The Dyfi river forms the natural northern boundary of Ceredigion, and is also considered by many to be the boundary between north and south Wales. The great estuary of the Dyfi is flanked by the mountains of Snowdonia and the Cambrian range to the north and east, whilst on its southern banks in Ceredigion is the largest extent of lowland bog in Britain - Cors Fochno - rich in wildlife and steeped in legends.
United Nations international recognition
The River Dyfi catchment area is unique in Wales having been designated a Biosphere by the United Nations ‘Man and Biosphere’ programme for the range of its special landscapes and wildlife, its language and cultural heritage, and the community’s efforts to care for, sustain and develop the area's biodiversity in balance with its sustainable use.
The area was first awarded Biosphere status in the 1970s when The Centre for Alternative Technology, which is located within the Dyfi Biosphere area, was a pioneer in developing alternative energy, housebuilding and food production.
Today the area also includes the town of Aberystwyth, where the University is a leading centre for the study of climate change and sustainability.
The Centre of Alternative Technology – or ‘CAT’ as it is affectionately referred to locally - was founded in a disused slate quarry between Machynlleth and Corris. The Centre has evolved over the years and is now an internationally renowned research and educational charity focused on sustainable technology and lifestyles, with a visitor centre and a range of courses and events. Another nearby quarry - much of it underground has been imaginatively transformed into King Arthur's Labyrinth
The naturalist, author and Guardian columnist William Condry was the first warden of the RSPB’s Ynyshir reserve, and a campaigner for the protection of the red kite. His friend, the poet RS Thomas lived in nearby Eglwysfach when he was rector at the church. As a keen ornithologist RS Thomas would also take delight in the birdlife and other wildlife of the estuary and woodland slopes of the valley. Nearby, the Dyfi Furnace and the waterfalls on the river Einion recall the mining heritage of the area. The site is part of a Wildlife Trust nature reserve and testament to how nature and industry can coexist in harmony.
Leading Welsh publisher, Y Lolfa, based in Talybont published works by the economist-philosopher Leopold Kohr, originator of the term ‘small is beautiful’. Rock band Led Zepplin found inspiration not only in the landscape but also celtic mysticism for their music albums, including the rock anthem Stairway to Heaven.
Machynlleth has become home to the eponymous Comedy Festival, held in the town at the beginning of May. This is where comedians come to experiment with new material, and to relax in each other’s company. The Festival will expand with a new event in Aberystwyth in October 2018.
Original thinking is not just a modern aspect of the Dyfi Biosphere. In the 15th century, Machynlleth was the focus of Wales, as Owain Glyndwr convened his first Parliament in the town. He declared his vision for Wales which included its own parliament and laws, a separate Welsh church and two universities.
Dyfi Biosphere wildlife
The vast expanse of the Cors Fochno wetland nature reserve is a major natural feature of the area, as are the sandunes of Ynyslas and the nearby submerged forest.
Visit the RSPB Ynyshir reserve at any time of year - The BBC Springwatch team spent two exciting spring seasons at the reserve in 2012/13.
Nearby is the Dyfi Osprey Observatory - a great place to watch the magnificent 'sea eagles' nest.
The sandunes of Ynyslas are the the largest in Wales but they are easy to explore along a nework of boardwalks that extend through the dunes from the Natural Resources Wales visitor centre.