Elenydd is sometimes known as the Green Desert of Wales,a description that came from the eighteenth century traveller George Borrow, who was commenting upon the sparsity of habitation in the area. However, the word desert is misleading,for the land is green and much of it is fertile,being used for sheep rearing, forestry and more recently for tourism. It is a land of small villages and isolated farmsteads, spread across a range of mountains that is not Wales' highest, but whose distinction is that it is a range central to Welsh geography. The Cambrian Mountains,of which Elenydd is a part, are the watershed of Wales, with important rivers flowing east and westwards from their rainy heart. Britain's longest river,the Severn flows eastards down from this heartland, as do the scenic Wye, the Irfon and in a westerly direction the Rheidol and the Teifi, one of the few rivers on which you can still see coracles, traditional Welsh boats, and the Elan, from which Elenydd might draw it name.
I would say that while in Permaculture terms zone 5 is wilderness, much of the land in the Elan Valley is zone 3-4, which is sheep range and small woodlands. While Elenydd is quiet, it is not a wilderness like parts of Scotland are, at least not in this part.
The river Elan surges westwards down to the Irish Sea. Never a long river, its waters have the vivacity of youth, and the word Elan is apt, for it is the Welsh word for deer, and the river's spritely coursing at places reminds us of a deer's leaping. The land takes its name from the river, the land of the deer, and we are reminded of the ancient deer goddess, Elen of the Ways, the horned lady of the deer and mistress of the intricate paths of the underworld, a deity all but forgotten in our age, except for a few pagans, who have revived her worship.
The Elan Valley is popular with tourists, though it is well damned and partly flooded nowadays resulting in the drowning of several villages. The process sounds harsh, but the giant English city of Birmingham and other cities in South Wales needed water, and this need was urgent. Walkers now enjoy the quiet, even silence of the valley. Some farms survive on the higher slopes of the valley, and there are places to stay,such as guest houses and hostels for walkers, sometimes known as wilderness hostels. The presence of so much water exerts a calming influence upon the mind, making this a good place to walk.The Elan Valley is a great place for quiet walking.
The Elan estate is seventy square miles and contains eighty miles of tracks for walkers and cyclists. Off the tracks the land is tussocky to walk on, especially as you go up hill, and walkers should be aware that some walks are tough. There is, however, a disused railway line converted into a walking and cycle path, and this is popular with visitors.