Sgwd Gwladys

Well the sun was shining and the spirit was willing. Even Aunty was up early. We packed up the rucksacks and charged along the road to see some water falls after all the rain. And we saw a  lot of them! I’ll not include them all here on this post, but keep a few for later. All along the Neath Valley in South Wales the limestone has been worn away over thousands of years to create series after series of water falls. The small village of Pontneddfechan was once the centre of a thriving silica mine. The village is at the confluence of town river,  Afon Mellte and Nedd Fechan. Its the Nedd Fechan that gives the village it’s name, the bridge over the little Neath. The first mine was opened in 1822, but when the lease ran out the mines were closes 21 years later. However the stone sleepers for the tram way are still visible in places.

Stone sleepers from the old silica mine tramway
Stone sleepers from the old silica mine tramway

The woodlands along the path are magical. The walls of the valley are pierced with the the old mine workings still visible through the trees here and there.

Old mine entrance
Old mine entrance

Many of the old woods in Wales have been dubbed temperate rain forests because we get so much rain here in the west of the UK as it comes rolling in from the Atlantic. This has resulted in woodlands that are remarkably rich in mosses and lichens. The diversity is now being recognised and a great deal of work is being done to identify the wildlife here.  Now when we go for a walk Aunty does get a little impatient with me as I try and identify the variety of green bits around me. I do try and not take too many photos or linger too long in places, but I couldn’t resist today! And to be fair, Aunty was relatively relaxed today.

Moss covered tree trunk
Moss covered tree trunk

My ability to identify different types of mosses is about the same level of competence as my ability to read War and Peace in the original Russian. That is – zero. But I think they still look fantastic.

Elidir Trail

Afon Pyrddin leading up to Sgwd Gwladys
Afon Pyrddin leading up to Sgwd Gwladys

After about 1.5 miles walking through the empty woodlands we came across Sgwyd Gwladys. After all the rain the water was thundering over the lip of the limestone shelf into the river below which carried on rushing down the valley.

Sgwd Gwladys
Sgwd Gwladys

It’s possible to climb onto the top of the water fall, and we had a great lunch up there. Legend has it that Gwladys, a daughter of Brychan, 5th century King of Byrcheiniog, fell in love with Einion, who has a waterfall further upstream named after him – Sgwd Enion Gam. However, they were never able to be together, but their love was so strong that after their deaths their spirits still flow together, merging in the pool below Sgwd Gwladys.

After lunch, Aunty posed at the top looking down. It puts the height of the water fall into perspective.
After lunch, Aunty posed at the top looking down. It puts the height of the water fall into perspective.

Coming back down the Afon Pyrddin we took a left turn and followed up the Afon Nedd (of Pontneddfechan fame) towards a series  of three water falls culminating in the Sgwd Ddwli. The rains have turned this into a spectacular sight. It’s a much broader waterfall, and at it’s greatest extend was even wider. The original waterfall shelf extends another 50m to the left of the current river flow.

Sgwd Ddwli
Sgwd Ddwli

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After all this water it was then back to another watering hole. This time it was a brick building call The Angle, and after w welcome pint of bitter it was homeward bound.

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