MOULDING THE BRECON BEACONS
In 1957 the UK established its 10th National Park, the Brecon Beacons National Park, in its continuing efforts to rebuild the nation following two World Wars.
As a visitor to the Brecon Beacons you are playing a key role in ensuring the area continues as a living landscape. By spending your time and money here local communities, which include those who farm the land, can thrive and in partnership with the National Park Authority, take care of this national gem.
A canter through history
Huge geological forces did the preparation work: sedimentation laying down the bedrock and glaciers scooping out cirques and valleys. However it’s people down the millennia who have moulded the Beacons we know and love today. Firstly prehistoric people cleared much of the land of trees and scrub and left their mark in the stone circles, standing stones, burial chambers and hillforts scattered across the landscape. The Romans then came and left their camps, forts and glimpses of their road engineering. Notable amongst these ancient structures is the crannog, an Early Medieval lake dwelling recently rebuilt at Llangors Lake.
Much of the area became known as Brycheiniog after the legendary King Brychan, who ruled this part of Wales, prior to the Norman conquest. They brought a lot of strife and so in response castles galore were built; Carreg Cennen being an outstanding example. The monastic orders who arrived in their wake took charge of large swathes of land building beautiful monasteries such as Llanthony Priory. On their smallholdings ordinary people farmed sheep, cattle and pigs and gathered firewood, turf and peat.
This centuries old pastoral scene was disrupted by the Industrial Revolution during the late 18th and into the 19th century. Just beyond the current Park’s boundary, the South Wales Valleys were changing out of all recognition due to the hunger for coal and iron. As a result people quarried deposits of limestone, silica rock, sand and ironstone here and there across the Park. What is now the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal was completed in 1812 and, linked to a network of tramroads and railways they became important transport corridors. Around the turn of the 20th century some of the relatively remote Beacons valleys were transformed into reservoirs supplying the growing population of the mining valleys and Cardiff with clean water.
It was probably the 19th century which first saw the Central Beacons being used for military practice, which continues to this day. This includes it being the place where the MoD select men and women for the SAS.
The Central Beacons massif is now owned and managed by the National Trust for the twin purposes of conserving wildlife and habitats and providing for everyone’s enjoyment. They, along with other landowners including the National Park Authority, which owns just under 11% of the land area look after this national asset for you and future generations.