Winter Waters 2010
Picking up another set of missed southern waterfalls. Sgwd Ddu, Llech Sychryd, Pwll-y-Gerwyn/Gadlys Falls, Pistyll Goleu, Cleddon Falls.
It had to happen; some thought
less individual decided to make a partially complete list of named Welsh waterfalls on Wikipedia. Their list highlighted a few waterfalls that I had missed. ARGH! The good part about it is that they have been through the OS maps, and located most of the named waterfalls mentioned there. Like me, they missed a few, but they also found the rest. This now means my list is as complete as I want it to be, and all that is left is for me to visit the remaining waterfalls. This gallery covers the five of them that are in South Wales.
Somehow, I had managed to miss this waterfall, one of very few located in the Black Mountain range. It is at the head of Cwm Haffes, where the Afon Haffes runs off the plateau. It has two potential access routes, one over the hillside above the Dan-yr-Ogof showcaves, and the other directly up the valley containing the Afon Haffes. The river route cannot be used when the river is in flood. In flood or icy conditions (or if you dislike fording rivers), start from the Dan-yr-Ogof car park, using the footpath that heads northwards. In normal conditions, you can start from the layby just beyond the Tawe Bridge from Glyntawe, on the side of the A4067. This walk takes in both routes.
- Inversion in the freezing conditions at Corn Du (873 metres) and Pen y Fan (886 metres).
- The last of the cloud pouring over Fan Hir (761 metres). Cwm Haffes lies at the left edge of the mountain.
- From the layby, head back over the Afon Tawe. Just before the bridge over the Haffes, turn right towards the Carreg Haffes farm.
- Carthorse in front of Cefn Cul (562 metres). The Tawe Valley was still devoid of snow, but it was so cold that even the mole hills were frozen solid, and those who had been forced to go out to work on New Year's Day looked at me like I was crazy for choosing to go out for a walk at first light. Probably right.
- Continue along the footpath past the farm to a ford over the river, surrounded by tall gorse bushes. In these icy conditions, it was quite hard to use the stepping stones, as each one was covered with a thin layer of iced splashes. On the other side of the river, take the path that ascends the bank, heading downstream. Pick up the tram road leading up from Dan-yr-Ogof, and follow it ahead-right.
- It climbs steeply past some quarries, twisting a little, but always trying to stay near the fence on the left. Just as it starts to descend into a small dip, take a path to the right. The entire climb has rewarding views of Cefn Cul and Fan Gyhirych (725 metres).
- A herd of wild Welsh mountain ponies, taking advantage of the uncovered grass.
- Welsh mountain pony foal.
- Welsh mountain pony portrait.
- After twisting a little, the path heads right then joins another. Turn left (right is a shortcut to the quarries, but harder to find). Ooh, did I see snow at last? More like ice on this path.
- Castell y Geifr (531 metres) and Carreg Goch (558 metres), finally up to the snow line.
- Finally, the path stops trying to climb, and starts to descend into the massive amphitheatre of the Black Mountain; Castell y Geifr, Carreg Goch, Disgwylfa (544 metres), the Bannau Sir Gaer ridge of Waun Lefrith (677 metres) and Picws Du (749 metres), Fan Brycheiniog (802 metres) and Fan Hir. The snow and amazing clarity makes depth perception very difficult in reality as well as in a picture - it looks perhaps 200 or 300 metres to the peaks on the right, and maybe as much as 100 metres vertically. In reality, they are as much as 320 metres higher than the camera, and between 3 and 5 km away.
- From here, there is no proper path. Turn right, skirting the northern side of the Twynwalter outcrop, passing the massive Waun Fignen Felen Sink (see my shadow for scale).
- Backlighting on the ice crystals.
- 30 cm of snow, ice-covered tips of the longer grass. Looks beautiful, but it's very slow to walk over.
- Top of the Afon Haffes. For a little way, a path leads down the right side of the river, leading to the top of the waterfall. However, if the river level and ice permit, and you want to head back down the river, you will probably want to ford it upstream of any cascades.
- Cascades at the top of Cwm Haffes.
- Ice on the cascade.
- The main 8.5 metre waterfall is Sgwd Ddu.
- Detail of the ice.
- Detail of the ice at the base. Presumably the black rock is what gives the waterfall its name (meaning "black waterfall").
- Stream below the waterfall.
- Just a little downstream are these cascades. They are a little tricky to get past due to the plunge pool, but a sheep track can be followed for most of the rest of the way, fording the river occasionally.
- Cwm Haffes.
- Icicles in an undercut.
- 2 metre icicle formed around a strand of grass.
- Small cascade, big pool.
- Lower waterfall, around 4 metres tall.
- The cascades then add up to around 12 metres, still with plenty of ice.
- The "gorge" part of Cwm Haffes. The sides are easily gentle enough to walk up.
- Really tricky parts of the path due to the ice. It may look nice, but you may want to avoid it if you do not know how to cope with ice.
- Near the end of Cwm Haffes, it is met by the Trawsnant stream, fences, and thick gorse. Ford the river, and continue down the other side, to arrive at the ford from the start of the walk.
