver-Lead Mine, which offers deep underground tours and a family-friendly insight into the area's history of mining.
There is the Magic of Life Butterfly House right next to the Power Station Visitor Centre. Open Apr 1st to Nov 3rd 2014. There are at least 30 different species of tropical butterflies in the house at any one time and visitors can also see insects, bugs and giant caterpillars. Both the garden and house contain beautiful and exotic plants such as passion flowers and Bird of Paradise.
Look out for birds in the valley such as Red Breasted Merganser which is known to breed on the Rheidol (see photo) and many freshwater and woodland birds.
As outlined in the Aberystwyth section of this guide, one of the best ways of seeing this valley is by taking a train on the Vale of Rheidol Railway, fitting in a walk around the glorious falls at Devil’s Bridge
From Aberystwyth, a 17 mile cycle trail leads you as far as Devil’s Bridge – mostly along quiet back roads and dedicated cycle routes. It’s not a challenging ride, but there is a steep ascent at the end as you approach the bridge. You can avoid this by taking the alternative ending to the route, leading to the old Rheidol mines.
Some of the best things to do in The Rheidol Valley:
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