The Middle Wye Valley
This distinctive Powys landscape lies to the south west of Hay-on-Wye
in the shadow of the Black Mountains, and runs from Hay Bluff at
its north end to Mynydd Troed in the south. The landscape identified
includes the floodplain and steeply sloped northern edge of the
Wye valley, and the deeply incised plateau beneath the northern
scarp of the Black Mountains.
This particular region of the Wye valley is in many ways similar
to the Usk valley further to the south west, around Brecon, typified
by small hedged fields enclosing the rich agricultural land on the
valley floor between about 80 to 100m above OD. To the south east
the land rises steeply onto the Black Mountains, which reach up
to 700m above OD, with evidence of agrarian encroachment along the
lower slopes, rising onto the open moorland beyond. The area has
a rich and varied history with important cultural associations.
Along the southern side of the valley, on the edges of the upland,
lie a series of important Neolithic funerary monuments of a type
known, because of their distinctive form and plan, as Severn-Cotswold
tombs. These tombs were in recurrent use as communal repositories
for the remains of the dead during the later half of the fourth
millennium BC. There are impressive tombs surviving at Penywrlodd
(Llanigon), Little Lodge, Pipton, Fostyll and Penywrlodd (Talgarth).
Among the other impressive prehistoric monuments in the area of
the is the Pen-y-Beacon Bronze Age stone circle on the edge of the
Although much of the area owes its appearance to Anglo-Norman influences,
there is significant evidence for native Welsh settlement. Glasbury
is thought to have originally been a clas foundation (the administrative
centre of a monastic unit of settlement in medieval times), and
it is also recorded as being the site of the Battle of Clasbirig
in 1056 between the Saxons and the Welsh. Llyswen is reputedly focused
on another clas church, founded during the 6th century, and there
is documentary evidence for a religious site being given to the
See of Llandaff in about AD 650.
The Anglo-Norman settlement is most clearly seen at Hay-on-Wye,
which still retains its medieval street plan, with remnants of the
castle and town defences. Today, the town is best known for its
book shops and the annual festival of literature. Across the Wye
from Hay lies the site of the Roman fort alongside the river, and
beyond it, Clyro, made famous by the diary of the Reverend Francis
Kilvert, who lived in the village in the 1870s. Although many of
the places described by Kilvert are currently outside the area described
here, the lifelike account he has left of the places and people
he knew, has caused the region centred upon Clyro to become known
as Kilvert Country, and to become a place of literary pilgrimage.
Other important medieval settlements include Talgarth and Bronllys,
both of which had extensive open arable field systems surviving
up to the middle of the 19th century; that of Bronllys having been
only enclosed in 1863. Many of the small villages are thought to
have had early medieval origins and some, such as Llanfilo, display
important earthwork remains relating to their former medieval extents.
Trefecca is famous for Trevecca College founded in the mid-18th
century by Howell Harris, who was well-known for founding early
Welsh Methodist societies, assembling a community of about 100 followers
at his home, Trevecka Fach, in 1752. The community was influential
in printing religious books and also for agricultural improvements.
Along the northern slopes of the Black Mountains lie several commons,
such as Tregoyd Common and Common Bychan, which preserve their post-medieval
field systems. The landscape here contrasts strongly with the moors
to the south-east and the hedged landscape of the valley floor.