Boxing Day dawned dark, misty but dry, and the day called for a walk. Our first thought was a walk around Llandegfedd Reservoir, but the walks were closed until March next year. Oh well on to Plan B and Talybont Reservoir, nestled in the centre of the Brecon Beacons. This is a relatively new Reservoir built to serve the growing population of South Wales and now provides water for Newport and surrounding areas. The main river, Caerfanell, and two smaller water courses of the Cynafon and Tarthwynni drained a large catchment area flowing east from the edge of the Brecon Beacons and these, combined with high rainfall, create a reliable water supply.
The original plans in 1926 included a large water treatment plant taking water from a purpose built weir across the river. However this was not enough as the engineers had not taken into account that during dry weather the river disappeared into the glacial gravel deposits in the valley bottom. This was a fundamental mistake and one that should have been identified during the survey work in the area. In 1931 work began on damming the valley. In order to control the valley and clear the area for the dam a total of seventeen dwellings including farms were commandeered resulting in considerable rural depopulation of the valley.
After crossing the dam wall we walked along a wide path along the length of the reservoir. The path now serving the forestry was once the track bed of a spur from the now disused Brecon Merthyr Junction Railway. This was used to bring in the material needed for the work, and also to serve an extensive community had sprung up to house the workforce. This also included a canteen and lock up for any workers who misbehaved. Not sure what they were accused of, but it would be fascinating to find out. By early 1939 treated water started to flow the 39 miles to Newport.
Along the walk we found a number of different fungi, one of which is called Jelly Ear, Auricularia auricula-judae. This flexible and jelly like fungus is mainly found during winter and spring. Often growing on on dead elder trees and on fallen branches, it occasionally grows on other kinds of hardwood. At times it does look like an ear, and it has a very jelly like feel and texture. Apparently it can be eaten, but doesn’t seem to offer much to the culinary experience. It’s certainly not one I’d try.