The Edge Of Alteration 2012
Waterfalls that have barely survived the effects of human intervention; Syfynwy Falls and Tareni Gleision.
These cascades were mentioned on OS maps until 1964, but their popularity waned due to the building of the Rosebush Reservoir, whose dam is immediately upstream of the cascades. The cascades are at their best when the reservoir is overflowing, which usually happens throughout the winter. However, I am told that at all times of year, the reservoir releases an amount of water into the river immediately upstream of the final cascade. It is important to note that there is no public access to the site, and it is essential that you ask for permission before visiting. They are unlikely to refuse, and you will get the added bonus of being able to find out if the reservoir is overflowing. The site is owned by Dŵr Cymru/Welsh Water (who patrol the site regularly) as part of the Llys y Frân management area. Contact details are available on the Visit Pembrokeshire Web site.
My visit was made with permission, using the access route suggested by the Welsh Water staff. I will point out, however, that it is not a good route unless you have keys to the dam walkway, which I did not have. The easiest access route is to park on the side of the B4329 about 750 metres before its junction with the B4313, at the entrance to a forestry site. On the opposite side of the road is a footpath, and next to that is the gateway to the reservoir access track. The access track leads directly to the dam, where some steps lead down to the foot of the dam. Follow the path downstream to a platform over the river. The cascades can be seen upstream and downstream of the platform.
- The Preseli range from the south; Foel Eryr (468 metres), Cnwc (427 metres), Foel Cwmcerwyn (536 metres), Foel Feddau (467 metres), Carn Siân (402 metres) and the bump containing Carn Menyn (365 metres).
- The Preseli range from the tiny village of Rosebush, nestled between Foel Eryr, Foel Cwmcerwyn and Cnwc, the source of the Afon Syfynwy (or Syfni, as it is now known in its upper reaches).
- My route (the bad one) starts at a forestry track just before the road crosses the Afon Syfni. It's rather unusual to be able to legitimately walk past such a forestry sign.
- Upper reach of the Rosebush Reservoir.
- The track had only recently been reopened, through what was once the Ddolwen-isaf house. It is filled with deep mud, and is not a pleasant access route, but it does at least have reasonable views towards Mynydd Castlebythe (347 metres), Mynydd Cilciffeth (335 metres) and Mynydd Morvil (300 metres).
- Fishing boats on the shore. Fishing permits are granted for the site on a daily basis, but the falls are not so lucky, as they are located by the reservoir's outflows.
- Back of the dam.
- The far bank (the access route I suggest) has steps leading down to the bottom. Although I could reach the dam from my side, the walkway gates are kept locked.
- So I had to descend the bank through this horrendous undergrowth. Very steep, and alternating between head-high brambles and thick bushes. Or both at the same time.
- Overflows on the dam, dropping about 15 metres.
- Pipes carrying the water to the treatment centre, where it is used for drinking water supply.
- Mini tramway beside the stairs.
- Top of the dam.
- From the pipe junction at the bottom of the dam, a path is maintained, leading down to the outflow sluice.
- Just upstream is the upper cascade of Syfynwy Falls, dropping about 2 metres.
- Immediately below the sluice is the main Syfynwy Falls cascade. This is about 5 metres high in total, of which about 4 metres is natural. In theory, this will always have some water, even when the reservoir is not overflowing.
- Downstream, the Afon Syfynwy continues as a fairly gentle river, as it heads for the next reservoir.
- The next reservoir is Llys y Frân, which is set up as a tourist attraction (as well as a water supply), with regular access arrangements, cycle routes and a country park.
Normally I would ignore such waterfalls on my lists, as it is not officially named, not a popular attraction, and on just another minor stream. The only reason it has made my lists is due to some photographs correctly indicating that it may be possible to easily walk behind. As it turns out, the waterfalls on this stream really do deserve some attention, but note that to see most of them, you will have to be prepared to fight your way up a steep slope, above very exposed crags. Only two of the waterfalls can be properly seen by walkers who only can only follow paths.
There is a large, dedicated parking area beside the A4067, directly opposite Godre'r-graig in the Tawe Valley (between Pontardawe and Ystalyfera). Visits are best made after several days of rain, since the stream has a very small catchment. It is also possible to access the upper waterfalls from a car park on the Tareni Gleision access road, but the path to the lower waterfalls from there has become too overgrown for most visitors.
- The waterfalls are on the side of the Tawe Valley (aka. Swansea Valley), on the ridge of Mynydd Marchywel (418 metres and 369 metres). The ridge ends at the Y Darren Widdon crags of Varteg Hill (352 metres). Most of the ridge is covered by the Crynant Forest, with the section on the right of this picture being called the Tareni Gleision Wood, named after the Tareni Gleision farm that sits on top of the ridge. The main waterfalls lie on the stream on the far right of this picture. In the distance are the distant peaks of Cribarth (426 metres) and Fan Gyhirych (725 metres).
- From the car park, a bridge leads over the Tawe to a cycle path, where the easiest access route for the lower end of the stream is to the left.
- Small outflow by the path.
- Soon, the stream can be seen flowing out of a tiny gorge. It would be possible to ascend the slopes beside it, but there's a proper path instead. Continuing along the cycle path, a sloping path leads back on the right after about 300 metres.
- Remains of Craig-y-fforest.
