Southern Waterfalls 2009
Collecting some overlooked waterfalls in South Wales: Afon Twrch, Glynhir Waterfall, Dyffryn Crawnon (Darren Ddu/Pyrgad Falls, Pistyll Crawnon), Berw Ddu. Because northern waterfalls are too far away to go there every time.
- Starting at Ystradowen (near Ystradgynlais). A small lane heads east, to cross the Afon Twrch. Park on the right, just after it crosses the Afon Twrch. Take the footpath on the other side of the lane, heading upstream.
- Weir. Hey, it's a longish walk, needs some entertainment.
- A side stream has some drops referred to as 'falls' on some maps. Just after this, the path crosses the Twrch on a footbridge.
- Instead of crossing the river, take a stile on the right, and follow the path up to the top of the woods. From there, trudge over a few fields, following the poorly defined concessionary footpath shown on the map (which has now become a full right of way).
- This reaches the remains of the Pen-y-wern farm.
- Decaying farming equipment.
- Don't forget to thank the farmer for access. Follow the path from the back of the farm, and trudge over many more fields for about a mile, picking up a dirt track part way.
- The track leads to the remains of the next farm; Dorwen.
- Pick up the track behind and to the right of this farm, and continue until you reach a gateway just before a stream crosses the path. The weather was miserable for my visit, with low cloud, constant drizzle and soaking grass. I really need some better boots - my feet were soaked before I made it to the second farm.
- A little upstream is this 2.5 metre cascade.
- Downstream is the main 7 metre waterfall, normally seen in the distance from the far side of the Twrch. Descend the bank with care a little downstream, or use the far bank to descend to the edge of the Afon Twrch, then head back up the tributary to the waterfall. I could have edited this picture beyond recognition to pick up the colours, brighten the picture, and make it look so much more inviting. But you know what? No. This picture was taken on a miserably grey day, with the rain blowing in my face, and an umbrella covering the camera until the last moment to take the picture. It didn't deserve to be edited into a fictional fantasy. It is honest, soaking, and perfect as it is. The only thing I edited was to remove a couple of drips which had landed on the lens. Enjoy it as it is; Wales on one of its many wet days.
This waterfall lies on private land belonging to the Glynhir Mansion, near Ammanford, and you will need to ask for permission at the mansion to visit the waterfall. The owners, Carol and Katie Jenkins, are perhaps the most accomodating landowners you will meet, and rarely, if ever, refuse access. They will show you the way to the waterfalls, and if you are lucky, you may even get a tour of their magnificent buildings, which serve as a guest house and holiday cottages for as many as 60 guests. Mansion indeed.
- Take the road heading north through Trefil, near Tredegar. Park near a stone monument. Be warned that this area has an exceptionally bad reputation for car crime, so don't leave anything at all in the car - not even a first aid kit.
- A track to the right heads towards Cwm Pyrgad. When it swings hard left, continue towards the deeply incised Cwm Pyrgad valley. If you're lucky, you get a view over to Waun Rydd (769 metres), at the end of the Brecon Beacons range.
- The top waterfall of Pyrgad Falls, where the stream falls over a crag known as Darren Ddu. It's only a few metres high, and although it looks like there is a space behind it, it's only big enough for one leg.
- The main 5 metre waterfall of Darren Ddu/Pyrgad Falls. It's quite hard to see from the top, and descending into the valley is tricky. Take care.
- Lower waterfalls.
- The Pyrgad gorge.
- Colours of a small cascade.
- Inlet at the edge of the forest.
- From there, I headed up through the trees to the track - this was a mistake, as the trees are tightly packed and very unpleasant to walk through. It's easier to go back up to the track normally, then descend to the next waterfall along the track.
- A small stream crosses the track, with its own waterfall, sourced from the outflow from Ogof Pyrgad. Return back up the track to the road.
- Waun Rydd.
- View over the Dyffryn Crawnon nature reserve towards Tor y Foel (551 metres). Follow the road to the edge of the trees, then when the road swings left, take the old tram road running along the top of the forest, heading along the top of Cwm Pyrgad. This passes the edge of the Cwar Blaen-dyffryn and Cwar yr Hendre quarries.
- The tram road reaches a footbridge over a stream (top of the Afon Crawnon), where a waterfall can be clearly heard below. It is just under 10 metres tall, and is informally known as Pistyll Crawnon (it does not appear to have a formal name). To get down to it, you will need to pick a point on the cliff, hop over the fence, and descend the cliff really carefully, and make your way along the slope to the waterfall - I started about 30 metres before the stream, but you're on your own here, so only choose a point that is safe enough for you.
- The ledge behind the waterfall had enough solid parts for me to walk up it to stand behind the fall. However, the ledge deteriorated half way, with the moss threatening to slip into the plunge pool. The far side (by the Ogof Blaen Crawnon resurgence) did not have much space behind the dribbles, so only the left side was really usable for an approach. Take care in any case, since this one is certainly not a very good ledge to walk on.
- Below the fall, the river continues tumbling noisily down the lower 100 metres of scarp. As well as the grey water produced by the quarry runoff, the whole area suffers very badly from dumped parts of stolen cars and other dumped litter. Among the illegal offroaders and their tracks, other decorations in the area include charred remains of stolen property and trees, a few pairs of knickers and the odd condom. Pretty much what you'd expect near Tredegar, the place where bus stands are used for target practice. But I digress.
- Back on the track, and a little further on, the other stream from Blaen-dyffryn Crawnon splashes down a small cascade, only a few metres tall. Sorry about the water on the lens.
- The tramroad running along the cliff. This is now a bridleway, but note that significant parts have suffered from collapses like this, making the path very narrow. Not all have been fenced properly since they collapsed.
- The path crosses the Nant Ddu gorge, where a stream can be heard above and below, but flows under the surface as it passes the path. I have not been able to work out which caves this is associated with.
- View into the now distant Cwm Pyrgad.
- Mist blowing through the trees on the path.
- The next stream is a branch of Nant Ddu, and has some small cascades.
- Upper bench of the cascades. The three cascades add up to 10 metres of height. Beyond here, the path descends to the Tor y Foel ridge, without any significant waterfalls.
- At the end of the Bwllfa road through Cwmdare (near Aberdare), there is a small parking area and this monument to the old mine there (which was, if I remember right, 192 metres deep). This is not the parking area shown on the map for the Dare Valley Country Park, but is instead to the left when the road splits at a row of houses a little past the country park's access point.
- Autumn trees.
- Sunset light on the ridge. This was not the best time to visit, but this was the first time it had stopped raining here for the last few days.
- Weird light on a tree - it's a natural shot but looks superimposed.
- Looking towards the end of Cwmdare (directly into the sunset - argh). The waterfall is on the right, and becomes visible after you get a few hundred metres out of the car park along the track that runs along the valley.
- This is the "waterfall" of Berw Ddu (black boiling). Perhaps I am blind, but I can't see it. All I see is a 5 metre cliff. Wow. I was told it needs a few days of rain for it to appear - apparently the last few days of rain disagreed. So this one is put down to "not a real waterfall, and not worthy of a name on the map".
- Instead, just admire the Tarren y Bwllfa crags, which are vertical for between 30 and 50 metres. Much more worthy of attention, but best viewed in morning light.