Why have they drained the Upper Neuadd Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons?

For many years, the Upper Neuadd reservoir has been a goto place for many photographers. For me, it’s certainly been no different. However, over the last few years, there has been extensive groundworks being undertaken by Welsh Water, which has resulted in the entire (apart from a small channel) reservoir being drained.

It looks worse than this, taken a few years ago… Upper Neuadd Which resembles more of a mars-scape than a beauty spot. One of the special aspects of the Upper Neuadd is that is is well protected on either side by large steep escarpments, so if the weather is right, the reservoir turns into a mirror and reflects the wonderful aspects of Pen Y Fan, Cribyn and Corn Du.

A snowy Upper Neuadd Reservoir

I have been lucky enough to photograph in the summer, winter, autumn and Spring here. So it became a very special place for me, not just the views towards Pen Y Fan but the atmosphere the entire Blaen Taf Fechan river course creates as it runs down the mountain side. So, why this blog post? For quite a while, a number of photographers, walkers and visitors have been asking me will it ever get refilled?

A few years back Mark Kent was lucky enough to get some information via a Telephone call to Welsh Water. I wanted to get an official line that I could share with anyone who might be interested in reading about the current state and any future plans. So after contacting Welsh Water on twitter and after many months of exchanges via direct message, I was eventually promised an update via email from the Communications Manager.

The attached letter which arrived in my inbox rather unannounced at the end of November last year details the reasons for draining and future plans. Sadly, the long term future for refilling looks bleak.

For those who can’t read the small font size, essentially Welsh Water talks about “managing the levels of the reservoir for years to protect the Grade 2 listed Dam structure. In order to protect the dam for the future, there are no plans at present to restore the level of water. This is something however that they intend to keep under review”

Which of course is understandable, what is slightly frustrating is the lack of information that was made available to those who wanted to know. It is of course visible from the summit of South Wales tallest mountain and many gaze down wondering what has happened. There is little information on site.

Drained Upper Neuadd Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons?

It is a shame that the reservoir will remain drained for the foreseeable future, but don’t let that put you off visiting. The Upper Neuadd is not just about reflections on the water, it’s so much more than that. Many photographers have spent time here completing projects and return time after time not for the physical reflection but personal reflection.  It’s that kind of place.

Enjoy a wonderful meander up Blaen Taf Fechan, a lovely walk, if slightly eerie with the mountain tops looming above.  If you reach the far end beneath Pen Y Fan, wave up to the thousands looking down on you and smile, you might have to convince a few you are not lost!

Yes, I’m as disappointed as you might be, but I hope this email from Welsh Water at last puts to bed what has happened at the Upper Neuadd and why. For now, enjoy the Lower Neuadd, (see footnote 2020 addition) which can itself create that lovely reflection or better still, explore beyond the island and discover the Upper Neuadds real beauty.


I’d like to invite photographs from anyone who visits the Upper Neuadd reservoir to send me photographs and I’ll happily add to this post to share the latest update/progress. Does anyone have any photographs from 2017?

Addendum: Since writing this blog, I have also found a further resource, a very detailed one, if you wish to get a deeper understanding of the restoration project.


2019 Addition

Slowly but surely the Upper Neuadd is beginning to revert to its previous state before the reservoir was built. I hope to see a few native trees planted, but for now, it is slowly recovering and discovering a new path!

2020 Addition

For some time the Lower Neuadd has also been under some considerable reshaping of the reservoir. I can’t get close enough to photograph due to lockdown, but if you have any details, I would be happy to add the details on here. This is the board detailing the work to be completed.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Thanks for a clear picture of what’s happening.I have a picture from a few months back after wandering down Nant yr Hen Heol to the reservoir.I think I took one of the road they built through it.
    I was researching photos for the Welsh project I mentioned though the powers that be are already running scared about giving prominence to Cymraeg.I have 2 other photo searches to do first so it may be a few days.
    I have lots of other photos of the old reservoir from various viewpoints if needed including some of the very dry bed after it was drained.
    By the way I will explain one day why the OS is incorrect to show Blaen Taf Fechan and Blaen Taf Fawr as it does on the map

    1. Cheers Martin. I hope to add to the post as the months progress, I’ll also be paying a visit in the next month to take some up to date images. No rush on images but very happy to add to post when you have time, sad to hear about the Cymraeg issue!

  2. Thanks for this blog!
    Just been up there – 09/04/17 right under the dam wall and all around! Have been intrigued since seeing it from Cribyn last summer and after going there this weekend led me to this post! I have some pictures but unsure how to share them on here.

  3. Have been up there a few times-on one occasion there seemed lots of work going on at the Dam but no sign of the water level being restored. Is the dam now needed? Developers in Pontardulais have been told to be careful as there is a high pressure water main underneath which goes to the Vale of Glamorgan. Perhaps Llyn Brianne is now the standby supply if we have water shortages in South Wales as in 1976-interesting!

  4. Still plenty of water in Llyn Brianne but lowest I’ve seen it since we moved into the valley two years ago. The foreshore on the northern side well exposed now. I did take some shots yesterday so I’ll process them today and see what they look like.

    1. I’m a local who cycles to this place regularly.
      Following welsh waters review in 2012 an option to place a membrane to improve water retention was considered but eventually objected to by the national park who looks after the beacons ranges. The thinking was it would be an eye saw for those climbing Penyfan Which overlooks the reservoir.
      With the lower neuadd also now drained and some landscaping just finished in the area – these reservoirs are very unlikely to ever be placed back on line.
      The water now flows through to pontsticill reservoir which is significantly bigger.

      1. Thanks Robert for the detail. Hugely appreciated. Obviously with COVID restrictions few have had the opportunity (including me) to visit recently. It will certainly now become a very different wildlife habitat, which is no bad thing. But like you, I very much doubt if we will ever see this full again.

  5. I spent a few hours there yesterday. I was hoping to find it full. Another partial disappointment. Part of the road going round the lower reservoir, now empty, has collapsed. There is some sort of scaffolding forming a platform at the lower dam as well. The roof of the building by the side of that dam has collapsed since I was there last year. I have actually never seen the upper reservoir full. But it has become a sort of refuge for me like you mention in your blog. I am thankful to have found your blog as I now have an idea of what is going on. Even if I fear I might not get a chance to see the reservoir full

    1. Thanks Benoit. Great observations on your wander. The Lower Neuadd is ina bad state at the moment. It used to be a fairly quiet circular walk, but has become much popular in recent years. Something needs to be done about access around the Lower Neuadd buildings, I agree. The Upepr Neuadd was a beauty when full with water, I doubt very much if it will ever return. However, the “tundra” it is slowly becoming, has a raw appeal, so I look forward to watching this develop over the years, perhaps even with the replanting of trees.

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