Vanished Wales: The true story of Mynydd Epynt - a community lost forever in the dark days of WWII

The hillsides of Mynydd Epynt were once home to a thriving Welsh speaking community. Credit: ITV/Vanished Wales

Mynydd Epynt is a wild plateau between the Brecon Beacons and the Cambrian Mountains. 

It is a stark, striking landscape - but there’s something missing here.

The hillsides were once home to a thriving Welsh speaking community that had farmed the land for generations. And the story of what happened to them has never been forgotten.

Ydwena Jones can trace her family history on the Epynt back to 1841.  

Mynydd Epynt is a wild plateau between the Brecon Beacons and the Cambrian Mountains. Credit: ITV/Vanished Wales

It was a community where farming, and culture, went hand in hand.

"It was on a drovers’ route, so you’d think of it as being a bit of a backwater really, but it was very much a seat of learning" recalled Ydwena.

"They read vociferously. The Eisteddfodau were very keenly fought. They worshipped as calvinistic methodists. And Sundays were precious and everybody went to chapel and that was their community."

So what happened?

The barbed wire fencing is a clue.

The barbed wire fences at Mynydd Epynt. Credit: ITV/Vanished Wales

In 1939, when was was declared against Germany, The War Office urgently needed extra land to train the army.  It chose Mynydd Epynt - 30,000 acres of remote wilderness.  

In 1940, the farms were requisitioned and more than 200 men, women and children were told they must leave the area.  

Elwyn Davies was 10 years old at the time.  He watched as his family and friends packed up their belongings.  Their land was suddenly out of bounds.

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"It was quite an anxious time really like, they had meetings and all the rest of it to try and get them to change their mind, but no", said Elwyn.

"It was all over. It was done and that was it. We had a war and no choice. They were taking it and that was it.

"The families moved down to Carmarthenshire mostly. There was no alternative as far as we could see then."

A family home at Mynydd Epynt. Credit: ITV/Vanished Wales

As the families moved out, the army moved in. Over time, the farmhouses fell into ruin.  Echoes of an abandoned community.  

Today, Mynydd Epynt is still owned by the Ministry of Defence.  It’s one of the largest military training areas in the UK - a key site for Britain’s armed forces.

This wild, rugged landscape has a poignant tale to tell. A community that was cleared during the dark days of war.  

But it’s a chapter in our past that will live on - remembered by those whose loved ones left their homes, never to return. A shared memory passed down from one generation to the next.

You can see more on this story, and many other lost landmarks, in Vanished Wales. Friday 27th May at 7pm on ITV Cymru Wales. You can also catch up with the series here.