Nedd Fechan Waterfalls (Elidir Trail) 2008
A neglected part of Waterfall Country.
The south of the Fforest Fawr mountain range, in the Brecon Beacons, is an area known as Waterfall Country.
The Afon Mellte and Afon Hepste rivers join, with four large waterfalls on their courses, providing the popular Four
Waterfalls walk. They are later joined by the much shorter Sychryd river. The Afon Nedd Fechan (a.k.a. Little Neath)
is less well known, but is the dominant river. It is joined firstly by the Afon Pyrddin then the Mellte, where the
combined rivers become the Afon Nedd (a.k.a. Neath).
The upper reaches of the Nedd Fechan, Mellte and Hepste are well known for caving, but this trip aimed for the lower
reaches, into the less well trodden parts of the Afon Nedd Fechan, which despite being less known actually has far more,
and in many cases better waterfalls than those on the Four Waterfalls walk.
The first part of the Afon Nedd Fechan is on the national park boundary, with the right bank (looking upstream) being in it, and the
left bank out of it. At the junction with the Pyrddin, it then follows that instead, with the Pyrddin's right bank
being in the national park. Since the waterfalls it intersects are half in and half out, they are treated as being
- Map of the Brecon Beacons National Park, showing the locations of the various mountains and ranges.
- Starting at the Dinas Rock in Pontneddfechan, ignoring the obvious path that is the end of the Four Waterfalls walk, and heading to the right of the rock. The small valley soon becomes the Sychryd Gorge, which is worth a look, as long as it is open. On the right is Ogof Bwa Maen, one of the handful of semi-major caves in the valley, which is formed on a major fault in a spur of the limestone outcrop.
- The small Sychryd Cascade introduces the gorge. Further upstream is the Sychryd Falls, but a landslide has wiped out the path, and the way into the gorge is now via the Dinas Rock path. Wills Hole (the longest cave in the valley, with Ogof Pont Sychryd being second) ends behind the wall to the left.
- The top of several climbing routes up the wall, the ledge is overhung by ivy vines.
- Now back using the car to The Angel inn in Pontneddfechan (there is car parking on the road beside it), and up the path on the side of the road running behind it. This is the Nedd Fechan, and quickly becomes a gorge of its own.
- Riverbed rocks.
- A massive undercut on the bank. Looks like a good place to sleep. Pity you're not allowed to.
- Smooth and slippery bedrock. This looks like limestone, but is in fact an outcrop of the "Twelve-foot Sandstone", a thin band of sandstone within the shale group at the top of the Millstone Grit.
- River channel.
- Coed y Rhaiadr.
- And the near bank, with deep green moss.
- The area is covered with remnants of silica/quartzite mines - this particular one is partly flooded.
- A mine adit, now draining the nearby stream instead of mines.
- Misty adit - sorry about that, etc.
- Moss-covered bedrock.
- Remains of the buildings around a mine.
- An obvious mine entrance.
- The mine passage. A good pair of wellies and it looks like you could keep your feet dry. Other mines (particularly in Sychryd) contain many flooded tunnels frequented by divers.
- The view out of the mine.
- Bird's nest in the mine.
- Sunlight filtering through the trees.
- Pwll Du ar Byrddin.
- Pyrddin cascade.
- Larger cascade on the Pyrddin, called Pump Pwll (note; 'pump' is the Welsh word for 'five', and sounds like 'pimp'). It appears to slant a little, but that is an optical illusion caused by the slanting rock beds.
- Taking pictures of the cascade. Since the best place to get a view is from the middle of the river, that is where the bold and fearless cameramen go.
- Camera operators 1, 2, 3 and 4, as seen by camera operator 5.
- Turn a corner, and a huge step in the rock houses the Sgwd Gwladus, where tourists turn around. Those who are tough enough follow the other bank, and cross the river a few times to reach the Sgwd Einion Gam much further upstream. Today, we wuss.
- Sgwd Gwladus, also known as Lady Falls (direct translation) by those who are afraid of pronouncing Welsh.
- Upstream of the Pyrddin, the Nedd Fechan starts to become a proper gorge, with several small cascades hidden below the path.
- Nedd Fechan gorge.
- A large cascade in the Nedd Fechan.
- And another.
- Another inlet.
- The first main target of this section of the river; the Horseshoe Falls, with the distinctively shaped rims. The waterfall also bears the directly translated Welsh name Sgwd Pedol, but the English name is used virtually everywhere. The next waterfall can be seen in the distance.
- A walk up the smooth, flat river bed (where tourists fear to tread) reaches the base of the impressive Sgwd Ddwli Isaf (Lower Ddwli Falls).
- Sgwd Ddwli Isaf ... uchaf. The thundering upper part of the waterfall.
- Back on the main path, the waterfall looks much less impressive from above, so it's well worth using the lower route.
- A ladder for squirrels.
- Upper cascade.
- The final target is the graceful Sgwd Ddwli (Upper Ddwli Falls). Without a camera or curiosity, this can be reached in well under an hour from The Angel. The question is, in an area so beautiful with so many waterfalls to look at, would you want to rush a visit? And if so, what are you doing looking at this gallery, eh?