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Clywedog Valley
Historic Landscape
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Historic Landscape Characterisation

The Clywedog Valley: Hafren Forest
Trefeglwys and Llanidloes Without communities, Powys
(HLCA 1189)


Extensive conifer woodland planted by the Forestry Commission upland plateau and hill edge from 1937/38 onwards; the area formed part of a medieval monastic grange and prior to afforestation contained dispersed upland farmsteads of possible medieval to early medieval farmsteads, some possibly originating as seasonal settlements; discrete area of 18th and 19th century metal-mining remains.

Historic background

The detached northern part of the character area at Bwlch-y-Garreg Wen fell formed part of the pasture lands between the Clywedog and Afon Lwyd granted by Cadwaladr ap Hywel, son of the ruler of Arwystli to Strata Marcella in about 1195-96. Some or all of the southern part of the character area formed part of the upland pastures at Cwm-buga (Cwmbiga) granted to the Cistercian abbey at Cwmhir by Gwenwynwyn, prince of southern Powys in the later 12th century, and which became the subject of dispute with Strata Marcella in the 1220s. The lands were probably held by the two monasteries up until their dissolution in the mid 16th century when they formed part of the manor of Talerddig, the dividing line between the holdings lying along the Afon Lwyd. The area fell within the manorial township of Esgeiriath in the 19th-century Montgomeryshire tithe parish of Trefeglwys and the manorial township of Ystradhynod in the Montgomeryshire tithe parish of Llanidloes.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Modern conifer woodland dating from the 1937/38 onwards, on upland plateau and hill edge west of the Clywedog Reservoir, generally between a height of about 300-500 metres above sea level, dissected by the river Clywedog and its tributaries, the Afon Lwyd, Afon Biga, Nant Felen and Nant Croes. Well-drained fine loamy or silty soils over rock on hill slopes, with slowly permeable upland soils, with some seasonal waterlogging, with peaty surface horizons on mudstone and shale drift deposits on the lower-lying ground. Historically, prior to afforestation, the land has been best suited to stock rearing on moorland and some permanent pasture of moderate grazing value. The Hafren Forest, which falls partly within the historic landscape area, is a modern name taken from the Welsh name for the Severn. Planting of the commercial forest, which now covers an area of over 40 square kilometres, commenced in 1937 and continued up to the 1950s and beyond, superseding upland grazing belonging to a number of upland farms. Today, parts of the Hafren Forest are now a popular leisure amenity, particularly for walking and cycling.

A number of recorded placenames in the historic landscape area indicate an historical association with upland grazing and livestock husbandry. The placename Cefn Hafodcadwgan and Hafod Cadwgan (the latter just outside the western boundary of the area) contain the element hafod (‘summer house’), suggesting the former existence of seasonally-occupied upland farms perhaps of the medieval to earlier post-medieval periods. The second element of the name Cwmbiga (buga) is thought to be related to buarth (‘farmyard’) and buwch (‘cow’), suggesting an association with medieval stock rearing or dairying, although derivation from a personal name has also been suggested. The names Cwm y Ffridd, Banc y Ffridd, Ffridd Newydd, and Ffridd Fawr all contain the element ffridd suggesting enclosed rough pasture on the mountain edge, the element being first recorded as ffreeth Cwm Bigga in 1540-41. The name Fign Aberbiga includes the element mign indicating boggy ground.

Early prehistoric settlement and land use is indicated by a cluster of upland Bronze Age burial mounds and a possible fallen standing stone on Cefn Lwyd, and a barrow in the hillslope at Pengeulan, and by a number of chance finds including a flint dagger of Beaker type found near Ysgubor Pen-y-bryn and a polished stone axe from Croes Uchaf.

About 12 upland sheep farms were purchased for the creation of the Hafren Forest by the Forestry Commission but only a small number of structures are known within the character area, including buildings at Ysbubor Pen-y-bryn and Ysgubor Banc-y-ffridd and a number of sheepfolds. The two farmsteads are associated with early field systems shown on Ordnance Survey maps of the 1880s and may both represent earlier farmsteads reduced to the status of a field barn (ysgubor) by the later 19th century. The farmstead of possible medieval origins at Cwmbiga is also included within the area. Only part of the southern area of the character area was subject to parliamentary enclosure in the early 19th century. Some of the north-western part of the area at Fign Aberbiga and Bwlch y Garreg-wen formed part of the manor of Talerddug that was excluded from parliamentary enclosure. Unenclosed areas here and in the remainder of the area not subject to parliamentary enclosure formed moorland enclosed by private agreement, that was subdivided into large straight-sided enclosures at the time of its afforestation.

Metal mining activity is represented by the remains of the 18th and 19th-century mine sett at Nantmelin, towards the head of the Nant Felen stream, below Llechwedd y Glyn, towards the southern part of the area, which was worked for copper and lead ore. Visible working remains include a deep adit, an upper level, shaft and the remains of tramway track beds and waste heaps. Water power was harnessed to drive pumping and processing equipment.

One of the few surviving early buildings in the area is the small farmstead of Cwmbiga which is mostly late 18th century but retains fragments of an earlier building. In name the farm is associated with the medieval upland grange belonging to Cwmhir abbey and may in origin represent the emergence of a permanent upland farm on the site of an earlier seasonal settlement during the later medieval to early post-medieval periods.


Historic Environment Record; Cadw Listed Building descriptions; modern Ordnance Survey 1:10,000, 1:25,000 mapping and 1st edn Ordnance Survey 1:2,500 mapping; Bick 1990; Burt, Waite and Burnley 1990; Carr 1992; Clough and Cummins 1988; Edlin 1952; Jones 1983; Morgan 2001; Richards 1969; Soil Survey of England and Wales; Thomas 1955-56; Thomas 1997; Thomas 1998; Walters 1994; Williams 1990

For further information please contact the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust at this address, or link to the Countryside Council for Wales' web site at

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