The River Wye
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The River Wye from its source to Builth Wells

The course of the River Wye described on this page is in the area of Mid Wales - starting in what is almost North Wales adjacent to one of the last wildernesses in Britain - to the town of Builth Wells, which lies in the heart of Wales.

View Places along the River Wye in a larger map
The Source of the River Wye
The River Wye at Pant Mawr
The River Wye at Llangurig
The Wye Valley between Llangurig and Rhyader
Bryn Titli wind farm
Rhyader - the first town on the River Wye
The Elan and Caerwen reservoirs
Gigrin Farm Red Kite Feeding Station
Builth Wells

 

The Source of the River Wye

The River Wye rises in the Plynlimon Hills in central Wales. The Welsh name is Plunlumon - meaning five peaks. This area is the largest watershed in Wales - as well as the Wye the longest river in Britain, the river Severn has its source here. In fact the sources of the Severn and Wye are only about two miles apart - ironic as they take different courses and meet again as they flow into the sea.

According to folklore, a giant sleeps beneath the Plynlimon Hills. The area is important to birds for wintering, feeding and breeding. Of note are Black and Red grouse, Hen Harrier, Short Eared Owl and Merlin.

 

Pant Mawr

Few drivers going to and from Aberystwyth on the A44 realise that, as they pass through Pant Mawr they cross the River Wye by the first road bridge the Wye meets. It is a bubbling stream that comes tumbling down from the hills, but after passing beneath the A44 the Wye is joined by its first tributary - the Afon Terennig - and starts down its own valley - a river.

Tributaries of the River Wye:

  • Tarennig
  • Elan
  • Lugg
  • Irfon
  • Marteg
  • Monnow
  • Trothy
  • Ithon
  • Llynfi
  • Letton Lake
  • Bidno

 

Llangurig

Sited in the county of Powys, Llangurig is the first actual village on the River Wye. At an altitude of 305 metres (1000 feet) Llangurig is said to be the highest village in Wales. In August each year Llangurig is host to an agricultural show and sheepdog trials.

The Railway that (almost) never was

In the nineteenth century the Milford and Manchester Railway Company (M&M) and Mid Wales Railway Company (MWR) agreed to co-operate in building a line to connect Llanidloes with Aberystwyth on the coast.

In accordance with the agreement the M&M completed the 5km line from Llanidloes to Llangurig. However at next section from Llangurig to Strata Florida – to be built by the MWR was a rather greater engineering challenge: it required 2km of tunnels and a large viaduct or order to get past the Plynlimon Hills. The M&M would then complete the line to Aberystwyth.

However because of the magnitude of the engineering challenge faced by the MRW, and the fact that 1866 was a difficult year financially (in particular the bank Overend, Gurney & Company collapsed owing about 11 million pounds – a massive amount then) the route west of Llangurig was abandoned after minimal work.

However the station at Llanidloes had been extended in anticipation of the new line, this work being done by the Llanidloes and Newtown Railway Company (L&N). When the project collapsed the L&N ran a single goods train to Llangurig. This enabled them to legally invoice the M&M for its share of the cost of extending Llanidloes.

This was how Llangurig came to have the shortest lived railway service in the UK – with just one train visiting before cancellation.

 

The valley south of Llangurig

The River Wye turns south after Llangurig – and begins to take on its own identity. In the 17 kilometres (11 miles) between Llangurig and Rhyader the river goes through the first stretch that can be described as spectacular, with high hills on either side. The A470 takes advantage of the river valley and accompanies the river for many miles to come. Along this stretch the Afon Marteg joins the Wye.

 

The Bryn Titli Wind Farm

On a plateau around the hills of Banc Dolhelfa and Bryn Titli this wind farm was completed in 1994. The 22 wind turbines are capable of generating 10MW of electricity – enough to supply 5300 homes.

It isoperated by npwer renewables who reputedly inject £150 000 into the local economy each year through rent and maintenance.

 

The Elan Valley Reservoirs

  The 'Welsh Lake District' is described on a separate page

 

 

Rhayader - the first town on the River Wye

  Rhayader is described on a separate page

 

Gigrin Farm Red Kite Feeding Station

Just outside of Rhayader, the once rare bird of prey the Red Kite is fed daily. In absolute terms the birds are fed at the same time every day all year round. In practical terms this means 2pm in the winter and 3pm in the summer. This disparity is because the birds are used to being fed at the same time, and have no concept of Greenwich Mean Time and British Summer Time (that is, the clocks going forward in the Spring and back in the Autumn). These feedings are open to the public and can be spectacular.

Gigrin Farm played a major role in what must be considered an astonishing success story. The Red Kite was once so common across Britain that in the 16th Century it was declared vermin. By the beginning of the 20th Century the bird had been eradicated from England, with a similar story in Scotland. A very few breeding pairs hung on in mid Wales.

Only then were efforts made to conserve the Red Kite - and the population in Wales stabilised then started to grow.

In 1992 the RSPB came to an agreement with Gigrin Farm that Red Kites would be fed there daily. At the time 54 of the Birds were monitored in Wales (with five in England and Scotland). The latest figures are for 2008 with 568 monitored in Wales (and 475 in England and Scotland). In 2008 there were an estimated 750-900 Red Kites in Wales - when compared with an estimated 259 in 2000 there are probably over 1000 today.

Red Kites: Crucial Information

The Red Kite has a wingspan of nearly 2 metres, but with a small body weight of 1-1.5kg. This allows the bird to be extremely agile, and to stay in the air for long periods with very little effort.

However this also makes it relatively weak. Although a carrion feeder, for example, it cannot penetrate the carcass of a sheep and has to wait for another scavenger such as a fox or buzzard to make an inroad before it can feed.

It is their chestnut colour that gives the Red Kite its name - but it is its obviously forked tail that most easily distinguishes it from other birds of prey such as buzzards.

Red Kites first breed at two to three years old. Generally, they mate for life, although a few 'divorces' have been recorded where both members of a former pair have been found breeding with new partners.

 

Builth Wells
  Builth Wells is described on a separate page

 

A Year on the Wye DVD

A Year on the Wye DVD cover

 Free:

  River Wye screensaver

  River Wye 2011 calendar

The infant River Wye at Pant MawrThe infant River Wye at Pant Mawr
The Infant Wye bubbles to Pant Mawr © Star Video 2011

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The Plynlimon Hills where River Wye risesThe Plynlimon Hills where River Wye rises
The Plynlimon Hills - where the River Wye rises © Star Video 2011
The River Wye meets its first tributaryThe River Wye meets its first tributary
The Afon Tarennig joins the Wye as it becomes a river © Star Video 2011


The Afon Tarennig joins the Wye as it becomes a river © Star Video 2011

 

 

 

 

LlangurigLlangurig
The parish church at Llangurig - the first village on the River Wye © Star Video 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

River Wye north of RhayaderRiver Wye north of Rhayader
South of Llangurig the Wye enters its first spectacular valley © Star Video 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Kites at Gigrin FarmRed Kites at Gigrin Farm
Red Kites at Gigrin Farm © Star Video 2011
 
Gigrin FarmGigrin Farm
The sign for Gigrin Farm Red Kite feeding station © Star Video 2011
 
Red Kites at Gigrin FarmRed Kites at Gigrin Farm
Red Kites at Gigrin Farm © Star Video 2011

 

 

 

 

 

© 2011 Star Video