Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Waterfalls and Reservoirs

Friday morning; driving down to Talybont, in the Brecon Beacons, the vivid autumnal colours prompted me to want to do a woodland walk, instead of the usual traverse of the high moors. I met my mate Jon at the Star Inn, and he had the perfect circuit for me.
After a restless night listening to the rain patting my tent, I crawled out to a promising day.  A full breakfast eventually secured in Brecon (the only cafe we could find that opened before 9am in this part of the world!) , we drove out to a car park near Cwm Porth (Grid Ref: SN928124), where the walk would begin.
 
Ten minutes down the side of the River Mellte, I realised my school boy error; my camera battery was flat! For the day I had to rely on my Samsung Galaxy S2; the quality of which actually surprised me!
The first half hour of the walk was a succession of negotiations around and over gnarly tree roots, occasionally taking a risk on the slippery stones to avoid the deeper mud foot “spas”, but it was easy progress, if a little slow.
It was once we passed a footbridge that takes you to the Sgwd Clun-gwyn waterfall, that the way got trickier. We didn’t cross, that would be the route we would return; instead, we ascended on a narrow path that clung precariously to the valleys steep wall, eventually contouring with the river. We made our way, very carefully, to a vantage point of Sgwd Clun-gwym, from its south-east side.

The path from here hardly got better. Clogged with fallen leaves, wet from the downpour last night, it was tricky, but precipitous drops reminded me to take things slowly.  Next waterfall was Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn, and impressive it was. The rain may have made the path a little hairy, but it was more than worth it to witness the excessive amount of water tumbling down the river.

More contouring, stepping over fallen branches, steadying oneself with the odd hand clinging to a tree, and a couple of aquaplane moments thrown in; thankfully at stages where the river didn’t beckon far below.
 
Eventually reaching a wider path, we came to a turn off; a rough stairway down to the River Heptse. Once at the rivers edge, we faced the mighty  Sgwd yr Elra waterfall. I looked quizzically and disbelievingly at Jon when he declared our route across the river was “behind” the falls. We donned our waterproofs and stepped forward into the spray, Jon purposefully, me; a little hesitant. I couldn’t see any way that this wasn’t going to end badly; surely, the large body of water falling was too great to allow us a rite of passage.
 
Jon kept reassuring me, and true to his word, as we reached the side of the falls, the water is thrown clear, thanks to an overhang, and a wide path traverses behind the curtain. It posed no problems whatsoever, albeit a little spray making us tread carefully, but certainly not the deluge I expected!

On to the south side of the Heptse, we left the riverbank, climbing up to a bridleway that afforded wonderful views of the valley in its autumn outfit. We stopped for lunch on a bench with a perfect vista, although fellow blogger Alan Sloman may have something to say about the windfarm!

Carrying on across Craig y Ddinas, and down to the outskirts of the village of Pontneddfechan. Pretty much half done, the route back looked, on paper, to be a straightforward traipse through farmland.
It turned out to be a signpost spotting challenge across the Glyn Neath Golf Club, and an indecisive traverse of a very boggy piece of open access called Comin y Rhos. On two occasions, I was up to my knees, and one of those had me on my arse! Waterproofs, gaiters, and boots compromised! All good fun, though, in the sunshine; a more inclement day and our spirits might not have been so high!
 
Hitting the safety of a road for about 400 metres, we veered off, descending back down to the River Mellte, and the north side of the Sgwd Clun-gwyn waterfall. The river had quietened in the few hours since we were standing on the opposite bank, and Jon managed to shuffle out onto the ledge, which was previously covered.

From here, it was a short walk to the footbridge, and a small matter of retracing our steps to the car. With five minutes to go, a shower blew over, and we got the worst soaking of the day whilst changing out of our waterproofs and sodden boots in the car park! Typical!
Statistics for the route? I didn’t bother with the GPS given the amount of time we would be spending in woodland, but a quick trace of the route on Memory-Map puts this walk at about 8 miles.
 
Sunday, and a hard frost greeted us the next morning, but the sun was out in a cloudless sky and the stillness pretty much decided today’s itinerary for us; a leisurely drive round some of the local reservoirs to get some decent photographs.
 
First up; Talybont Reservoir.

Then came Pentwyn Reservoir..

..and on the other side of the road, Pontsticil Reservoir.

To the north, across Pentwyn, the Beacons were shrouded in low cloud.
Sure sign that the weather was changing and by the time we reached Cantref Reservoir on the busy A470, our luck had faltered and the sky had darkened and a breeze picked up, so no reflection.

No matter, we’d had a pretty good morning, and a relaxing end to another great weekend in the Brecon Beacons!