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Llangorse Lake

The Web Brecon Beacons

Location and Facilities:

Llangorse Lake is located eight miles from Brecon on a minor road off the A40. Visitor car parking is available on the lakeside to the west of Llangorse Village on the northern perimeter of the lake at SO 128271. Coarse fishing may be available (charge). Please make further enquiries locally and make sure that you have the correct permits. There are limited facilities on the southern perimeter of the lake for bird watching. Please contact the Brecon Beacons National Park prior to your visit for more information. Visitors to this locale should take particular care not to disturb bird populations and to respect the sensitive nature of this unique lake led environment.

Natural History Background:"Fit for the Future" commented that "the forms of outdoor recreation to be encouraged in National Parks should be only those which involve the quiet enjoyment of the areas and which do no lasting damage"

The Brecon Beacons National Park not only has the highest natural lake in South Wales in Llyn y Fan Fawr but also the second largest in the whole principality. This is Llangorse Lake or Lake Syfaddan. It has a circumference of 5 miles and a total area of 327 acres 153 hectares and is one mile long . It is relatively low lying at 154 m above sea level and fringed with 10.2 hectares of extensive reed beds, with species rich grassland and woodland dominated by Alder and Willow. Only Bala Lake in North Wales is larger. Llangorse Lake was designated as early as 1954 as a Grade One Site of Special Scientific Interest. and which  as a naturally eutrophic lake. It is one of the few naturally eutrophic lakes in Wales and is of national if not international importance.

The entire lake surface and the adjoining Llangorse Common are registered as common land. Llangorse Lake was created by the movement of a glacier.  As the glacier moved forward they pushed and scraped their way down slope shaping the landscape as it moved. As the glacier travelled it collected piles of material which was deposited to the front and the side of the glacial movement.

When the ice melted this material a mixture of collected debris was left to form mounds or moraines. Such moraines can have a marked effect on the landscape and are responsible in the Brecon Beacons National Park for creating both Llyn y Fan Fach and Llyn y Fan Fawr in the Black Mountain. Llangorse Lake owes its existence to such moraine deposits left in the area between Llanfihangel Talyllyn and Talgarth.


History and Llangorse Lake:

Prehistoric man may have been attracted  to Llangorse Lake initially because of the opportunity it offered for food and water where there was a natural opening in a landscape that otherwise at that time would have been densely wooded. Llangorse Lake was an obvious site for a settlement.   In 1868 an Iron Age Crannog was discovered on a small man made island of stones just off the northern shore of Llangorse Lake (Bwlc Island). This island would have supported a small number of buildings.   Such dwellings known as Crannogs have identified in many locations in Ireland.

A local legend, recounted by Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales) in his travelogue,  said that a city lay submerged beneath the waters of the lake. In 1925 a remarkably well preserved dug-out canoe dating from 800 AD was found and the latter can be seen in Brecon Museum.

We know that Llangorse Lake was noted for its bird and fish life even in medieval times. The Twelfth Century Chronicler Giraldus Cambrensis states as much in his description of a journey through Wales. He commented that Llangorse Lake which he referred to as Brecknock Mere "was a broad expanse of water that supplies plenty of pike, perch, excellent trout, tench and mud loving eels for the local inhabitants". Giraldus also reports that Llangorse Lake had miraculous properties such that local inhabitants have witnessed it completely covered with buildings, that in winter when covered with ice it emits a loud groaning noise and that the lake sometimes turns green. At a later stage in its history Llangorse Lake would once again be coloured green.

Plant & Bird life:

Llangorse lake, and its surroundings, are home to an impressive range of plants and animals - a biodiversity melting pot. The locality is a refuge for no less than 23 plant species that are rare in Wales, and a further 15 that are rare in Breconshire. The flora that can be found include both white and yellow water lilies, the fringed water lily, greater spearwort, flowering rush, golden dock, and amphibious bistort, narrow leaved water plantain and rare pondweeds and duck weeds amongst many others. Llangorse Lake and its reedy shores and shallows are an excellent habitat for the dragon fly. A number of species have been recorded including the Golden ringed Dragonfly. The lake contains a number of fish species including Roach, Perch, Pike  Bream, Tench, Carp, and eel. Llangorse lake was at onetime famous for its enormous eels.

The wide variety of plants and other food sources attract a wide range of birds including Great Crested Grebe, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Moorhen and Coot, Curlew. It is probably the second largest breeding site in Wales for the Reed Warbler and also the reed bunting which nest in the largest reed beds found in inland Wales. The reed beds are also an important habitat for thousands of starlings. Some 20 species arrive for the winter, including teal, tufted duck, pochard, great crested grebe and coot. It is an important site for many species that stop to feed here on migration including the occasional osprey. Llangorse Lake is noted amongst bird watchers visit for its winter ducks which include the mallard, smaller teal, the less well represented pochard, and the tufted duck. The lakes reedy marshes are an ideal place from which to study a wide variety of waterfowl.

