Mid-Wales is a distant country, reached by roads that wind up and downhill, twisting and turning at the same time. With a pinch of imagination it's easy to think they were shaped by dragons, winding their long tails as they raced along. As we travel further west, the land becomes increasingly rugged, alternating between barren moorland and wooded copses. Red kites wheel overhead, and sheep on the hillsides crop at the grass. Occasionally we pass a lone whitewashed house, set well back from the road. Villages are tiny in a landscape of muted green and grey, with steel and silver clouds masking a pale blue sky. But when the sun shines, the colours spring to life, a palette of vivid greens and blues.
At last we reach Rhayader, a market town on the River Wye. The Clock Tower at the crossroads marks the important routes to all parts of Wales. Rhayader was a 19th century staging post on the coach road from Aberystwyth to London. Earlier than that, cattle drovers driving their flocks of sheep to markets in Hereford or even as far as London, would halt in Rhayader to rest and get provisions.
More recently, the town has become a stopping place for tourists who want to visit the Elan Valley, with the impressive Victorian built dams that provide water for the city of Birmingham. After a day spent wandering around this wild and beautiful area, it's easy to see how stories of monsters, heroes and magic developed in the land.
[The following five pictures of the Elan Valley and its dams are by courtesy of Mackenzies of Rhayader and are all (c)Mackenzies ]
[You can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them ]
[above] Craig Coch reservoir
[above] Pen y Carreg reservoir
This region was once the kingdom of Vortigern...but that's another story and deserves a post of its own.