Until 1940 it was best known for its sheep and cattle market, still held every Saturday, and for the remains of its 13th century castle – once used as a prison by the keepers of the royal hunting grounds of Fforest Fawr to the south.
Then the Ministry of Defence came along and created the Sennybridge Training Area. They took 30,000 acres of Mynydd Epynt, a wild moorland plateau that was the breeding ground for the Welsh Cob, and turned it into an artillery range.
This sounds like bad news for tourist and wildlife alike – but nothing could be further fromthe truth. The MOD’s red flags have kept the blanket bog and grass, the steep stream valleys,forests and meadows, just as nature intended. And the hares and red squirrels soon got used to the bangs.
Meanwhile the launch of the Epynt Way has opened up parts of this stunning landscape that were once strictly forbidden. The 90km permissive route for walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders runs right around the perimeter of the training area – with links to lots of short- er loops.
Chances are that it will be just you and the great outdoors. But if you do hear the occasional explosion, don’t be alarmed. The path borders “dry training” areas only, which means no live ammo.
You can find out more at the refurbished Epynt Visitor Centre at Disgwylfa off the B4519 be- tween Brecon and Garth.
Sennybridge is also handily placed for the “Mountain Centre” of the Brecon Beacons NationalPark (turn off the A470 at the village of Libanus). At 335 metres above sea level, the centre offers tea rooms, lots of displays and a magnificent view of Pen-y-Fan, the highest peak insouthern Britain, from its terrace.
If 886 metres seems a little daunting, just wander out onto the adjacent moorland ridge of Mynydd Illtud where there are plenty of easy to moderate walks. It could be just the thing to work off that home-made bara brith.
A couple of miles south of Sennybridge lies the village of Defynnog and the remarkableChurch of St Cynog. Most of it dates from about 1500 but some bits are much, much older. Its“Celtic window” could be pre-Conquest and the ancient stone font bears the only runic in- scription in Wales.
The huge yew is the churchyard might be the oldest of the lot. In fact it’s one of the oldest trees in Britain with a staggering girth of nearly 12 metres. So if you want to give it a hug, you’d better bring a few other people with you.
Some anglers likes to walk on the wild side. If that sounds like you, take the A4067 on to CraiReservoir, a fly-only brown trout fishery in a superb mountain setting. The fish are small andwild and you could be the only angler after them. That’s why there’s an honesty box – and thefishing is good and honest too.
If on the other hand you’d simply like one of the most scenic drives of your life, take the road from Defynnog through the Senni valley to the “Waterfall Country” around Ystradfellte (see Ystradgynlais).
On the way, just 30 metres from the side of the road, you’ll pass the standing stone of Maen Llia. This diamond-shaped Bronze Age monolith made of old red sandstone stands almost four metres high. Another third is hidden underground, which is how it’s managed to stand up to thousands of years of moorland weather.
Legend says that, whenever a cock crows, Maen Llia wanders off to drink in the river. If you manage to get a shot of this, do post it our Facebook page. Otherwise a pic of you standingbeside the stone will do just fine.