Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Brecon Beacons: Waterfalls

Sgwd Clun-gwyn
Sgwd Clun-gwyn

Friday morning; driving down to Talybont, in the Brecon Beacons, the vivid autumnal colours prompted me to want to do a woodland walk, instead of the usual traverse of the high moors. I met my mate Jon at the Star Inn, and he had the perfect circuit for me.



After a restless night listening to the rain patting my tent, I crawled out to a promising day.  A full breakfast eventually secured in Brecon (the only cafe we could find that opened before 9am in this part of the world!) , we drove out to a car park near Cwm Porth (Grid Ref: SN928124), where the walk would begin.

Walking along the River Mellte
Beside the River Mellte
Ten minutes down the side of the River Mellte, I realised my school boy error; my camera battery was flat! For the day I had to rely on my Samsung Galaxy S2; the quality of which actually surprised me!

The first half hour of the walk was a succession of negotiations around and over gnarly tree roots, occasionally taking a risk on the slippery stones to avoid the deeper mud foot “spas”, but it was easy progress, if a little slow.

River Mellte
River Mellte
It was once we passed a footbridge that takes you to the Sgwd Clun-gwyn waterfall, that the way got trickier. We didn’t cross, that would be the route we would return; instead, we ascended on a narrow path that clung precariously to the valleys steep wall, eventually contouring with the river. We made our way, very carefully, to a vantage point of Sgwd Clun-gwym, from its south-east side.

Sgwd Clun-gwym
Sgwd Clun-gwym
The path from here hardly got better. Clogged with fallen leaves, wet from the downpour last night, it was tricky, but precipitous drops reminded me to take things slowly.  Next waterfall was Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn, and impressive it was. The rain may have made the path a little hairy, but it was more than worth it to witness the excessive amount of water tumbling down the river.

Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn
Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn
More contouring, stepping over fallen branches, steadying oneself with the odd hand clinging to a tree, and a couple of aquaplane moments thrown in; thankfully at stages where the river didn’t beckon far below.

Eventually reaching a wider path, we came to a turn off; a rough stairway down to the River Heptse. Once at the rivers edge, we faced the mighty  Sgwd yr Elra waterfall. I looked quizzically and disbelievingly at Jon when he declared our route across the river was “behind” the falls. We donned our waterproofs and stepped forward into the spray, Jon purposefully, me; a little hesitant. I couldn’t see any way that this wasn’t going to end badly; surely, the large body of water falling was too great to allow us a rite of passage.

Jon kept reassuring me, and true to his word, as we reached the side of the falls, the water is thrown clear, thanks to an overhang, and a wide path traverses behind the curtain. It posed no problems whatsoever, albeit a little spray making us tread carefully, but certainly not the deluge I expected!

Sgwd yr Elra
Sgwd yr Elra
On to the south side of the Heptse, we left the riverbank, climbing up to a bridleway that afforded wonderful views of the valley in its autumn outfit. We stopped for lunch on a bench with a perfect vista, although fellow blogger Alan Sloman may have something to say about the windfarm!


View above the River Heptse
Autumn Colours
Carrying on across Craig y Ddinas, and down to the outskirts of the village of Pontneddfechan. Pretty much half done, the route back looked, on paper, to be a straightforward traipse through farmland.

It turned out to be a signpost spotting challenge across the Glyn Neath Golf Club, and an indecisive traverse of a very boggy piece of open access called Comin y Rhos. On two occasions, I was up to my knees, and one of those had me on my arse! Waterproofs, gaiters, and boots compromised! All good fun, though, in the sunshine; a more inclement day and our spirits might not have been so high!

Hitting the safety of a road for about 400 metres, we veered off, descending back down to the River Mellte, and the north side of the Sgwd Clun-gwyn waterfall. The river had quietened in the few hours since we were standing on the opposite bank, and Jon managed to shuffle out onto the ledge, which was previously covered.


Sgwd Clun-gwyn
Sgwd Clun-gwyn

From here, it was a short walk to the footbridge, and a small matter of retracing our steps to the car. With five minutes to go, a shower blew over, and we got the worst soaking of the day whilst changing out of our waterproofs and sodden boots in the car park! Typical!

Statistics for the route? I didn’t bother with the GPS given the amount of time we would be spending in woodland, but a quick trace of the route on Memory-Map puts this walk at about 8 miles.