Unitary authority in central Wales, created in 1996 from the former county of Powys.
Area 5,179 sq km/1,999 sq mi
TownsLlandrindod Wells (administrative headquarters), Brecon, Builth Wells, Newtown, Welshpool
Physical mountainous to the north, Black Mountains, rivers Wye and Severn, which both rise on the eastern slopes of Plynlimon
Features the Brecon Beacons National Park, Lake Vyrnwy (an artificial reservoir supplying Liverpool and Birmingham), alternative-technology centre near Machynlleth
Industries agriculture, tourism
Agriculture arable and dairy farming, sheep-rearing
Population (2001) 126,400
Agriculture and commerce Agriculture is the main occupation of the area. Much arable and dairy farming is undertaken on the lower valley lands, especially on the fertile alluvial soils of the Usk and Wye region. The central district belongs almost entirely to the basin of the Severn, where a pure breed of Welsh ponies is reared and where Welsh flannel manufacture was extensively carried out. The River Teme has good trout fishing. Afforestation has been undertaken extensively in the north; forestry and quarrying are undertaken in the south; and limestone is worked in the central areas.
Other features Knighton and Rhayader are important market towns. Some 5 km/3 mi west of Brecon is Y Gaer, the Roman Bannium, an excavated walled fort. The 14th-century fortified manor house of Tretower Court and the adjacent Norman tower 5 km/3 mi from Crickhowell are ancient monuments. In the Vale of Ewyas are the ruins of Llanthony Abbey, which was founded early in the 12th century. The writer and MP George Herbert lived in the region, as did the philanthropist and manufacturer Robert Owen.
Topography Other main rivers include Dovey, Taff, Tawe, Teme, and Usk. Near Rhayader are the Elan Valley and Claerwen reservoirs. The highest peaks of the area are Pen y Fan (885 m/2,904 ft) in the Brecon Beacons, Waun Fach (811 m/2,660 ft) in the Black Mountains, and Carmarthen Van (802 m/2,630 ft) in the Black Mountain range. The north is almost wholly mountainous, a large portion consisting of bleak elevated moorland, but towards the English border there are several open, fertile, and well-wooded valleys. Over one-half of the central district is 300 m/1,000 ft or more above sea-level, the highest point being at 660 m/2,165 ft in Radnor Forest. In the south the main geological formation is that of the Old Red Sandstone (Devonian System). On the southern boundary this is overlain by Carboniferous limestone. In more central areas older Silurian rocks are exposed. There is evidence that the area was heavily glaciated.
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