Preservation of the Historic Environment

Preservation of the Historic Environment

Cadw gweddillion a thraciau hanesyddol


One-third of the area of the Cambrian Mountains is registered in the historic landscape register for Wales. In addition, the Cambrian Mountains contain 80 individual Scheduled Ancient Monuments, from individual cairns and stone circles through to medieval buildings and trackways. Management as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with its landscape focus, would by definition respect and enhance this important heritage. But even pending designation as an AONB, these irreplaceable parts of Wales’ heritage need to be taken properly into account in planning any development activities within the region.


The Cambrian Mountains provide a rare example of a surviving, largely intact prehistoric landscape. Today’s predominantly grassy heathland was created by woodland clearance from the earlier prehistoric period onwards, combined with climatic change which at high altitude gave rise to blanket peat formation.

The large numbers of cairns, individual megaliths, stone rows and stone circles may well be associated with the early exploitation of upland pastures during the Bronze Age, 5500-3500 years ago. The fact that many are sited high on horizons indicates that they were meant to be seen from long distances, possibly for territorial marking, for commemoration of special individuals or for use as foresights for astronomical alignments.

The archaeology of the Cambrian Mountains is relatively well preserved for the very reasons that make the area special – its remoteness and lack of human disturbance. But there are many aspects which are not yet fully understood. The uplands archaeological record needs to be respectfully preserved in its landscape context for future research.


Llwbyr y Mynaich

As explained in the page Archaeology and History, the Monks’ Trod is a precious archaeological site, albeit one whose precise and full value has only been recognised and appreciated in recent years.

The route also passes through a number of areas of protected landscape including Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas.

Although parts of it are Public Rights of Way, others are private land and access is on a permissive basis only.

The threat from modern traffic

The section between Pont ar Elan – at the top end of the Craig Goch reservoir – and Strata Florida passes over a wonderful stretch of remote, little-visited moorland, designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area, and a Special Area of Conservation. This 6-mile section is under threat.

The track is classified as a Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT) on the Radnorshire (Powys) side of the county boundary, and as an unclassified road on the Ceredigion side.  Accordingly, it is popular for use with off-road vehicles.  Unfortunately, the erosion caused by the use of motorised vehicles, whether on two wheels or four, is severely damaging the character of the track, making it unfit for foot traffic and destroying the medieval structure.

In 1990, as a result of widespread alarm at damage to the route caused by the recreational use of motor vehicles, a permanent Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) was placed on the Monks’ Trod, banning four-wheeled vehicles only. In 2002, after 12 years of further abuse, another, temporary, a TRO was imposed, banning all motor traffic.

Since then, the off-road community has worked to get that ban removed. The Powys and Ceredigion County Councils responded initially by setting up a stakeholder partnership (which excluded “quiet” users) to report and suggest options, and then consulting on those four options, which ranged from keeping things as they were (traffic-free, peaceful, and with the possibility that the scars left by motor vehicle use would eventually heal) to “improving the standard of the surface to accommodate all users” i.e. tarmac. None of these options was selected, and instead the county councils decided to consider a fifth option: opening for a period of one month during the summer for motor cycle use.

A draft assessment of the condition and future of the route was published in 2020 by Powys County Council, which then sought submissions from users and user groups to help it in its decisions about future management.  Ultimately, it has elected to carry out ‘repair’ work to the degraded section of track, in effect upgrading it to facilitate access for motorised traffic.

Such engineering work will inevitably degrade the archaeological heritage of the trackway and almost inevitably hasten greater degradation of the surrounding terrain as vehicles seek to go beyond the engineered section and range more widely on the now-accessible moorland.  The Elenydd through which the track passes is one of the last remaining wilderness areas south of Hadrian’s Wall, and to defile it with engineering work of the extent and nature proposed is totally inappropriate.  Further, upgrading access over only that part of the track which falls within Powys will inevitably lead to motorised vehicles using, and damaging, the adjacent section of the path which is not ‘engineered’ in neighbouring Ceredigion.

The Cambrian Mountains Society believes that the Llwbyr y Mynaich should be accorded the status and protection due to a linear ancient monument, similar in importance to the Ridgeway in England.

The Society is determined to press for a permanent closure of the track along its full length to all motor vehicles.  Pending that designation, the Society continues to oppose the implementation of damaging ‘maintenance’ works currently proposed for this ancient path, by Powys County Council.

The Trustees have written to the Council expressing the Society’s grave concern.