Pipe Paths

The five Elan reservoirs contain enough water for 1238 million baths!  But how does that water get to Birmingham?

Water for Birmingham leaves the valley at the Foel Tower which is just next to the Garreg Ddu dam – that’s the one that doesn’t look like a dam!

The dam is most of the time submerged, but in times of drought, when water levels drop drastically, it holds water back at a higher level than the Caban Coch dam downstream, so that Birmingham is still supplied.  Water taken out at Caban Coch supplies mid and south Wales, but that outlet is too low to be used for Birmingham, as we shall see.

So, from the Foel Tower to the Frankley Reservoir in Birmingham is a 73-mile-long pipe.  That’s 73 miles of carefully positioned pipe – positioned so that 360 million litres of water can pass along every day, without the need for a pump. 

Even though the height difference is only 52 metres, water flows all the way to Birmingham by gravity.

But the landscape between Wales and Birmingham is by no means a smooth slope – where there are hills, the pipes tunnel through, and where there are valleys, there are covered aqueducts.

See if you can find evidence of the route on maps – the village of Pipe Aston, Herefordshire, is a good place to start.  Move north to Bringewood and look for some very straight gaps in the trees…

…which were hidden behind this rather big clue.

At other places you might spot bridges over rivers that seem to be there for no reason – no path or road.

Instead pipes.

Loads of extra information, along with construction photos and maps, can be found on the Powys Digital History Project site.

And here’s the link to the Elan Valley’s own site.