Before LANDMAP (see separate section), the Countryside Commission published a detailed assessment* of the landscape of the Cambrian Mountains.
It classified the landscape on the basis of particular combinations of landform and land cover. Landform is the main determinant of the landscape, and was used to provide a broad classification into the four categories listed below. (These four categories were then further divided on the basis of differences in topography and in vegetation and land use, to produce nineteen distinct landscape types).
These form the heart of the Cambrian Mountains. The plateau landscapes range from high and irregular peaks and knobs (which rise to 700m and include Pumlumon Fawr) to extensive plateau tops (450-500m) and shallow rolling plateaux (300-500m). These landscapes are typically wild, windswept, remote and covered by rough moorland vegetation. Large areas are only accessible on foot, and the moorlands offer extensive “wilderness” walks with distant panoramic views.
The plateau margin landscapes vary from dramatic cliffs and cirques to fragmented hill slopes and saddles. Substantial elevation changes affect the land cover in these areas, which range from windswept upland moor, scree slopes and plantations of sitka spruce at 500m, to enclosed farmland at 150m. The Dulas Scarp in the north and Pont Marteg cirque on the A44 are highly visible and important landscape features for visitors to the area, but many of the hill slopes and saddles are inaccessible and often less attractive.
The narrow valleys make up the largest proportion of the area. They cover a wide variety of landforms, from gorges and ravines to U-shaped valleys, but they are all upland stream or river corridors, draining directly from the upper plateaux. The land cover variation is also great, ranging from moorland to conifer plantations, and inbye pasture to mixed woodland and thick broadleaved woodland. A number of these valleys have also been flooded to form reservoirs, creating further variety.
The broad valleys include wide river corridors and river confluences. They are characterised by flat valley bottoms with enclosed farmland and settlements. Major roads pass through the valleys, providing the main entry points and access corridors through the area. Valley sides are steep and historically have been wooded. Some broadleaved woodlands remain, but many have been cleared for pasture or replaced by coniferous plantations.
*The Cambrian Mountains Landscape, CCP 293, 1990. A4, colour, 48pp – a superb publication, crammed with maps, photos watercolour sketches and information. Now sadly out of print.