- Side of Cwm Haffes.
This is another one I really should not have missed, as it is right beside the A465 (Heads of the Valleys Road) between Merthyr Tydfil and Hirwaun, a road I have driven countless times. It is situated on Nant Hir, just upstream of the Nant-hîr Reservoir, the obvious reservoir crossed by a bridge on the A465. Sadly it has no good access routes, with all possible access routes having at least one fence that needs to be hopped. There is no path. Anywhere. What this means, however, is that this waterfall (very reminiscent of Sgwd yr Eira but on a smaller scale), is wonderfully isolated.
Although the waterfall is on open access land on one bank, and forestry land on the other, it has no good access routes onto that land, and no convenient parking. You could try to park near the hotel at the crest of the A465 hill, hop the fences and walk around the open access land. You could also start from the banks of the Taff, or from Penderyn, using footpaths to get closer before crossing open access land. Or get to it from the far side of Mynydd-y-glog.
Alternatively, you can park in the laybys of the A465, between the Nant Melyn and Nant Hir streams, or park (as I did) on the access lane near the Nant-hîr Reservoir. In either case, the access route crosses forestry land, starting at the bridge over the reservoir. (The fields at the other end of the bridge may seem to provide an easier route, and there is even a stile under the road bridge leading along a path probably all the way down the side of the reservoir to a gate by the dam, but the fields are privately owned, and do not have any known access agreement.)
- View from the access lane of Hirwaun Common, with its 510 metre Mynydd Bwllfa summit and 515 metre Craig-y-Bwlch summit. Behind them is the 600 metre Craig y Llyn summit.
- Nant-hîr Reservoir, and the A465 bridge. Annoyingly, the steep sides of the reservoir are off-limits, but the access lane is a footpath, which leads up to the A465.
- View from the bridge of Craig-y-Bwlch. The cliffs are about 50 metres high, and the scarp drops steeply for another 50-100 metres.
- From the upper side of the bridge, drop down to an overgrown path just below the bridge on the right bank of the reservoir, heading upstream. When possible, drop down further to another path below it. Follow it upstream, hopping fences when needed (there are a few places without barbed wire, but you may have to step out over a drop to the reservoir - take great care). Continue upstream, remaining some distance above the stream, but below the coniferous forestry.
- The Llech Sychryd waterfall appears as a very impressive sight, in a grand amphitheatre of crags. Though only about 8 metres high, it has a very big undercut, with plenty of space to walk behind it on a grassy ledge.
- The name means the "slab of the dry ford". In dry weather, the waterfall can become just a dribble on the right side. An upper sheep track offers a way onto the slab where the river can be forded. However, it's easier to just walk behind the waterfall.
- Blobs of ice at the base of the waterfall.
- Cut-throat razors.
- Ice sundew.
- Above the slab, a small inlet is shown on the map as having a waterfall...
- Yeah, right. There is another one in the next stream that is better, but I did not realise at the time, so failed to investigate (it will be picked up in another gallery). Time to head back.
- Under the bridge.
The Wikipedia list mentioned a waterfall called Gadlys Falls, with no further details. The name does not appear to be official, and exists only on Wikipedia and its multiple clones. Presumably, whoever put it there lives near somewhere called Gadlys, and knows a waterfall there, so decided to give it a name. There are very few places in Wales with that name, and only one of them seemed to have a waterfall nearby. It is not mentioned on the map. However, the local library archives gave it a formal name; Pwll-y-Gerwyn (the tub pool). My conclusion is that these two names refer to the same waterfall, and that Pwll-y-Gerwyn is the official name.
The waterfall is located on the Dare river, right beside the Gadlys estate in Aberdare. Take the road running between Aberdare Park and Gadlys (Glan Road), from the B4275, to the St. John Baptist School. Park outside the school.
- Continue along Glan Road as it turns into a lane, and swings right.
- Gadlys Falls? As you can see, it's just a pathetic little step on a relatively big river, just underneath what remains of the road. Wow. 1 metre of wow. With a plunge pool for children to swim in. With the duck droppings.
- But if you put the camera in just the right place, you can hide the road and make the waterfall look big enough to deserve its official name; Pwll-y-Gerwyn. Perhaps that should be Pwll y Baw Hwyaid. There ya go, a third name thrown in, for free. Can't say fairer than that.
- If you want something a little more interesting, continue along the road until you can pick up a dismantled railway through a gate on the left. Follow it upstream along the valley through the Dare Valley Country Park.
- Some way further on, it reaches a weir and water chute, as the river is guided between reservoirs. Beyond here, paths can be followed into Cwmdare, where Berw Ddu (covered in another gallery) fails to produce an impressive display as it dribbles beside the dramatic cliffs.
