Frozen Waterfalls 2009
A small defiance of Global Warming.
The weather had been cold for several days, without snow or rain, but was on the point of warming back up again. There had been reports of the large Pyrddin waterfalls freezing, something that had not happened since 1987, when they froze completely, with no remaining flowing water. Being such a rare thing, this was an opportunity not to waste, and everybody else knew it too. We set off very early to get there at sunrise, before things started melting. Fortunately, the waterfalls are mainly north-facing, so they managed to maintain their ice for long enough. By the time we left, there had been over 50 other visitors to a place that would normally see only a couple of visitors on a winter's day. All were armed with a selection of tripods, cameras and dogs.
- A small patch of ice on the side of the Nedd Fechan. The rest of the river was depressingly ice-free. This is probably due to its flowing underground for a lot of its route, and thus being kept warm.
- Icicles in an alcove. By the time we returned, these had warmed enough for several of them to shatter and snap off.
- At the junction with the Pyrddin, things took a change for the better, with the river nicely iced. Of course, with the water still flowing slowly, we could not expect the waterfalls to be as completely frozen as in 1987, but I'm not complaining.
- Frozen Pyrddin.
- Pump Pwll, the early Pyrddin cascade.
- Pump Pwll.
- Sgwd Gwladus appeared as a fantastic sight to make my day, surrounded by its amphitheatre of icicles.
- Sgwd Gwladus, two thirds of the way to a complete column of ice. The bottom looks quite blinded, but the actual loss of detail is absolutely minimal. The camera did struggle a little with the range of brightness, as expected when brilliant white ice is beside nearly black rock, but even after playing with the possibilities of HDR, I decided that I really do hate the effect that HDR produces, and that this natural picture is so much nicer, and closer to how it felt while standing there. Comments about how much better HDR is, can be sent to /dev/null :P
- The frozen plungepool, and adornments.
- With a very short exposure, the detail of the base makes a lovely picture of its own.
- 4 metre long icicles under the waterfall's overhang.
- The ice makes it impossible to walk behind the waterfall, but Becci's picture still gives a nice impression of scale. The waterfall itself is around 10 metres high.
- View from the top.
- Tall cascade above the amphitheatre.
- Base of the cascade.
- Icicle mass under it.
- Icicles with moss.
- Stereotypical icicles in the waterfall's undercut.
- Pyrddin, upstream of Sgwd Gwladus. This looks pretty, but it makes crossing the river far harder. The ice is not thick enough to support the weight of a human, but it hides the locations of rocks and deeper pools. Each crossing needed to be done slowly to locate appropriate stepping stones.
- Icicles under a large overhang.
- Multiple icicles.
- Ice shrine created by the small inlet waterfall.
- Icicle organ.
- Ice false floor.
- Icicles framing the mossy wall of the river.
- An awesome display at the Sgwd Einion Gam canyon. The edge of the waterfall can be seen as the ice on the right side of the canyon. The immense wall of icicles is quite staggering. There are three humans in this shot for scale, though you may have some trouble locating them - the one at the base of the wall of icicles is best seen in the next picture instead.
- Wall of icicles - see the human for scale.
- Icicles on the wall.
- The most impressive of all the pictures; Sgwd Einion Gam, almost completely frozen. This waterfall is difficult to photograph well, as it has no reference point. No proper trees, and nothing else that humans can use for scale. As a result, a model is a useful tool. I would have preferred to get closer to show the full ~26 metres, but the ice was too thin in front of where I was standing, and I could not reach the base. I am told that the walking poles make it look like a shot of old gentry. I quite like that effect :)
By the next day, rain had started, 90% of the ice on the walls had gone, and only about half of the ice remained on Sgwd Einion Gam. Looks like we were very lucky with the timings, though the visitors on that day got to watch as vast chunks of ice came crashing down the cliffs. Worse for pictures, but must have been an impressive experience.
These also have a Welsh name; Sgwd Rhyd-yr-Hesg, meaning "Ford of the Rushes Waterfall". This is a stupid name, as it is neither a ford, nor are there any rushes. Perhaps there used to be, but not any more. It's also in an English speaking area (Vale of Neath). So nobody uses the Welsh name at all, except the precious few who think they should because it's supposedly correct. It's not. The name is Melincourt Falls (or Melin Court Falls, if you are allergic to compound words).
The falls are approached through a small woodland called Pen-cae'r-felin Wood (don't blame me, it's printed on the sign), covered by the Melincourt Falls Nature Reserve. At the head of the deeply carved valley, there are the two waterfalls, one carrying the main river, and the other apparently usually a dribbling stream falling down moss.