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Historic Background

During the Medieval Period, this area lay within Strata Florida Abbey’s grange of Cwmystwyth. On the Dissolution the Herbert family of Powis Castle probably acquired it along with many other holdings of the former monastery, although the unenclosed portions would have remained Crown land. Herbert land in Cwmystwyth formed the basis of the later Hafod estate, of which Thomas Johnes was the most famous owner. Johnes was a voracious appropriator of Crown land, either for the purpose of establishing forestry or enclosing for agricultural use. He planted large tracts of forestry in this area, the locations of which are shown on an 1834 estate map (NLW R.M. A64) and on the tithe map of 1847. Johnes’s plantings that survived until the 20th century were cut down during World War One (Edlin 1959, 13). In 1800, Johnes also founded an experimental farm, originally called New Farm, now Gelmast (Suggett, 1998-99). This was a sheep rearing and dairy farm, and much uncultivated land was brought under cultivation for perhaps the first time. Drainage schemes were initiated and a farmhouse and farm buildings constructed. Buildings still survive. In 1866, parts of this area were subjected to an Enclosure Act (Chapman, 1992, 53; NLW Card CC Deposit 6), which although awarded, had little physical effect on the landscape. Several small metal mines dating from the 18th and 19th century lie on the edge of this area in the Mynach valley. The main workings period of these mines was in the 1850s to 1870s (Bick 1983, 30). At the extreme northern edge of the area lay Nantycria mine, famed for its blende. It was worked from the 18th century, closing towards the end of the 19th century (Bick 1983, 29). In the 1950s, the Forestry Commission purchased most of the Hafod estate lands and began a large-scale programme of upland afforestation. Virtually the whole of this area was planted, the only notable exception being land close to Gelmast.

Description and essential historic landscape components

This area consists of a very large tract of undulating, sometimes craggy, upland. It achieves a maximum height of over 530m, but generally lies between 300 and 450m. Apart from a few pockets, the whole area is under conifer plantations. Prior to afforestation most of this area was unenclosed moorland, though some earth bank, earth and stone bank and dry-stone wall boundaries were present, particularly at lower levels. A farm and some associated fields established in 1803 survive at Gelmast. This model farm is listed and consists of a Georgian house, modified in the later 19th century, and ranges of stone outbuildings around a yard. Drainage ditches/boundaries are a feature of the landscape. At Nantycria mining remains consist of tips, small reservoirs and leats. The remains of metal mining in the Mynach valley were mostly obliterated by forestry operations. Indeed, plantations, tracks, roads and other forestry features are the most common and prominent historic landscape components in this area.

In addition to the vast numbers of metal mining remains in the archaeological record, several abandoned cottages, farmsteads and other dwellings testify that prior to the 19th century this area was populated, albeit sparsely. The Arch, an early 19th century folly, provides a touch of drama to this wooded landscape, and finds of Mesolithic date provide some time-depth.

This is a well-defined area with unenclosed land lying on all sides except on a small portion of the western boundary, and to the south where low-lying enclosed land is present.


Base map reproduced from the OS map with the permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of The Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, Crown Copyright 2001.
All rights reserved. Unauthorised reproduction infringes Crown Copyright and may lead to prosecution or civil proceedings. Licence Number: GD272221


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