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Rhayader, Powys, lies between Plynlimon and Radnor Forest, and between the Ellennith and the Melienydd, the great moorland desert of Wales and its south-eastern extension that dropped to the pasture lands of the Usk and Wye. How old it is as a place of habitation we do not know; the church preserves a font with rough designs of human heads, but it does not date further back than 1200. The name of the place is taken from what were once the great rapids of the Wye by which it stood, but the creation of the Elan Valley dam, and a great chain of reservoirs formed between 1893 and 1904, diminished the rapids. It is a market town noted for its sheep fairs, and with exceptional facilities for fishing both in the Elan reservoirs and various natural lakes in the area and also in the moorland streams. The miles of uninhabited country around it make it most attractive for walkers and geologists; there are outstandingly good roads, much needed in so wild and exposed an area.

Perhaps no better description of the region can be had than the words of John Leland, created King's Antiquary in 1553 and commissioned to go on an itinerary of the country and make an inventory of everything of interest and value in it. West of Rhayader are the lakes known collectively as the Teifi Pools, most of them close to each other. The trout of fine, bright quality are from a strain said to have been introduced there by the monks of Strata Florida. To a modern eye the scenery in which they are laid is wild and austere, but beautiful and with wildlife, particularly fowl, of rare interest. To Leland, it appeared very differently: “Of all the pooles none stondeth in so rokky and stony soile as Tyve doth, that hath within hym many stonis. The ground all about Tyve and a great mile of towards Stratfler is horrible with the sight of bare stonis, as cregeryri mountains be”. By “cregeryri” he meant the Snowdon range Welshmen still prefer to call Eryri. Of the “rokks” he refers to, one well repays a visit; it is the Craig Naw-Llyn (Nine-Lake Rock). from whose height the sheets of water can be counted in their series across the moorland, which reaches the horizon in a heaving, umber stretch without trace of man. There is, however, a mountain-track made none knows when but running on the eastern side, where the stream-cuts have brought down masses of the rocks that Leland so much feared. A section of this track is marked on maps as an ancient road; and it has one feature of great interest. Part of the way is cut through rock, 2 ft deep and extending some 30 ft. It may even have preceded the trackway. Locally this is known as the Pedolfa (Shoeing Place), and so seems to fit with the use of these peatlands of the Great Desert as ways of transit for cattle-drovers making the long journey from Wales into the lowlands of England for the sale of cattle. It was essential to give them shoes for feet that would have to travel 200 miles; and, whatever the origin of this path, it was adapted in this place to serve that purpose.

A road, suitable for motor-traffic, runs to Teifi from Pontrhydfendigaid, going to Ffairrhos and there becoming rather more inconvenient. Perhaps it is here, even more than above Bwlch Gwvn on Plynlimon, that the Great Desert impresses one with the sense how well its name is deserved. Teifi is isolated in an area of emptiness 30 miles from North to South and up to 15 miles from West to East. The great Cors Goch Glan Teifi, or Bog of Tregaron, now a Nature Reserve, reaches towards it; coot and heron find their haunts there, and seagull and hawk make it their hunting-ground. In this region, it is said, alone among places in Britain, the black adder has a home. Around Plynlimon, a red adder is supposed to live, though experience suggests that this is no more than the peaceable slow-worm. Adders infest the hills above Aberdovey, without doubt, and the black adder of Teifi should not be dismissed as a legend. For some observers, Teifi is a place of dignity and wonder; others may prefer the opinion of Leland.

Nearby towns: Aberystwyth, Llandrindod Wells, Llanidloes

Nearby villages: Abbey-Cwmhir, Abergwesyn, Bettws Disserth, Builth Road, Cregrina, Hundred House, Llanafan-Fawr, Llananno, Llanbadarn Fynydd, Llanbister, Llanddewi Ystradenny, Llandrindod Wells, Llangurig, Llanwrthwl, Llanyre, Nantmel, Newbridge on Wye, Pant-y-Dwr, Penybont, Saint Harmon

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