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The Elan Valley #2 / 3 days / 45 miles (72km)

Outline Map → Map Route file →

Date: 24 Aug 2003
Start / Finish: Rhayader. Car park, toilets 967678.
Maps: Explorer 200 Elan Valley and Explorer 187 Llandovery.

Day 1Esgair Dderw, Carn Ricet & Cefn Llyn-bach15 miles / 2000 feet (24.1km / 610m)
Day 2Nant Egnant, Esgair Garthen & Carnau16 miles / 1850 feet (25.8km / 563m)
Day 3Gorwllyn & Drum Ddu14 miles / 1000 feet (22.5km / 305m)

The memories of Elan Valley #1 last year made us eager to design another circuit in this wild and little frequented area. It also seemed a good choice for a fine August bank holiday weekend to seek seclusion and we were right - there were the expected day-trippers at Claerwen dam picnic area but we saw no other walkers at all.

Day 1 - Esgair Dderw, Carn Ricet & Cefn Llyn-bach

Taking the road NW past Dderw bridge a lane branches R leading to the track that climbs to Esgair Dderw with its solitary standing stone. Descending W, Moelfryn and the wooded cliffs of Cerrig Gwalch can be seen R and the track eventually converges with the minor road. Walking NW to 912716 a good path diverges L into the valley to arrive at the small car park at Pont ar Elan. Crossing the Afon Elan the road ascends W to a L bend where a path leads off to join the ridge track, which gives good views of Craig Goch reservoir.

Cerrig Gwalch & Moelfryn
Cerrig Gwalch & Moelfryn (24 Aug 2003__09:56:10)
Craig Goch reservoir
Craig Goch reservoir (24 Aug 2003__11:16:21)

Climbing gradually W to Carn Ricet, the summit is adorned with a tall metal post with a TV aerial, solar panel and a small water tank. Numerous waymark posts lead SW to the rocky outcrops above the Llyn Cerrigllwydion Uchaf / Isaf lakes. The track, now surfaced, descends around the head of Pant Mawr where we collected water at a tiny stream on the N side at 833688, then descends to ford the Afon Claerwen. The route here is supposedly marked by white canes but they pass through the boggiest bits!. There are plenty of rocks in the river and we soon found a suitable crossing point and picked our own way through the reedy terrain to join the continuation track, which meanders through some wet reedy ground churned up by 4x4s and joins a surfaced track at 808676. This now leads easily to the minor road head at Llyn Egnant and the access track S on its W side. Just before the track bends L to the dam, we set off R to find Llyn y Gorlan and Llyn Bach, and we pitched on a small hill between the lakes at Cefn Llyn-Bach. As on our previous visit to Llyn Teifi in this lovely region of lakes, knolls and rocky outcrops, we found the whole area deserted save for one fly fisherman on the shore of Llyn Egnant.

Llyn Cerrigllwydion Uchaf / Isaf
Llyn Cerrigllwydion Uchaf / Isaf (24 Aug 2003__13:24:43)
Llyn y Gorlan & Llyn Hir
Llyn y Gorlan & Llyn Hir (24 Aug 2003__16:52:21)

Day 2 - Nant Egnant, Esgair Garthen & Carnau

Descending E to the dam, a gate leads to the track SW down the valley of the Nant Egnant. Crossing to the S bank and descending by a steep sided gorge, the track arrives at a farm where waymarks lead through to the byway track that heads SE along the Afon Mwyro valley. Ascending below a craggy cliff L and a waterfall visible R, the grassy track divides, but both routes lead to the buildings at Garreglwyd, where a track slants uphill SE and Llyn Gynon comes into view. Passing the lake the boggy but beautiful wild expanse of the headwaters of the Nant Biswail and Nant Brwynog stretch out L, and the path becomes less distinct as it follows the edge of the wet plain. It occasionally vanishes as small detours R may be necessary to avoid wet ground but it always reappears on the edge. Easily crossing the Nant y Ffin and Nant yr Helyg, the track reasserts itself and climbs towards Esgair Garthen. The main track leads below the top but just after it levels out, watch out for a mown side track L which traverses the hill over the highest points and gives intermittent views of Claerwen reservoir. At 844644 we took the branch NE that leads around a boggy area and descends SE to Claerwen dam, where we crossed and descended the zigzag path to the busy Afon Claerwen picnic area.

Dawn light on Llyn Bach
Dawn light on Llyn Bach (25 Aug 2003__06:37:44)
Llyn Gynon
Llyn Gynon (25 Aug 2003__09:59:24)
Headwaters of the Nant Brwynog & Nant Biswail
Headwaters of the Nant Brwynog & Nant Biswail (25 Aug 2003__10:08:39)
Headwaters of the Nant Brwynog and Llyn Gynon
Headwaters of the Nant Brwynog and Llyn Gynon (25 Aug 2003__11:27:16)

There are good public toilets here but no litter bins. Our route was the bridleway SE on the S side of the river but all is not as it might seem from the map. The map shows a ford and a footbridge on the Afon Arban. The ford, which is wide, swift and deep, lies on the bridleway but the footbridge does not, it is on the far side of fenced enclosures with no indication of a permissive route to it. Surveying the very short distance to it, we quickly stepped over a tied-up little gate and crossed a sort of stile in the next fence to reach it. The farmer was nearby and saw us doing this but made no objection. Continuing SE, the track crosses very marshy ground at the Nant y Dderwen, where we found one spot to leap across dryshod, and then leads easily to the lane at Rhiwnant which crosses the river. Here we turned R up the bridleway, initially a quarry track, which climbs S to a waterfall where we collected water. A good path continues to Bwlch y Ddau Faen and crosses a rather boggy area to the cairn on Carnau, where we pitched with a good view of the Brecons to the S.

Rhiwnant valley
Rhiwnant valley (25 Aug 2003__15:49:31)
Brecons from Carnau
Brecons from Carnau (25 Aug 2003__17:32:01)

Day 3 - Gorwllyn & Drum Ddu

Returning to Bwlch y Ddau Faen, we started the ridge traverse to Y Gamriw. This is a complex terrain of small grassy hills, ravines and bogs that conspire to defy the map contours and is not exactly trivial even in clear weather. Heading SE then NE to Gorllwyn we roughly followed a line of marker stones past Llyn y Ferlen to arrive at the Rhiw Saeson bridleway, which is indistinct but curves around the edge of a flat area at the foot of the slopes rising to the cairns on Y Gamriw. Passing a wooden post it reaches the edge of the steep slope, where it suddenly becomes a smooth grassy track descending obliquely and giving good views across the valley, then veers R to join a surfaced byway.

Looking back to Gorllwyn from track up Drum Ddu
Looking back to Gorllwyn from track up Drum Ddu (26 Aug 2003__11:52:57)

Turning R to the highest point on the byway, we followed a cart track SE most of the way up Drum Ddu and turned L over easy grass to the summit with its ancient cairn and good views, accompanied by a squirrel bounding through the grass. The NE ridge leads to the Rhiw Llanwrthwl path, which is indistinct here and crosses a saddle to the N slopes, where after a little wandering along the edge we found the broad grassy track that descends steeply through the bracken. At 979620 the obvious track bends slightly R and ascends a little, but the correct route is an adjacent track that looks overgrown and is easily missed, and continues gently downhill then contours the valley side to arrive at the Wye Valley Walk (WVW). We followed this N to Llanwrthwl (where there are public toilets) and then to the lane at Dolgai which we took N to the suspension bridge over the Wye. From here we took the lane N to Rhayader.