- Mynydd Allt-y-grug (338 metres) above Godre'r-graig and Pantyffynnon.
- The path then passes above the bottom of the gorge, where there is this 4 metre waterfall.
- And 7 metres of cascades.
- On the other side of the path is the crowning glory, the main Tareni Gleision waterfall, and a 3 metre cascade below it. Beyond here, the path supposedly splits, with the upper route climbing up to the car park by the Tareni Gleision farm (currently operating as kennels), providing an easy walking route to the upper waterfalls. However, the path is invisible beneath a thick coating of undergrowth, and only a masochist would want to try that route. Or someone with a machete.
- The main waterfall is about 10 metres tall, hitting a ledge a few metres from the bottom. It has no official name, and is informally named after the farm and woodland.
- A scramble up either side (the right is easier and safer) leads to the rather friable ledge behind the upper bench of the waterfall. Although it is possible to continue on the far side of the ledge, I would advise against it, as the rocks and soil may easily be dislodged. I would have done a more distant picture, but with only 10 seconds to sprint into position, I could not manage any further - the end result looks surprisingly good though, so I am happy enough with it.
- It's possible to follow the fence on the left side of the waterfall with some difficulty to reach the next one, which is also about 10 metres tall, with a weir above, and a mine dug behind its right side. The reason for there being a large mine passage here is not known, but it could either be an adit to drain the mine, or a leat to take water into the mine. The plunge pool is a bit deeper than a pair of wellies, and I would not recommend trying to get into the mine in any case, since it's not maintained, and not likely to be in a safe condition. Also, as it is not natural, it would be cheating to try to suggest that it is a cave behind a waterfall.
- Another ascent through the undergrowth on the left reaches the next set of waterfalls, decorated by a blue pipe, and surrounded by some impressive crags.
- The main drop is about 5 metres tall, landing on the immense pile of fallen rocks. From here, there is no useful way to get above the crags, but skirting the crags on the right seemed easier than on the left. Either way requires arguing with the brambles.
- Mine on the left side's crags.
- Remains of a mine on the right side's crags.
- Hiding between the crags above is a 7 metre cascade. I strongly advise against trying to reach this one - it's a very long way down if you slip.
- A 6 metre waterfall then completes the top set, roughly 24 metres above the bottom of the crags.
- Above the crags, the going becomes easier (though by this stage, my legs were saying otherwise), as the terrain levels out, changing from brambles to felled forest. Either bank can be followed from here, but at least for the first couple of falls, it's probably best to approach from the left bank.
- View into the distant Cwm Du valley.
- The impressive Tarren y Gigfran crags on Mynydd Allt-y-grug.
- The first of the upper set is a 4 metre clean drop with some horrible side lighting. This one was awkward to reach from the right, as the surrounding crag had collapsed.
- If you really insist, it is possible to stand behind it, but it's less like walking behind a waterfall, and more like desperately trying to get enough grip to remain on the slope.
- Another few metres of waterfall, just before reaching the upper path.
- Visible above the upper path is the next waterfall, about 5 metres high.
- Another few metres of cascade above it.
- And finally, a 5 metre waterfall that marks the top of the upper set. For now, I returned to the path, and headed towards the remains of the Bryn-ysgallog farm, to check on the waterfalls in the next stream.
- The views on the way were absolutely superb, showing all mountains in the Black Mountain range; Garreg Lwyd (616 metres), Foel Fraith (602 metres), Cefn Carn Fadog (512 metres), Garreg Las (635 metres), Waun Lefrith (677 metres), Picws Du (749 metres), Fan Brycheiniog (802 metres) and Fan Hir (761 metres).
- At Bryn Ysgallog, I descended the paths beside the next stream, which were quite overgrown. When these turned away from the stream, I continued down the stream bed.
- There are a few small waterfalls here, but this one is the best, at just a few metres high. Really disappointing after the previous stream, and not worth any effort at all. So I made the bad decision to return to the first stream, but without investing the effort in returning to the overgrown paths. Instead, I took the masochistic route around the hillside.
- A well made shelter in the forest, with dry stone walls, a waterproof moss-covered top, and even a stone oven.
- The undergrowth was the worst possible, with brambles looped everywhere, hiding underneath other plants, ready to snag you, shed hundreds of thorns into your skin, rip through clothing, catch your boots, and send you flying face-first into the next patch. Seriously hard work to get through.
- A clearing? Oh no, just more brambles on the other side. Waist high. Armpit high. Skin-ripping brambles. I was trying to locate the paths shown on the map, on the far side of the stream, which should provide an easy way to ascend the stream. However, they were so overgrown, I cannot actually be sure where they were. I must have crossed them at some point, without even noticing any except the vague remnants of a tramway, threatening to drown under the undergrowth.
- The appearence of the Gleision Mine showed that I had clearly gone too far past the paths I was looking for. This is the site of the 2011 mining accident, where rapid flooding took the lives of 4 miners. The now-filled mine entrance was in the centre of this picture, and the abandoned rescue equipment and floral tributes can be seen on either side.
- Remains of a truck. Remains of a livelihood. An essence. The tracks that once led down into the valley had now been obliterated, leaving me with no convenient way down, so I simply descended the slopes through the brambles, reaching the cycle paths without encountering any of the paths that were supposed to exist.