The Monks’ Trod links the Cistercian abbeys at Strata Florida in Ceredigion and Cwm Hir in Radnorshire, and is thought to have been the route used by monks travelling between the two abbeys. Artefacts along the route, such as Bronze Age cairns, have prompted speculation that the route may be much older than mediaeval, though there is no hard evidence to support this. But whether 1000 or 5000 years old, the Trod is certainly one of the most important historic features of the Cambrian Mountains, much of the route having survived – because of its remoteness – with little disturbance until recent times.
The section between Pont ar Elan – at the top end of the Craig Goch reservoir – and Strata Florida passes over a wonderful stretch of remote, little-visited moorland, designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area, and a Special Area of Conservation. This 6-mile section is under threat, and is referred to in the rest of this page.
The Trod is classified as a Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT) on the Radnorshire (Powys) side of the county boundary, and as an unclassified road on the Ceredigion side.
In 1990, as a result of widespread alarm at damage to the route caused by the recreational use of motor vehicles, a permanent Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) was placed on the Monks’ Trod, banning four-wheeled vehicles only. In 2002, after 12 years of further abuse, another, temporary, TRO was imposed, banning all motor traffic.
Since then, the off-road lobby has worked to get that ban removed. The two county councils responded initially by setting up a stakeholder partnership (which excluded “quiet” users) to report and suggest options, and then consulting on those four options, which ranged from keeping things as they were (traffic-free, peaceful, and with the possibility that the scars left by motor vehicle use would eventually heal) to “improving the standard of the surface to accommodate all users” i.e. tarmac. None of these options was selected, and instead the county councils decided to consider a fifth option: opening for a period of one month during the summer for motor cycle use.
Again no decision was made, and the Monks’ Trod has continued to enjoy the protection of the TRO until recently.
The Cambrian Mountains Society believes that the Monks’ Trod should be accorded the status and protection due to a linear ancient monument, similar in importance to the Ridgeway in England. We shall continue to press for a permanent closure to all motor vehicles, and for a full environmental impact assessment (EIA) to be carried out before a decision is made on any partial reopening.