Brecon Beacons


Llangorse lake and Mynydd Llangorse from Cockit Hill, with the northern escarpment of the Brecon Beacons in the distance.

I’ve called this one ‘Brecon Beacons’ because in many ways I think it typifies the National Park -we’ve got a bit of everything here: mountains, glaciated valleys, a lake and stunning skies. Plus we’ve got another example of a lesser known, smaller hill that provides so much for the walker and photographer. A steep climb up on to the ridge of Cockit Hill (part of Mynydd Llangorse) gives views across to the Usk Valley, the Brecon Beacons peaks themselves, the Black Mountains and across into mid Wales. So often you’ve also got the ridge to yourself, which is always a bonus in my opinion.

Llangorse Lake (Llyn Syfaddan is it’s ancient, Welsh name) is an interesting place, and good geography for so many reasons. The largest lowland lake in Wales, it formed as the result of two great ice masses meeting: the Usk Valley Glacier from the south, fed by the Brecon Beacons Ice Cap, met the more extensive Wye Valley Glacier, fed by northern ice that was part of a continuous ice sheet extending from Scandinavia across to Ireland. The complex interaction between the two ice masses created an irregular basin full of mounds of sand and gravel. which filled with water while the ice retreated, eventually draining to leave the lake we see today (they say the lake was originally 37m deeper than it is today, and overflowed near a village called Bwlch, just behind the spur of Mynydd Llangorse -to the left of my picture). Besides the interesting Quaternary history (what geologists call the last ice age), this is also an important historical site (there’s a crannog in the southwest corner of the lake), a Special Area of Conservation (for its range of habitats and eutrophic* nature), is very attractive for watersports, and is home to some very large pike, and possibly even a monster(!). All of this makes the lake a typical honeypot site, which leads to all sorts of issues for the various interested groups, including the National Park.

*eutrophic means the water is over-enriched. Because of its low-lying nature, the lake is a natural sink for nutrients running off the surrounding hills. This can cause algal blooms and reduces oxygen in the water, as happened last summer.


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All images ©Stephen Tyrrell, Mountains, Wild Places & Water, 2013. All rights reserved.

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