Saturday was a beautiful autumn day, clear blue skies, sun shining, bit cold but no wind. As you probably know by now I live on the coast. But for today’s photography session I was heading inland to an ancient monument that I’ve been meaning to re-photograph for some time (more on that later). One of the great things about living where I do is I can see the Snowdon Mountain Range and on Saturday morning they were covered in snow which could make for a great photograph. So after visiting the ancient monument I decided to head further inland to the Snowdonia National Park.
By now the weather had changed, the skies had clouded over, the temperature had dropped. As I started climbing out of the low-lying valleys I could no longer see those mountains, mainly because I was driving through sleet and snow. Time to head home but on the way back I did a quick detour to the Alwen Reservoir which I’ve been meaning to visit for some time.
The Alwen Reservoir in Welsh, Cronfa Alwen, is a 5km long reservoir near Pentre-Llyn-Cymmer in the county borough of Conwy, North Wales. The reservoir is held back by the 27 metre high Alwen Dam. Built between 1909 and 1921, originally to supply water to the town of Birkenhead, near Liverpool the dam is 8km downstream from Llyn Alwen. Today it is part of the River Dee regulation system and is operated by Welsh Water.
The dam is a gravity-arch masonry dam. The “first stone” of the dam records that the engineers were Sir Alex. Binnie, Son and [George] Deacon and the contractors were Robert McAlpine and Sons. A large water treatment facility was built below the dam, and a cast iron underground aqueduct laid to Birkenhead. The original water treatment buildings are still standing, but the equipment inside has long gone, replaced by modern plant in a new building.
The operators, Welsh Water have a scheme to teach children about the importance of water, linked to the National Curriculum Key Stage 2 and offer an on-site classroom and guided tours of the water treatment works to schools. The nearby Outdoor Education Centre at Pentre-Llyn-Cymmer accommodates children during school trips.
The reservoir is very close to Llyn Brenig and is at the end of a valley but there are no through routes around it for vehicles. To get to the reservoir follow the B4501 northwards from Cerrigydrudion, there is a small sign advising you to left turn into the forest shortly after the Pont yr Alwen junction. Follow the forest road through the small holding and take the first left to park adjacent to the dam where there is space for about 20 cars. The forest road is not paved, it’s rough stone which can be quite hard on the tyres. When I visited yesterday there were some potholes in the road, nothing major, but winter is coming, so they will only get worse.
The reservoir has an extensive network of trails (public foot paths as well as forest roads suitable for horse riding, mountain biking and walking) and one of them crosses over the dam.. It’s from here that i took the first and third photographs in this article.
Footpaths around the reservoir have recently been upgraded (2005/2006) providing better access to the general public and allows greater exploration of the North and South Alwen forests. Fishing is permitted through permit (which can be purchased from the visitors centre at the nearby Llyn Brenig visitors centre).
I’m glad I decided to detour on my way home. The skies had turned blue again and before leaving the dam I decided to take a walk through the forest. I’m glad I did, there are clear established trails, so as long as you stick to them you can’t really get lost. Walking through the forest I saw this scene…too good not to photograph.
Leaving the forest trail and heading back to the car I was struck by the fantastic autumn colours that the tress were displaying, so this was my final image before heading home.
Oh! I nearly forgot. The ancient monument I mentioned at the start of this article is Valle Crucis Abbey (Valley of the Cross) which is a Cistercian abbey located in Llantysilio in Denbighshire, Wales. More formally the Abbey Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Valle Crucis it is known in Welsh both as Abaty Glyn Egwestl and Abaty Glyn y Groes. The abbey was built in 1201 by Madog ap Gruffydd Maelor, Prince of Powys Fadog.
Look out for my next article Valle Crucis Re-Visited, soon to be published, well as soon as I can sort the photographs and write the article.