Archive for the ‘fechan’ Tag

Wild Swimming in the Nedd Fechan Valley   20 comments

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Before I get round to telling you about summer hols let me take you back to the earlier part of the summer. You remember, endless days of hot sunshine, blue skies, warnings of hosepipe bans, England doing well at the World Cup. The hot summer gave us a chance to really explore my Wild Swimming guide as a means of outdoor exercise (too hot to hike).

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My last post detailed some of the local spots in the Wye Valley but the premier location in South Wales are the valleys of the Mellte and Nedd Fechan. Each has a series of gorges, cascades, waterfalls and deep pools tailor-made for swimming. In the hot weather the cold (in fact VERY cold) water was a welcome relief from the hot sun and the tree-lined gorge meant perfect conditions for river based fun

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We took two trips. The first one was an all too brief visit before a picnic and heading home for an England game

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We parked up at small and hard to reach car park at Post Melin Each and wandered downstream to the first waterfall Scwd Ddwli. Its a beautiful cascade falling into a deep pool but not ideal for swimming. It’s stony to get in and there are no jumps but it wins on location

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All but TJS took a swim and even in the hot weather it seems pretty quiet. I’d assumed that everyone in South Wales would have discovered this spot but it’s very hard to get to and that seemed to keep swimmers away. Most people we saw were walkers

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It was nice to swim in cold clear water and then sit in hot sunshine to warm up – rare in the UK

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Me and TJS took a wander downstream to the next set of pools at the Horseshoe Falls.

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These were much better for swimming. Deep and clear with much easier ways in and loads of ledges for jumps. I took a couple of jumps and a quick swim before heading back.

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We had a rather fine picnic in the grassy meadows by the car park before heading home and vowed to return for revisit to the Horseshoe Falls

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That return visit was a week later as the endless hot weather continued. We were back at the Horseshoe Falls which not only has great swimming and jumping but a series of flat clean rocks for sunbathing

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We spent the whole day here, in and out of the water and another luxury picnic

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I was particularly happy scrambling about on the rocks and in the trees looking for ever higher jump spots

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Pretty much perfectly designed for wild swimming

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Up stream was an equally fine waterfall but no pool for swimming

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Me and TBF left the other Funster in the sun while we took a stroll downstream

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We reached the slender and almost dry Lady Falls (Sgwd Gwladus). This is closer to the main road and was very busy (including the usual clutch of people who don’t seem to able to go anywhere without a loud thumping music!)

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We returned to the tranquility of our own spot

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More swims and another look at the upstream waterfall and little video of what its like to stand under it!

 

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I suspect we have a long wait until we get weather set perfect for this sort of day but even a walk along these valleys and their dozens of waterfalls and cascades is a worthwhile trip. I’m hoping we can revisit again once more this year if we get a final spell of good weather

 

Waterfalls   14 comments

Me, J and D had a full day for a decent walk while L was at Bristol Zoo with her Brownie pack. We had intended to take D up Pen-y-Fan now he was a fully-fledged mountain man but the forecast was uncertain and looked less than promising at 8:30am. A change of plan was called for, so we set off for the Waterfalls Walk in the southern Brecon Beacons. I’d done this walk with J a few years ago and it’s an ideal choice when poor weather rules out a day on the high fells. D seemed to like the idea of a long walk peppered with waterfalls and not too disappointed to miss out on South Wales highest mountain. The walk starts from the car park at Ystradfellte, where the river Mellte vanishes underground leaving a series of caves behind. The sandstone that dominates most of the national park, here gives way to limestone that allows the formation of these caves and the Mellte, Hepste, Pyrddin and Neath rivers to create the greatest concentration of waterfalls in Wales. We started off around 10am by heading down to where the river should be to look at the gaping entrance to Porth-yr-Ogof.

D at Porth yr Ogof

I’ve been caving here many years ago and it’s quite an easy, albeit wet scramble through the cave to the famous blue pool on the other side (home to the dangerous sport of cave diving). The walk proper starts by heading down an open path along the river after it re-appears, passing some lovely spots for picnics and rests, before arriving at the first fall, Sgwd Clun-Gwyn.

Mellte River

The area is a popular spot for canyoning and we could hear the shouts and screams as well as the roar of water as we approached. The water level was quite low but the falls were still impressive and must be thunderous when the river is in spate.

Sgwd Clun Gwyn

The next fall is Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn where the wet-sports people can clamber behind the fall and also provide the passers-by with extra entertainment by jumping from the tops of the waterfalls into the deep green pools below.

Sgwd Isaf Clun Gwyn

What do you mean “not this one”!

This sort of canyoning and river scrambling is one of my favourite sports but I’ve never done it here. Me and GM have long-standing plans to explore the river properly i.e. in wetsuits, one of these days. We passed the next fall Sgwd y Pannwr, which with a leap of imagination sort of resembles the Iagwazu falls in South America!

Sgwd y Pannwr

The walk then continues away from the Mellte and over into the valley of the Hepste river for one of the highlights of the walk, Sgwd yr Eira.

Sgwd yr Eira

It’s a beautiful curtain of water with the added feature that the path takes you BEHIND the waterfall. It looks like you’ll surely get a soaking but in fact other than the misty spray you stay dry-shod. D found this part particularly exciting and I took some video to try and best capture the experience (it’s in the YouTube compilation at the end of the post).

Drier than it looks

From here it’s a seriously steep climb out of the gorge and up to the more open hillsides above. The next section is equally stunning as high level path traverses above the Mellte valley with expansive views over the Neath valley.

Neath Valley

We stopped for lunch to admire the views accompanied by some warm sunshine and some midges on a day trip from the Isle of Skye – there is probably more than enough to go round up there so they obviously felt they could spare a few.

D & J on the high level path

The path eventually drops down to the village of Pontneddfechan and after a drab mile along the road turns north into the next waterfall filled gorge of the Nedd Fechan (Neath). The path starts as an old disused tram-way before narrowing to a gentle path along the fast flowing river. A short detour takes you to Sgwd Gwladus on the Pyrddin river.

Sgwd Gwladus

Returning to the Nedd Fechan the path becomes rockier and the river more dramatic as you pass further stunning waterfalls of Sgwd Ddwli and a final un-named one.

Sgwd Ddwli

Final waterfall

We arrived at the lonely picnic spot at Pont Melin Fach ready for a second lunch but by now the weather had turned and it was drizzling heavily. D wasn’t too impressed by this turn of events but its all good experience and I told him some tales of far, far worse days out in the mountains. We pushed on continuing to follow the Nedd Fechan north through a much less trodden section, almost sub-tropical in its verdant lushness with new formations of limestone Tufa on the banks and everything coated in moss and dripping with water.

Upper Nedd Fechan Valley

We were all starting to feel weary as the miles mounted up and as we emerged from the trees we realised we were actually in the cloud. The rain eased off for the last mile over the fields to the car and we arrived at 4:30pm weary and a bit soggy.

Homeward Bound

A classic walk that I can strongly recommend with something for everyone and a respectable total of 11 miles and 2,000 feet of ascent.

I’ve put together a little compilation slideshow below and the full set of Flickr photos is here.

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