Archive for the ‘Sgwd Clun-Gwyn’ Tag

At home with our friends from the North – Afon Mellte Waterfalls   10 comments

Well, the next day was worse, overcast with heavy persistent rain all day. I volunteered to watch most of the kids while Mark and the rest of adults and A went to visit Hereford cathedral and the Mappa Mundi, fascinating but I’ve seen it a few times already. You can read about their little trip here on Marks blog.

The next day the forecast was slightly better so we decided that a day by the waterfalls to the SW of the Brecons would make a decent day out. The rivers of the Mellte, Nedd and Hepste create a playground of waterfalls, caves, gorges and rivers that are the best in the UK in my humble opinion. I took in this walk around the same time last year and as you are to find out the conditions were slightly different.

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Afon Mellte enters Porth yr Ogof

When we set off the weather was damp but only raining lightly. As we drove down towards Abergavenny and over the Heads of the Valley road it turned pretty nasty with dark brooding skies and heavy rain. I was tempted to pull over and just head home, such was paucity of the weather but pressed on as we’d already come a long way. When we pulled into the car park the weather was quite frankly appalling. We decided to have a comical picnic in the car with the rain playing a drum-beat on the roof. I enlivened the proceedings by lighting the stove for a brew between my feet under the steering wheel, an act that Jane thought bordered on suicidal. By luck we survived but the weather was still pretty vile. We decided that we were going to get very wet anyway so may as well make the most of it so off we went.

We’d enthused the kids with tales of the massive cave of Porth yr Ogof which you can walk into via the dry river bed that precedes it. Not today. Rather than the dry-bed what we got was a raging torrent of foaming brown water and we could barely see the cave let alone walk into it. We made do with an exploration of the various access points into the roof of the cave as you start to head downstream. The water emerges from the cave at a spot called the blue pool normally a crystal clear calm pool of water much used by cave divers for practice. Today it was a just part of the roaring Mellte river and an exhilarating spot which I think the kids loved, especially watching the water charge from the cave mouth.

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The Blue/Brown Pool

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Fun in the rain

I’ve been to this spot several times and have never seen it like this. It really whet the appetite for the main falls to come.

It’s a good couple of miles to the falls a journey enlivened by the numerous side streams that were racing across the path. I put my trail shoes to the test and stood in the water to help all the kids (and adults) across. The kids thought this was mighty exciting and it added a sense of adventure and fun into what could have been a depressingly wet day.

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River Mellte riverside path/wade

I was chuffed that everyone seemed to be having a good time. It helped to cover my frustration and disappointment that the summer weather was so poor when I had so many places I wanted to share.

We reached the first fall Sgwd Clun-Gwyn and as expected it was majestic, a maelstrom of spray and noise, a real wow factor and totally different from the last visit. No gorge scrambling or canyoning today!

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Sgwd Clun-Gwyn

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Sgwd Clun-Gwyn

The next fall Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn was even better as you can walk right down to the edge of the falls (although I had my heart in the mouth most of the way along the narrow path above the gorge with the kids at play!). When we were last here there was a group of canyoners scrambling behind the falls – no chance of that today!

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Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn

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Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn

We’d hoped to continue on to to the star attraction Sgwd yr Eira with its path behind the falls. However it was late and the kids were tiring and we guessed we’d probably get nowhere near the falls let alone walk behind them. Reluctantly we retraced our steps with more stream crossings and arrived back at the car completely soaked. A wet day but everyone seemed to have had a great time, sometimes you just have to take a chance on a bad day and try to get the most out of it. I think we achieved that objective to great effect.

You can read Marks account of the day complete with his first musical slide show here. Mine is below so hope you enjoy it, captures the mood with the videos better than the photos alone. Surely we had to get a better day before Mark and his family returned home…

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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