Mid Wales is full of surprises. Some Dutch guests of ours once described it as 'Harry Potter country', and they simply meant that just when you thought you knew what it was like around here, it would all change as if by magic around the next corner.
The name, Cambrian, comes from the Roman, Latin name for Wales, and became the name for the Geological time period from 540 to 485 million years ago, during which the 'Cambrian explosion' occurred when most major animal phyla appeared in the fossil record.
The Cambrian Mountains (Welsh: Mynyddoedd Cambria) used to apply in a general sense to most of upland Wales, but nowadays refers to a more localised area. The Mid Wales uplands, known as the Elenydd, with Plynlimon (Pumlumon) in the North, is bordered by;- Machynlleth to the North; Devils Bridge, Tregaron and Lampeter to the west; The Dolaucothi Gold Mines at Pumpsaint close to the Southern extremity, and Llanwrtyd Wells, Rhayader and Llanidloes to the East. The area includes the sources of the River Severn and River Wye, flowing to the East, The rivers Rheidol, Ystwyth and Teifi to the west, and Towi to the south. The area was unsuccessfully proposed as a National Park in the 1960s and 1970s. The highest point of the range is Pumlumon (or Plynlimon, derived from the Roman name which referred to lead mining) at 2,468 feet (752 m).
From the medieval monastic ranges, through the gentrified mansions and their estates, to lead mining, reservoirs and hill sheep farming the landscape of Mid Wales has always been affected by mans' activities. Perhaps it is surprising though, that the area is now less well known for its rugged beauty than in the past.
Landscape and the Picturesque movement.
Nowadays many of us like to take a holiday in an area which is perceived to be 'picturesque', but mid Wales is less well known for its landscape than many other places in the UK.
However, over 200 years ago it was one of the birthplaces of the tourism industry, and the Picturesque movement.
At a time when it was fashionable for the aristocracy to take a tour of Europe, Aberystwyth was becoming a genteel seaside resort, artists, poets, writers, and the aristocracy came to visit, to marvel at the rugged landscape, 'hunt' out the best spots for a painting and even to observe the lives of the 'ragged poor' peasant folk (from a distance of course!).
Only the Lake District was more popular than mid Wales, perhaps because of the relatively short distance to travel to mid Wales from the Midlands, although this would have been quite an expedition in a horse and Carriage!