Secluded Falls 2009
Rarely visited, and hard to access. Only the bold and fearless need apply.
The Pyrddin is best known for Sgwd Gwladus and Sgwd Einion Gam. There is no way to get upstream directly from Sgwd Einion Gam, so virtually nobody tries to see the small waterfalls that lie upstream. These waterfalls are mentioned in the book as being inaccessible, after the first one. That's not true, but they are hard to reach, and get harder the further downstream you go. The northern bank is entirely open access land without a proper path. The southern bank is partly open access. The easy access point is a forestry track on the north side of the A4109, half way between Pontneddfechan and Coelbren, at grid reference SN 8757 0925. The track has a potentially locked barrier at its start, but there is a layby on the other side of the road 200 metres closer to Pontneddfechan.
- View over the upper Pyrddin, towards Fan Hir (761 metres) in the Black Mountain range. The view is slightly spoiled by the power cables.
- Follow the forestry track down until it reaches an older track on the left. Head left from there down a sloping path, which leads to the waterfall, just upstream of a footbridge. It's easily the nicest waterfall on the route, and is also the easiest to reach.
- Return to the tracks, and follow them down to a bridge over the river. Invent a path on the other side of the river, and follow it downstream to this lovely little cascade.
- The easiest way downstream is to cross the river at the head of the cascade, and take the overgrown path on the other side. This next cascade is not very visible from that path, but it's not worth a detour anyway.
- A footbridge crosses the river, and gives a nice view of this cascade.
- Just downstream of the bridge is another small cascade.
- The river now cuts a shallow gorge with this cascade at its head. For your own safety, it's best viewed from what remains of the path. I clambered down into the gorge further downstream to get to this viewpoint. Had a fight with a tree on the way down. And lost.
- The shallow gorge eventually ends, and then another much deeper one begins. Like the previous one, it is guarded by cascades, and once again, the pools are too deep for wellies, and the sides too steep and slippery to walk along. I got down simply by sliding down the mud and dropping into the gorge, without having a proper way to get back out.
- The gorge. I had come down the right side. A little further downstream, on the left, it looks like it might be easier to descend, but I don't really think it's worth the effort of working out how to get there, just to see what follows.
- A small cascade marks the head of...
- Sgwd Einion Gam. At about 26 metres tall, it's the second tallest waterfall in the national park, and second tallest in South Wales. Falling from here would probably be lethal, so if you feel you must try to copy me (I recommend for your own safety that you don't get this close), stick to the ledge on the left side.
Most visitors to the area ignore this short, deep gorge and its waterfalls, opting instead for the Four Waterfalls walk in reverse. It doesn't help that the maps are completely wrong, and access to the middle section is no longer possible for normal mortals. However, it is well known by gorge walkers, and given the impressively hot weather, there was literally over a hundred of them in the overflowing car park when I arrived. No less than 4 groups of them competed with me for access to the waterfalls, but they were very polite and helpful, showing me how to get to the waterfalls while remaining dry.
- A cave on the side of the river, as seen from the Sychryd all-ability trail (a pathetically short path, for wusses or disabled visitors).
- The first cascade, best seen using a steep path off the side of the main path, just before it ends.
- The path ends at the Sychryd Cascades. Though none are particularly high - the highest is just 2 metres - they add up to a substantial height. To get past here, clamber along the left side. It can be very slippery so only attempt it if you know what you're doing. It's also possible to start on the right side, but it is then much more tricky getting back to the left bank (I speak from somewhat painful experience).
- Upper part of the cascades. Pick up the now-abandoned path on the left bank, and follow it - at your own risk - over some landslides.
- Just before a barrier telling people not to use the path you just used (...) a steep scrambling path down to the river offers a view of this lovely little waterfall, with its very deep plunge pool. The pool is called Pwll y Berw - the boiling pool.
- Returning to the path, the new access route joins on the other side of the barrier, and a steep slope down lands at the head of the lower waterfall, with this wonderful view of the main Sychryd Waterfall, with its characteristic footbridge above.
These waterfalls are also mentioned in the book, with various comments about difficult access. Certainly, these waterfalls are hardly ever visited. Partly because they are overshadowed by the nearby Four Waterfalls, partly because nobody knows they are there - only one is mentioned on the map. Mainly, however, it's because there is no official access to the main waterfall to the general public. There is a water board access road to the Ystradfellte Reservoir, and several farms along it, but right where it connects to the road at Garreg-fawr (as marked on the Explorer map), it is gated and access is forbidden.
The water board own the road, and the farmers own the land. There are footpaths that get you a long way down the road (and even one that gets you to the upstream side of one of the waterfalls), and a few pull-ins that can be used for parking, but to reach the main waterfall, you will need to cross private farmland. The farmland appears to belong to the last two farms: Pen-fathor Uchaf and Pen-fathor Isaf. You will need to ask their permission - the approaches to the waterfalls are very visible from both farms; do not attempt to ignore them. They are very protective of their private land, and do not walcome random walkers seeking shortcuts to the mountains - several signs clearly state that there is no access for that purpose.
However, I was lucky enough to bump into the farmer from Pen-fathor Isaf, who said it was OK for me to visit the waterfalls, after asking what I wanted to do with them (presumably trying to prevent skinny-dipping, or transporting the waterfalls to a more accessible area), and accepting taking pictures as a valid reason for visiting. The poor guy had badly blood-stained hands from putting up barbed wire fencing ... what a thankless job. Everyone I met was very cheerful, and nobody seemed to mind the random walker covered in mud and camera gear. But please think twice before visiting. These people clearly value their privacy, and these waterfalls may not be a good enough reason to invade it.
- Bluebells beside the road.
- Foals trying to hide from me behind their parents.
- The lower Dringarth valley, taken from just beyond the farms. The stinking hot weather gives a nice view all the way to Craig y Llyn beyond the edge of the park.
- The upper end of the valley, with Fan Llia (632 metres) and its Fan Dringarth ridge (617 metres). The main river's waterfalls are in the large clump of trees in the valley bottom.
- The main Dringarth waterfall, split into several parts, of which the tallest is about 3 metres. It's easiest approached using the eastern bank, and is situated entirely within private land.
- A little upstream is this small cascade. It's easiest approached using the western bank. The footbridge is the end of one of the public footpaths, and the field on the right on the other side of that fence is open access, so the top of this waterfall can be reached without needing permission, though the view will not be so good as from the downstream side. This cascade feels very obedient, with the flow neatly split across the width of the river, perfectly shaped, neatly dropping into the plunge pool. Almost looks artificial.
- The remains of Blaen-tringarth, with both waterfalls in the trees below. The name Tringarth is actually the correct name for the river, but since it mutates to Dringarth in the names Fan Dringarth, Cwm Dringarth and Afon Dringarth, the name Dringarth seems to have become the normal Anglicised version.
- Back by the farms, just underneath this 100 year old brick bridge carrying the access road, is this small cascade. Although it is treated as a natural waterfall in the book, it's actually artificial, created as part of the culvert.
- Just upstream of the bridge are the tributary waterfalls. These are actually situated within open access land, but would take some effort to reach that way. The nearest access point onto that land is the footbridge above the main river cascade, but then a large field needs to be skirted to get to this point.
- To the left is the tallest Dringarth waterfall, a 6 metre spout with a unique character.
- Up ahead are the V Falls, about 4 metres tall, and well worth the picture, despite only being small streams.
- Small white butterfly.
- The open access land above the access road is covered with a bluebell carpet so thick, it is almost choking the bracken. This incredibly lucky shot managed to catch a daytime Moon as well. Certainly not what I went out looking for, but the result is easily one of my favourites of the day.