The Local Area

Lower Chapel

A small, valley-floor settlement, surrounding its church. Sited on the east bank of the Afon Honddu, and straddling the B4520 Builth Wells to Brecon road, it is some 7km to the north of Brecon.

 

The history of Lower Chapel, as with its close neighbour Upper Chapel, is largely unrecorded. The settlement stands within the parish of Llandefaelog Fach to which it was a chapel-of-ease, although there have been suggestions that it once had its own parish. There appears to be a consensus that there could have been a medieval chapel at Lower Chapel, although there is no incontrovertible evidence to prove this.

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Brecon is a bustling market town right at the top edge of the glorious Brecon Beacons National Park. It's known for the famous Brecon Jazz Festival, independent shops and cafés, history, military connections and of course, the magnificent cathedral. Brecon is the perfect base for exploring the national park, watersports and fishing in the local rivers, canal and lakes, plus cycling and mountain biking. Punch Maughan, Brecon Beacons Tourism Ambassador, takes us on a brief tour of the town.

 

The Welsh name, Aberhonddu, means "mouth of the Honddu". It is derived from the River Honddu, which meets the River Usk near the town centre, a short distance away from the River Tarell which enters the Usk a few hundred metres upstream. After the Dark Ages the original Welsh name of the kingdom in whose territory Brecon stands was (in modern orthography) "Brycheiniog", which was later anglicised to Brecknock or Brecon, and probably derives from Brychan, the eponymous founder of the kingdom.

 

Before the building of the bridge over the Usk, Brecon was one of the few places where the river could be forded. In Roman Britain Y Gaer, Brecon (Cicucium) was established as a Roman cavalry base for the conquest of Roman Wales and Brecon was first established as a military base.

Brecon's town walls were constructed by Humphrey de Bohun after 1240. The walls were built of cobble, with four gatehouses and was protected by ten semi-circular bastions. In 1400 the Welsh prince Owain Glyndŵr rose in rebellion against English rule, and in response in 1404 100 marks was spent by the royal government improving the fortifications to protect Brecon in the event of a Welsh attack. Brecon's walls were largely destroyed during the English Civil War. Today only fragments survive, including some earthworks and parts of one of the gatehouses; these are protected as scheduled monuments.

 

In Shakespeare's play King Richard III, the Duke of Buckingham is suspected of supporting the Welsh pretender Richmond (the future Henry VII), and declares:

O, let me think on Hastings and be gone

To Brecknock, while my fearful head is on

The Brecon Beacons National Park was established in 1957, the third of the three Welsh parks after Snowdonia in 1951 and the Pembrokeshire Coast in 1952. It stretches from Llandeilo in the west to Hay-on-Wye in the northeast and Pontypool in the southeast, covering 519 square miles (1,340 km2) and encompassing four main regions – the Black Mountain in the west, reaching 802 metres (2631 feet) at Fan Brycheiniog, Fforest Fawr and the Brecon Beacons in the centre, including the highest summit in the park and in South Wales at Pen y Fan 886 metres (2,907 feet) and the confusingly named Black Mountains in the east, where the highest point is Waun Fach 811 metres (2,661 feet).

 

The western half gained European and global status in 2005 as Fforest Fawr Geopark. This includes the Black Mountain, the historic extent of Fforest Fawr, and much of the Brecon Beacons and surrounding lowlands.

 

The Black Mountains in the east are clearly separated from the central Beacons by the Usk valley between Brecon and Abergavenny. The other three regions form a continuous massif of high ground above 300m, and the divisions are less clear; the A470 road forms the approximate boundary between the central Beacons and Fforest Fawr, while a minor road from Sennybridge to Ystradgynlais divides Fforest Fawr from the Black Mountain range to the west.

 

The entire national park achieved the status of being an International Dark Sky Reserve.

 

Most of the national park is bare, grassy moorland grazed by Welsh mountain ponies and Welsh mountain sheep, with scattered forestry plantations, and pasture in the valleys. It is known for its remote reservoirs, waterfalls including the 90-foot (27 m) Henrhyd Waterfall and the falls at Ystradfellte, and its caves, such as Ogof Ffynnon Ddu. The Brecon Beacons Mountain Centre was opened in 1966 to help visitors understand and enjoy the area. Ravens, peregrine falcons, wheatears, ring ouzels, and the rare merlin breed in the park. The red kite can also be spotted from Rose View Cabin. There is a small group of Red Kites that feed near the property.

 

Due to the relative remoteness and harsh weather of some of its uplands, the park is used for military training. UK Special Forces, including the SAS and SBS hold demanding selection training exercises here, such as an exercise called the Fan dance. The infantry regiments of the British Army train at Sennybridge, where NCO selection also takes place.

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