Llangors is the largest natural lake in south Wales and is a protected site supporting a rich and diverse range of plants and animals. Boasting an ancient Crannog, it also reveals part of the area's intriguing history, as well as being a perfect location to mess about in boats, take a gentle stroll or watch the bird life.
Llangors Lake is just 8 miles from Brecon on a pretty country lane off the A40. Visitor parking is on the northern edge of the Lake, to the west of Llangorse village. There's a shop and National Park Information Point stocking a host of local information, a cafe and toilets, a bird hide and an attractive viewing platform with displays about the Crannog and the wildlife that can be seen. Fishing is also available with pike, perch, roach, eels, carp and bream all in good supply.
Bird watching at the hide (SO 126263) is a fascinating and rewarding past time. In spring look out for terns and the occasional lone osprey migrating north to its nesting grounds. In summer, you will be able to see the elusive water rail, Canada geese, reed warbler and many more. The reed beds are also an important habitat for thousands of starlings. In winter the Lake makes a peaceful refuge for around 20 different bird species including tufted ducks, teal, great crested grebe and the odd hen harrier. The hide has plenty of information to help bird identification.
The area is also great for walking, for a gentle stroll around the Lake or an energetic walk up into the surrounding hills for the stunning vista. A super 3 mile walk through water meadows and along the margins of the reed beds is described in the Wildlife Walks booklet.
Llangors Lake, and its surroundings, are home to an impressive range of plants and animals, providing refuge for 23 plant species that are rare in Wales, and a further 15 that are rare in Breconshire. The flora that can be found include both white and yellow water lilies, the fringed water lily, greater spearwort, flowering rush, golden dock, and amphibious bistort, narrow leaved water plantain and rare pondweeds and duck weeds amongst many others. Llangors Lake and its reedy shores and shallows are an excellent habitat for the dragonfly. A number of species have been recorded including the Golden Ringed Dragonfly. The lake contains a number of fish species including roach, perch, pike, bream, tench, carp, and eel.
Although the general impression is of a healthy beautiful location this is not the full story. The Lake suffered significantly from pollution by sewage, detergents and agricultural fertilisers in the post war decades. This had a serious effect on the bird and plant life. The range of underwater plants present is greatly reduced. Some of the rarer plants on the lake bed have gone or are going. It seems likely (though there have been no recent studies to confirm this) that some of the more sensitive invertebrates are no longer present in the lake.
Llangors Lake or Llyn Syfaddan has a circumference of five miles, is one mile long and covers a total area of 327 acres. It is relatively low lying at 505 feet above sea level and fringed with approximately ten hectares of reed beds, with species rich grassland, water meadows and woodland dominated by alder and willow.
Llangors Lake is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as well as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). It is a naturally eutrophic lake (a body of water rich in nutrients supporting a dense plant population), and is one of only a few in Wales.
It is also a glacial lake formed thousands of years ago when moving ice pushed and scraped its way along, shaping the landscape that we see today. On its journey it collected piles of debris (mud, rocks, wood and stones) which were deposited to the front and side of the glacial movement. When the ice finally melted this debris was left to form mounds known as moraines. Llangors Lake owes its existence to the moraine deposits left in the area between Llanfihangel Talyllyn and Talgarth. At one time it was some 150 foot (45 meters) higher with two overflows into the Usk River at bwlch and Pennorth.
The entire lake's surface and the adjoining common is registered common land, giving local people ancient rights to graze their livestock upon it.
Moraines are also responsible for the creation of both Llyn y Fan Fach and Llyn y Fan Fawr in the Black Mountain in the west of the National Park and Fforest Fawr Geopark.
Prehistoric man may have been drawn to Llangors Lake for its value as a food and water source. In these early times, the lake would have formed a natural opening in a landscape dominated by dense woodland, making Llangors Lake an attractive site for settlement.
In 1868 an Iron Age crannog was discovered on a small man made island of stones just off the northern shore of the lake (Bwlc Island). The historical and archaeological evidence points to the crannog or artificial island as the residence of Tewdwr ab Elise, King of Brycheiniog in the late 9th and early 10th century and may have been built in response to the dangers posed by Viking raids.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that in 916, following Alfred’s death, Lady Aethelflaed, Anglo-Saxon ruler of the Mercians and daughter of Alfred, sent an army into Wales. The army is said to have destroyed Brecenanmere (Brecon Mere), an early name for the crannog within the Lake, where the royal court was sited, resulting in the capture of Tewdwr’s wife and over thirty other people.
The crannog, the only certain site of its kind known in Wales, has many Irish parallels: it seems to have been influenced by Irish building techniques, and may have been built with the assistance of Irish craftsmen. It is probably significant that in later writings the Kings of Brycheiniog claimed descent from a part-Irish dynasty, an association which may also explain why there is a distinctive cluster of Ogham Stones in the area.
The use of unusual building methods at Llangors crannog may have helped to strengthen the royal house's claims to Irish ancestry with the knock-on effect of enhancing their social and political standing. The destruction of the Lake's crannog is marked by a burnt layer found during archaeological excavation work.
Such dwellings known as Crannogs have been identified in locations across Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
A local legend, recounted by Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales) in his travelogue, said that a city lay submerged beneath the waters of the lake. In 1925 a well preserved dug-out canoe dating from around 800AD was found and is now housed in Brecon Museum for all to see.
Llangors Lake was noted for its bird and fish life even in Medieval times. Gerald of Wales, the Twelfth Century Chronicler, states as much in his description of a journey through Wales. He commented that the Lake which he referred to as Brecknock Mere "was a broad expanse of water that supplies plenty of pike, perch, excellent trout, tench and mud loving eels for the local inhabitants".
Gerald also reported that the Lake had miraculous properties: some local inhabitants claimed to have seen it covered with buildings, others had heard it emit a loud groaning noise when covered in winter ice and some had seen it turn green.