Although the general impression one would have from the Lakes appearance is of a healthy beautiful location this is not the full story. Given the surface area of the lake one would expect a greater presence of bird numbers.  The Lake suffered significantly from pollution by sewage, detergents and agricultural fertilisers in the post war decades. This had a serious effect on the bird and plant life. The range of underwater plants present is greatly reduced. Some of the rarer plants on the lake bed have gone or are going. It seems likely (though there have been no recent studies to confirm this) that some of the more sensitive invertebrates are no longer present in the lake. 

Environmental Factors:

Llangorse Lake has probably been subject to more scientific investigation than any other lake in Wales. At onetime Llangorse Lake was subject to increasing eutrophication with nutrient enrichment, Algal blooms and decline in the variety and extent of aquatic macrophytes. Recreational use has included sailing, canoeing, windsurfing, fishing, water skiing and informal bank-side recreation. Concern has been expressed that some species have been adversely affected by changes at the lake particularly those caused by recreation and eutrophication.

A major source of nutrient input was removed following the diversion of sewage effluent from the village that had previously been fed into the lake. Prior to diversion Llangorse Treatment Works pumped 15,000 gallons of treated sewage a day into the lake. It is not clear to what extent eutrophication of the lake has diminished. The incidents of Algal Bloom which was common in the 60’s and 70’s has declined since the diversion of sewage. There is the risk that  contamination levels in the lake may be maintained by leaching from animal waste and nitrogen fertiliser run off from neighbouring land. The extent to which phosphorus and nitrogen contained in lake sediment are being released is also unknown. Concern has been expressed that in a shallow lake such as Llangorse Lake power boats (and of course wind) creating waves may stir mud and water and release nutrients.

Llangorse Lake Improvement. A recent study by Dr Catherine Duigan of the Countryside Council for Wales, senior fresh water ecologist, has expressed concern about two-thirds of the lakes in Wales are affected by acid rain.  She states that there is a real danger of the lakes which become too rich in nutrients because of pollution could result in algal bloom smothering other plants.  The study also comments that Llangorse lake in the Brecon is a good example of a lake that has recovered well from over enrichment in nutrients after sewage was diverted.

Recreation and Conservation Problems:

The shoreline of this the largest natural lake in South Wales has a caravan site, parked cars, a sailing club, cafeteria, and premises belonging to P.G.L. Adventure. 

All of the major candidates during the last but one general election stated that the use of power boats is not consistent with the environment of Llangorse Lake and its designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. One called for the National Park to introduce bye-laws to prevent this occurring.

Llangorse Lake from Mynydd Llangorse; Llangorse translated means the church of the swamp. The Brecknock Wildlife Trust has expressed concern that the potential of the lake for wildlife continues to be severely curtailed by the continual leaching of nitrates and phosphates from the surrounding fields promoting dense Algal concentrations and poisoning aquatic plants. Many authorities have expressed concern that the use of Llangorse Lake by powerboats and even sailing boats will have varying degrees of effect on different species of birds. The passage of such craft may cause birds to take evasive action, leaving less time and energy to collect food for themselves and offspring. There is also concern that wave wash may serve to deplete the extent of the reed sites which are essential breeding grounds for species such as the Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting.

A voluntary arrangement has reduced the number of permits issued to boat owners from around 2,000 to just 100 since 1990. Only nine speedboats towing skiers are allowed on the lake at onetime. They are limited to 5 mph except when actually towing a skier. Water sports enthusiasts say this has greatly reduced the numbers of casual one-day skiers coming to the area leaving the bulk of the Llangorse Lake free for sailing and fishing. Conservationists including the Brecon Beacons National Park, the R.S.P.B. and the Countryside Council for Wales have expressed opposition to the continuation of power boating amid concern that the powerboats may damage the vegetation particularly the reed beds around the lake and have a detrimental effect on the birds and plant life.

On the other hand the Sports Council for Wales has stated that a complete ban is not warranted and should only be introduced if all other efforts to resolve the concerns have been exhausted. They emphasise that Llangorse Lake is the one of only two inland opportunities for water skiing in South Wales (the other at Bryn Bach Parc being small and able to accommodate only one boat at a time). Water skiing is a sport with about 20,000 participants in the United Kingdom. They have suggested reconciling the situation through zoning areas of the Lake and through self policing by members of the British Water Ski Federation. At Llandegfedd Reservoir, a major water recreation facility in South Wales, water skiing is not allowed at all . It is also considered necessary to limit sailing to the summer months and to only certain parts of the reservoir away from breeding grounds. Professor Ron Edwards who chaired the committee that produced the most recent government report on National Parks "Fit for the Future" commented that

"the forms of outdoor recreation to be encouraged in National Parks should be only those which involve the quiet enjoyment of the areas and which do no lasting damage"

Llangorse Sailing Club
Nr Brecon
Tel: 01874 658596

Contact details:
Ms Sara Beck
17 Meyrick Street




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