Constructed in the 1970s, Llyn Brianne is a reservoir shaped like a 2-legged lizard. It is some 3 miles long and holds about 13.5 million gallons of water when full. It was designed to control the flow of the River Towy (Afon Tywi in Welsh) and to provide treated water to south Wales. Today it is almost entirely surrounded by coniferous forestry plantations.
The dam is the tallest in the UK: 299 feet high and 951 feet long. The overflow channel (or spillway) next to the dam is pretty spectacular when the reservoir spills over during times of heavy rain. A metre was added to it in 1996 before installing a hydro-electric plant which now drives a single turbine in summer and three in the winter.
Below the dam, the upper Tywi valley marks the boundary between the counties of Powys and Ceredigion and is noteworthy for being one of the last refuges in Wales for the Red Squirrel.
The Cwm Rhaeadr Project
Developed to promote enjoyment of the outdoor life, this project has created paths for walkers, a cycleway and mountain bike course as well as an access trail for all to include those with physical disabilities. There’s a difficult 7km trail for serious mountain bikers.
The National Nature Reserve at Allt Rhyd y Groes, the RSPB Reserve at Dinas and Wildlife Trust Reserve at Nant Melyn all lie within the Cwm Doethie – Mynydd Mallaen Special Area of Conservation. These provide a rich mixture of habitats including woodland, grassland, heathland and bog. Many birds can be spotted in the area including such upland species as Merlin, Red Grouse and Ring Ouzel. Rare liverworts, mosses, lichens and wild flowers are amongst the other attractions.
The Cambrian Mountain Society has been set up in order to gain recognition, protection and promotion for the countryside in central Wales: it is hoped that it may be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
At the Gwnffrwd-Dinas RSPB reserve, you can take a walk through alder and oak woodland, past rushing rivers. Red Kites are present there all year, and in the summer you can see visiting migrants such as Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts, Dippers and Grey Wagtails. The trail follows a steep sided valley so some parts can be slippery.
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