Waterfalls 2008

Blaenrhondda, Blaen-y-Glyn, Blaencwm, Sgwd Einion Gam and Afon Hepste. 5 walks, 4 days. And may I say "ouch". Then add Upper Sychryd and Clydach Gorge as well a few days later.

After getting to know all of the normal waterfall walks around the Brecon Beacons National Park, it became apparent that one - Blaen-y-Glyn (or Blaen-y-glyn or Blaen y glyn, depending on the map) - had not been completed, as we had stopped at the first major waterfall, not realising there were many more above it. In addition, a desire to visit the mountains at the head of the Rhondda valley had caused me to notice that the map pointed to a waterfall walk - a good excuse to visit the area.


We tried once, following the weather forecast that gave us mostly overcast at 900 metres. It was foggy down to 300 metres, with just 20 metres visibility. Not enough. So we tried again, and got fog down to 500 metres, with hard blowing drizzle below that, threatening to cover the camera with water. At least it would keep the waterfalls topped up. It would have to do.

Blaenrhondda is the head of the Rhondda valley, the best known of the South Wales coal mining valleys, boasting four complete pit heads, and countless other artifacts. From end to end, the valley is a continuous town of mining terraces, nominally separated into different town names. Only at Blaenrhondda do the towns end.

It turns out we missed the waterfalls around Pen Pych in Blaencwm, but the weather had deteriorated too much by now, and with the cloudbase dropped to 350 metres, nothing would be visible. They could have a dedicated trip another day. Instead, we aimed for the national park, and a full mountain range to the east, where the weather was significantly better ... er ... where the cloudbase was still above the waterfalls.


Almost unheard of by most visitors to the national park, this contains the best set of waterfalls outside of the popular Waterfall Country area. The Nant Bwrefwr part is followed by the Beacons Way, though that misses most of the bigger waterfalls, choosing instead to follow the pretty little ones. We had photographed these for the wallpapers gallery, but stopped at the first main waterfall in the Caerfanell/Blaen-y-Glyn valley - the one ignored by the Beacons Way. Today we would complete the set.

The easiest way to see all of the waterfalls is to start at the car park at the start of the path up Craig y Fan Ddu. Head beside the Nant Bwrefwr stream, up to the top of the fenced section, to see the first three sets of waterfalls. Then turn around and from the car park, head down the left side of the Nant Bwrefwr stream to see many more sets of waterfalls to reach the main path at the bottom. There is another waterfall on the other side of the path. Turn left, then take a branch to the right to the base of the main waterfall. Cross the bridge, and turn right. Head downstream past a few waterfalls, until the one that has a man-made weir at its top. Turn around and head back up past the main waterfall, keeping the river on your left. Follow the path all the way to the top waterfall. Return the way you came.

The path gets very muddy in places, so if you're a wuss, park at the bottom car park, just before the road crosses the river. Then walk up the left bank of the river (most of the waterfalls are badly obscured). Take a quick detour to view the main waterfall just after Nant Bwrefwr joins from the left. Then rejoin the path and head upstream on the left bank, until the path swings left, and a poor quality path continues ahead, beside a style to the right. Stop here, and try to see the waterfall ahead. Even young children can make it this far.


Two days later, the drizzle had stopped, and the weather forecast correctly predicted a cloudbase of 600 metres, enough to see my way around Blaencwm. Since I was planning on visiting some areas without proper paths, I was not accompanied by the proper-path-users, and had to go alone. Probably took some risks I should not have done, but the pictures were well worth it. I will give suggestions on what parts may be safely reached in the comments accompanying the pictures. You follow these suggestions at your own risk.

Sgwd Einion Gam

The next day ...

This waterfall is normally ignored when doing the Elidir Trail, which concentrates on the Nedd Fechan waterfalls, and only Sgwd Gwladus on the river Pyrddin. But plenty of people sing the praises of the graceful Sgwd Einion Gam, while simultaneously telling you that you'd have to be nuts to visit it. Why? Well, because you have to cross the river, without a bridge. One in particular made it sound so dire that it would be enough to put anyone off visiting it, suggesting you have to wade in the river to reach it.

It does not deserve this reputation. They're wrong. I managed the entire walk in elevated winter water levels, and the water never made it more than a few inches up my walking boots. Sure, you do have to cross the river, and if you're a wuss (or you're wearing trainers), then it's not for you. But if you have even the most basic river crossing ability (you know, standing on stones in a shallow section) then you should easily be able to make it. Suggestion followed at your own risk. Of course.

Afon Hepste

The Hepste is well known for Sgwd yr Eira, the most popular waterfall in South Wales. However, like most of its visitors, I had failed to look any further than that one waterfall. Given how easy most of them are to reach, this is a shame, because it has many other excellent waterfalls. Since it's in the same area as Sgwd Einion Gam, I went from one to the other within the same day, and managed to complete both walks within 4 hours of walking/photographing time (ignoring the short drive in between).

Upper Sychryd

A little recovery time later...

The Sychryd is usually ignored by everybody, basically because the way into the gorge is a side path on the Four Waterfalls walk. The lower gorge, cascade and waterfall are all quite pretty, though not as majestic as the main walk's waterfalls. Above the gorge was an unknown quantity. The map shows no paths, but two waterfalls, the upper of which even has a name; Pwll y Crochan (the cauldron pool), which would normally imply that it's worth a visit. On one side and high above is a main road. On the other is open access land, but without any path to reach it from the top. It turns out there is a stepped path, probably from a layby on the main road. I approached from the open access side, via several fields.

Clydach Gorge

I lived above here for well over 10 years, and only ever managed to visit the caving part of the gorge. Today I would complete the gorge, looking for the other waterfalls that were shown on the map. The map does not show it, but there is a path to them from Danycoed, on the left bank of the river (the map shows it heading up to the quarry, naming the forest as Coed Ffyddlwn - that's news to me - but there is also a path that goes directly up to the waterfalls).