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The workaday market town of RHAYADER (Rhaeder Gwy, literally "waterfall on the Wye") is an excellent base for exploring the wild, spartan countryside to the west of the town, a hilly patchwork of waterfalls, bogland, bare peaks and the four interlocking reservoirs of the Elan Valley, a nine-mile-long string of four lakes built between 1892 and 1903.
Three miles north, just off the A470, the lovely Gilfach Farm nature reserve (unrestricted access; free) features meadows, oak forest, moorland and river habitats, which together support a huge variety of wildlife and flora. A restored longhouse barn has been kitted out as a visitor and exhibition centre (April–Sept Fri–Mon 10am–5pm, July & Aug daily 10am–5pm; £2), showing live video footage from ten birds' nests around the reserve. To watch red kites feeding, head to Gigrin Farm (Tel:01597/810213, Web: www.gigrin.co.uk ; £3), off South Road on the outskirts of town, where they are lured daily at 3pm (2pm in winter). Kite numbers in the region were once down to just a couple of breeding pairs, but today kites have become so common here they've started repopulating the rest of the country.