At some time a mapmaker had misspelt the word Bryniau, a common occurrence when people are not used to the Welsh language. So now it is known as Brianne. Llyn y Bryniau would have been a far nicer name; it means, 'lake of the hills'.
When it was first discussed the thought of a reservoir above the village brought considerable fear in those who lived lower down in the valley. Locals lower down were worried that the dam wall might collapse and there would be a great flood.
Consequently there was considerable objection to its location. The objectors wanted it to be built further up the valley.
In December 1966 a Public Enquiry was convened to finalise a decision on its construction. On 3rd July 1968 the West Glamorgan Water Board (Llyn Brianne) Order 1968 gave the go ahead.
While the protestors were unsuccessful in preventing the construction of the dam, they did prevent a new roadway through the beautiful Doethie valley from being built. Without their efforts a wonderful part of Wales would have been decimated.
There was still fierce opposition to the reservoir and many to this day wish they had won the fight. Many remember the valley before forestation and the reservoir. It was a beautiful place.
However for those of us now driving around the Reservoir, it is still a beautiful place, and what we cannot see we do not miss. Wales seems to have been chosen for a lot of reservoirs because the valleys were sparsely populated, and so few people were displaced, and because the rainfall is particularly high. Certain valleys could be closed off at one end, thus permitting a whole host of reservoirs to be built.
The roadways were widened and heavy construction plant trundled through daily. Strangers with a variety of accents moved into lodgings and rented houses in the village and in the surrounding area.
Llandovery was awash with engineers and construction workers. Local businesses did very well and within a very short time village life had changed completely. Others couldn’t wait for normality to return. Every day convoys of large lorries headed up one side of the valley and back down the other, hauling anything and everything to the site. Bus loads of people came to see the worksite of the largest dam of its type in Europe.
Once the last piece of machinery had left the valley, life did return to some normality. The place was quiet once more but where people used to come to see Twm Siôn Cati’s cave, now they came to see the new reservoir.
The new road system connected the Cambrian Mountains to Tregaron and beyond. Water is provided for West Glamorgan and areas further afield.
The dam is the UK's tallest, standing at a height of 300 ft (91 m), and is the world's largest clay core dam.
The dam is a crushed and larger rock clay filled dam, all materials being obtained in the area itself. It is a man-made mountain blocking the valley.
The clay was taken from higher up the valley near Soar y mynydd chapel closer to Tregaron.
Much of the rock was quarried on site; this is now where you can park.
Stand on the dam wall where Jack the dog is above and look out over the valley below. It is then that you realise what a massive structure this is.
It has been altered since 1973. Its capacity has been increased and a hydro-electric station has been built at its base.
It still regulates the supply of water in the river Tywi and maintains the water supply to homes and industry in South Wales.
The reservoir was constructed by Wimpey in the late 1960s and early 1970s to regulate the flow in the River Tywi.
It supported large potable water abstraction at Nantgaredig in the lower reaches of the river near Carmarthen, providing water to the Felindre water treatment works.
The treated water is piped to a large area of South Wales and up to the borders of Cardiff.
Under the reservoir there are a couple of houses which were flooded to make way for the reservoir. Before the water level was raised, it was possible to walk to Fannog farmhouse as a "For Sale" sign was once erected on it.
The reservoir was built in 1972 by damming a section of the river Towy to supplement flows in the river during low flows, and as compensation for extracting water supplies some 40 miles downstream at Nantgaredig, near Carmarthen.
The area is a haven for bird watchers, anglers, mountain bikers and walkers.
Mountain Bikers are particularly well catered for with nearby Llanwrtyd Wells being a centre for the sport with several trails commencing in the town. There's the the Mynydd Trawsnant Trail, the Irfon Forest Trail and the Esgair Dafydd Trail.
Although several miles to the north of the village of Cil-y-cwm, the building of the Llyn Brianne Dam had many subsequent and profound effects, not only on the inhabitants of the Upper Towi Valley, but also on the fishing in the Valley and River Towi.
Llyn Brianne reservoir was originally built to satisfy the growing demands of heavy industry in Swansea. During the Industrial Revolution Swansea was a major industrial centre, known as 'Copperville'. There are paintings of the lower Swansea Valley covered in smokestacks.
The demand of industry for water, notably the tin plate works at Felindre and a smelting plant at Llansamlet exceeded the then available supply. Ironically, both these have since closed down. Consequently some of the water from Llyn Brianne is surplus to Swansea's needs.
The dam, built with a clay core and rock fill, is believed to be the highest of its type in Europe.
Work started on the reservoir in October 1968, and the first water was supplied in October 1972. Princess Alexandra formally opened the reservoir in mid 1973
In 1995/6 the height of the spillway was raised by one metre, raising the water level in the reservoir.
A concrete extension was built into the original clay core dam and the rock walls raised to cover it.
This increased the capacity of the reservoir from 13,400 million gallons to 14,200 million gallons, a total of 62 million tonnes of water.
