Four Waterfalls 2009
Really. Just four. Or eleven, for those who know how to count. Perhaps even thirteen or so if you count cascades.
This is the most popular of the Waterfall walks in Waterfall Country, in Fforest Fawr in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Been here many times, and already have many good photos, so this will not be a complete gallery. The idea is not to duplicate existing pictures, but to compliment them with seasonal images, or new perspectives. The start point is from the Porth yr Ogof car park, not the more risky forestry car park.
Wellies (aka. Wellington boots) are not required for the normal tourist routes, and while I would of course recommend walking boots, we did see tourists wearing flat soled shoes. However, to follow the more adventurous parts of our route, a pair of wellies, or some equivalent footwear, is essential. Those parts should also only be followed in suitable water conditions, as they require crossing major rivers, which are too deep for most walking boots even in low water. You are responsible for your own risk assessment. Take care.
- Map of the Brecon Beacons National Park, showing the locations of the various mountains and ranges.
- Escaped cow being escorted up the Heads of the Valleys road, with a long queue of traffic behind, and a long queue of rubberneckers on our side.
- Craig-y-bwlch, guarding the 515 metre summit of Hirwaun Common.
- Early bluebell carpet.
- Sgwd Clun Gwyn, the first and one of the tallest waterfalls on the route (I have seen it quoted as 30 foot - 9 metres - but it looks much taller when using the gorge walkers for scale). The black corners are a bad vignetting effect caused by a polarising filter. Annoying.
- Small rainbow in the spray.
- The next waterfall is my favourite, and my main target. It's actually three waterfalls and several lower cascades with one collective name; Sgwd Isaf Clun Gwyn. This is the upper of the three waterfalls.
- The middle waterfall, with the upper one peering over the edge above it.
- Gorge walkers nose diving into the plunge pools of the first cascade - the only one tall enough to deserve counting.
- To get to the target, we would have to get to the other side of the river, but the paths on the other side were not able to provide a nice way down. We took the easy way out; slap on a pair of wellies and ford the river on the slippery lip of the last cascade. Then head upstream on the far bank, around the pool the gorge walkers had been nose diving into. You copy us at your own risk.
- This was the target; the third Sgwd Isaf Clun Gwyn waterfall. It's one of several waterfalls in Waterfall Country that it is possible to walk behind, though I found no information about that, except inspiration from my own pictures - most people seem to be put off by not knowing how to get to the other bank of the river. Also, Sgwd yr Eira steals all the search results.
- There is a flake of rock on this side, so you have to stoop or crouch a little before standing up directly behind the spout. It is possible to get all the way behind it with dry feet (apart from spray), but be warned that it is very slippery, and wellies are suggested. The ledge ends on the far side (although it may be possible to do so, I would not recommend climbing up the ledges to the top of the waterfall, as it is likely to be dangerously slippery).
- This puts you in a position rarely experienced when walking behind waterfalls. The spout is literally less than a hand span in front of your face.
- An entire river thunders past you, and crashes into the plungepool right beside you. The noise and spray make this one of the most awesome locations I have stood in, in the entire Waterfall Country.
- A little downstream is Sgwd y Pannwr, an underrated waterfall that produces a very graceful display.
- Everyone just heads for Sgwd yr Eira. It's known far and wide as the waterfall that you can walk behind (see the human in this shot, for example), and yes, it deserves credit. Sadly it is also one of the most popular natural attractions in Wales, so visit it, but don't expect to be alone.
- The path behind it is one of the easiest (only Sgwd Henrhyd is easier), and is the only one that is an official public footpath. The wind and spray are certainly quite impressive. Most tourists never get any further than this waterfall.
- Heading downstream from Sgwd yr Eira are the Cilhepste falls, starting with a cascade, then two relatively small waterfalls, of which this is the lower. It's much harder to photograph than the others, blocked by trees, and being situated well below the path. This was a lucky shot with beautiful lighting.
- Ignore the easier path that then swings out to the right for a hundred metres in the wrong direction, a quick scrambling path leads down to the main Cilhepste Fall. Various extremely slippery ledges can be used to get into the spray right beside the waterfall, and give a nice sense of scale to this picture.
- Looking down from the top.
- The lowest of the Cilhepste waterfalls. From here, the bold photographers stay by the river bank, crossing a fallen log when the cliffs make the bank unusable, then donning wellies and crossing back just before the river joins the Mellte. It may be possible to take a path up the bank above the cliffs, but they don't look very stable, and it's not a route I would recommend.
- A little up the Mellte is a cascade referred to by gorge walkers as the sheep dip. Appropriately, there was a rotting sheep carcass at the top of it. This pretty cascade is rarely seen by normal walkers, and is not accessible from the eastern bank without wading in the river, as it is guarded by cliffs at almost all points. I have no idea if it is accessible from the other bank, but the situation is probably the same.
- Fording the river again ... a little further upstream is another tiny shelf cascade and boring sloping cascade above it. It doesn't deserve it, but is marked on the map, possibly because the top of the sloping cascade can be reached from a path near Sgwd y Pannwr.
- Returning to Sgwd yr Eira, the situation had degraded to visitor mania. I counted 26 tourists in just the 30 seconds that we were there. A few were eating a late lunch, but most were waiting for their turn to go behind and get their pictures taken behind the waterfall. This is what makes me happy to have started out earlier.
- Smoke from a distant fire above the Sychryd Gorge.
- Thick bluebells in the forests above the waterfalls.
- Sunlight playing with the bluebells.
- The entrance to Porth yr Ogof. As a caver, it's hard to resist a quick visit whenever in the area.
- The White Horse Pool.
- Entrance porch.
- Into the Right Hand Series.
- Dry route to the big stuff.
- End of the White Horse Pool.
- The Great Bedding Cave, accompanied by the sound of an entire river flowing over the cobbles.
- The Creek. Time to head out and home.