This waterfall is situated in the Cwm Clydach between Miskin in the Cynon valley, and Tylorstown in the Rhondda Fach valley, just upstream of Ynysybwl. It is easiest accessed using whatever route you prefer. It is located between the Llanwonno road and Clydach Reservoir in the St Gwynno Forest. The name Pistyll-goleu, according to the map, refers to the nearby homestead, not the waterfall. However, the waterfall has had access improvements that make it one of the attractions of the forest, so the name Pistyll Goleu has been extended to cover the waterfall as well.
- Hillside above Ynysybwl.
- View over St Gwynno Forest.
- There are a great many routes through the forest, and you could make up one to take in whatever sights you want. My route was simply the quickest one to reach the waterfall, though not necessarily the easiest. I started at the forestry parking area near Llanwynno, and took the fire track (an intentional clearing used to prevent forest fires from spreading) on the opposite side of the road, heading diagonally to the right.
- It's not a proper path, but it was easy enough to follow, though if you want to keep your walking boots clean, follow the tracks instead. After crossing a couple of streams and passing through a row of trees, it reaches the side of the Sychnant.
- Sychnant. The name suggests it can sometimes run dry.
- When the Sychnant reaches a track, a small path leads down on the opposite side, descending to Pistyll Goleu. It's only about 7 metres tall, perhaps as much as 8, but the wide veil is quite pretty for such a small stream.
- Icicles on the side of the waterfall.
- Returning through Cwm Clydach.
Despite its length, depth, steep sides and numerous inlets, the lower Wye is almost devoid of waterfalls (possibly due to its abundance of limestone). It appears to have only this single named waterfall on the entire Welsh side of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is located above the small village of Llandogo, at the even smaller village of Cleddon (pronounced as an English word, not a Welsh word - the original Welsh name of the waterfall is Rhaeadr Caledan, which has a similar pronunciation to the English name Cleddon, and means "forceful waterfall"). There are a few places to park in the village, such as by the post boxes, or at the village shops by the A466. Failing that, try the back road heading up beside the shops. There are a variety of routes up to Cleddon - you could even drive there and park 20 metres from the waterfall, if you are that
boring . Our route was suggested by the locals.
- The end of the Wye Valley at Chepstow, seen over the Chepstow Racecourse. This is situated on top of what is widely considered to be Britain's best decorated cave; Otter Hole. It is also known for its generous amounts of glutinous mud, and the tidal sump affected by water levels in the Wye.
- A part of the Wye Valley known as Passage Grove, at Tintern. As with most of the River Wye below Monmouth, the left (western) bank is in Wales, and the right bank is in England, with the middle of the river forming the border. The border even follows the many big meanders, including the one that loops from right to left to right of this picture.
- The impressive ruined Tintern Abbey, nearly 900 years old.
- Bridge at Tintern.
- A fairly typical view of the Wye Valley, seen here from Coed Beddick (you may want to read that again, especially if you know "co-ed", the American term for mixed education, typically applied to students, and used frequently in adult video productions). Not as impressive as the other areas of outstanding natural beauty (virtually a national park), but it is worth protecting, and if that's what it takes...
- To follow our route, head to the southern end of the village, along the A466. Just after passing a phone box, take some steps leading up to the right. These reach a back lane; continue along more steps to the left. Cross another lane, and continue up the steps, which eventually swing a little to the left, and join another lane. Turn right, and follow the lane for a short distance.
- View upstream from the lane. On the left is Cuckoo Wood in Wales, while the right bank continues as ancient woodlands and farms, joining the Royal Forest of Dean - England gets most of the good parts.
- Take the first signposted path leading up on the left, and continue the rest of the climb through the woodlands.
- The path gets muddier and swings right, then left, then right again, to join another path. Follow it to the right, to reach a dirt track at Cleddon. Turn right at the junctions of the track, and you will soon encounter the stream. One of the track junctions is with the Wye Valley Walk, which can be used to extend the route, or get some better views of the meandering Wye Valley.
- Frosted rock.
- Turn right just after the stream, onto the path that runs down its side.
- The path soon passes over Cleddon Falls. The total height of the two main waterfalls is about 10 metres.
- Upper waterfall at Cleddon Falls, about 5.5 metres high.
- Accompanying ice.
- Lower part of Cleddon Falls, about 4.5 metres high.
- The entire waterfall can be seen from the path. Getting into the photography positions was far too hard, descending the steep slope, and crossing this. It's worse than it looks, since the ground is not solid - it is sodden mud that slips as soon as you stand on it. Don't copy me, please.
- Below, the stream charges off down Cleddon Shoots, a steeply sloping stream bed, with trees marooned on their tiny islands.
- Note that the 1:25'000 scale OS map points to the wrong place for the waterfalls - it shows them as being on a tiny side stream fed by this spring beside the path.
- Follow the path past the waterfalls, and stay with it as it heads into Cuckoo Wood.
- The only sunlight in the entire forest.
- The path begins its repeated zig-zags, as it tries to lose height.
- Moss and leaves.
- Eventually, the path reaches a ford over Cleddon Shoots. Soon afterwards, it joins a lane. Take the path to the left, join another lane, and repeat this to end up on a lane with a post box. Follow it down past the post box, to cross the stream for the last time, and end up back at the shops in Cleddon.