Three Francis-pattern turbines were installed in a hydro-electric plant, one capable of handling the normal 1.5 million gallons/day summertime flow from the reservoir. This operates all the year round.
The larger, turbines run from November to March, when Winter rains keep the reservoir full, together producing
4.3Mw – enough electricity to power a small town. Its electricity is delivered into the National Grid at Llandovery.
Directions: Set your sat nav to take you to Ystradffin but set it to go via Abergwesyn. Check where you are going against the map in case your sat nav does not take you on the correct lanes. This route takes you on a scenic drive with lots of views. Lanes are narrow, winding and steep in places as you drive through deep valleys with sheer drops on one side of the road, and several blind bends and summits.
The route takes you through a series of valleys and forests and up some steep hills with switchback roads, until eventually you see the waters of Llyn Brianne before you. There are some nice stopping spots along the shore before you get to the dam itself. The drive around the reservoir alone is several miles long.
Before you get to Ystradffin you will see a sign to Llyn Brianne Dam, where you can park up in an area that used to be a quarry (presumably providing the material for the dam). You can then walk over the Dam and around the side of the Llyn Brianne reservoir. This is a nice dog walk and includes some forest trails. However you cannot walk all the way around the dam. It is huge. So this is not a circular dog walk.
However the roads are so narrow and windy in places that I would not consider it practical to drive a motor home or camper into this area. You certainly could not do the scenic drives in anything other than an ordinary car as some of the roads are a high gradient and have switchback curves.
Assuming you are staying at Craig y Nos Castle, you will not be needing to camp here. But to get in a good dog walk of say 7 or 8 hours, it is worth setting off early, parking up at the dam, and taking a picnic with you. For my own part, I like the circular drive around the reservoir, with a couple of hours allowed for the dog walk. There are several stop-off points around the reservoir where you can let the dogs out for a run before you get to the dam itself.
The area shown above comes complete with a sandy beach, and is clearly popular for the occasional picnic/ barbecue, as I found piles of stones in circles around several areas of burnt grass.
Herre we are arriving at the parking spot you need to look out for, to find the picnic area and private beach referred to in the previous pages.
It is not particularly marked as such, so you might have trouble finding it. Look out for a parking area on one side of the road with a forest walk on the opposite side of the road.
In winter the water overflows down the spillway shown above.
Sheeba and Bryn on the dam at Lynne Brianne Reservoir. You can walk over the dam heading to the left, and having crossed over the dam you head around the dam on rough tracks curving around to the right.
We have never gone all the way around as the tracks goes on for miles. You cannot do a circular dog walk around this reservoir as it is too large. However one may be fooled on this walk into thinking one is coming back on a circle as you go around a long curve that heads back towards the dam for a while - however it doesn't!
You might be able to cycle around more of it though. If walking the dogs, take a picnic and walk in one direction for an hour or two and then walk back again.
If you have mountain bikes with you (or you can hire them locally or from us) then the link to the Llyn Brianne Cycle route may be useful.
As we walked along on the outward bound journey of this track, we found some sheep had escaped their mountain grazing areas. As Jack won't chase Sheep but Sheeba, if she gets out of my line of sight, will seize the opportunity if she thinks I am not watching her, I used to link the two dogs together as shown above.
This practice is not recommended however, as if either dog is aggressive to the other, serious injury could be caused as neither can get away from the other. My mother would never chance this with her Rhodesian Ridgebacks, who most likely would get themselves in a tangle and being a gangly breed with a lolloping bouncy gate, they might even break a leg or jump up and twist a neck.
Also if there are other pedestrians around, two loose dogs running either side of someone will knock them over.
However I have found Sheeba and Jack are fine when they are attached. They are both low to the ground, Jack is not very excitable, so it works for them. In very remote areas where you might get sheep but no people, and you want to let the dogs have a free run, this worked very well but I would not do it in an area with other walkers around!
I find it is when they are separate that Sheeba bullies Jack by chasing him if he runs off, effectively preventing Jack from taking the lead.
This prevention of any other dog getting in front is a habit with an insecure dog that wants to dominate the pack; they make sure only they are in the lead. Consequently Sheeba nowadays is generally muzzled to prevent her nipping Jack or indeed any other dog she might come across, which she will do if she is out of my line of sight or my attention is taken away in conversation with someone. I cannot be 'watching her' all the time, so Jack as the father figure plodding along prevents Sheeba from charging off in chase.
|Index of Jack's Days Out & Grand Tours, within an hour of Castle|
|1||Elan Village Reservoirs Dog Walks|
|2||Llyn Brianne Reservoir Dog Walks|
|3||Talybont on Usk Reservoir - circular|
|4||Tenby Town & Beach; dog friendly |
|5||Talley Abbey; circular Hilly Forest|
|6||Laugharne Castle & Dylan Thomas|
|7||23 more Dog Friendly Attractions|