We began our day at the Ystradfellte
Youth Hostel where we had experienced the
wonderful hospitality of Dilys and Selwyn.
The night before,
we had had a terrific respite from restaurant cooking
prepared by our offspring in the well-equipped
in the hostel. UPDATE:
(2005) Sadly, this youth
hostel is no longer in operation.
We accessed the trail from a car park along the
road between Ystradfellte and Pontneddfechan. We left our car by
the telephone booth near the small shop and petrol station and then
walked to the car park where the trail started. The shop is an information
center for this section of Brecon Beacons National Park.
During the first half of the hike we were alone.
After lunch, from Pontneddfechan to Sgwd Gwladus, there were lots
of other walkers, including a whole busload of school children.
The final third of the hike we were alone again.
Sgwd Clun Gwyn - This waterfall is on
the Afon Mellte and falls from an abrupt ledge about 10 feet onto
another ledge. It then falls another 20 feet to a large pool below.
There is a jet of mist which shoots out from the falls where it
hits the second ledge; we called it a "negative ion stream"
and found that it correlated pretty well with our grins. We crossed
the river on a footbridge about 200 feet upstream from the falls
and returned on the east bank to view the falls from above. The
trail along the river downstream from Sgwd Clun Gwyn was closed
due to extensive erosion and some severe safety issues. So we missed
seeing the smaller falls below, Sgwd Isaf Clungwyn and Sgwd y Pannwr.
But we followed the trail to the top of the canyon and through a
beautiful hemlock and larch forest to the gorge of the Afon Hepste
which joins the Mellte below the three waterfalls.
Sgwd-yr-Eira A near vertical trail
with steps of boulders, ledges, and logs took us nearly 200 feet
down into the Hepste River at the base of the famous Sgwd-yr-Eira,
the "waterfall of snow." The trail follows a wide ledge
behind the waterfall. It is wide enough to have been used in the
past to drive sheep from one side of the rive to the other. We think
that this is the ultimate negative ions experience… standing behind
the falls as the water pounds endlessly on the rocks next to your
feet. This is clearly a place to find "flow," or as the
younger set says it, to get into the "zone". A great place
for poets, lovers, and anyone who enjoys nature at its best.
The climb up out of the canyon on the south side
of the river was equally demanding. Turning right at the top of
the climb, we followed the trail (soggy is spots, but some nice
views) to Pontneddfechan where the Mellte joins the Neath River.
After lunch and a pint at the Angel Inn, we followed the trail up
the Neath river gorge to Lady Falls.
Sgwd Gwladus This famous waterfall,
"Lady Falls," is in a tributary stream of the Neath River.
It falls about 40 feet from a huge overhanging ledge. You can cross
the river below the large pool or you can scramble along the ledges
behind the waterfall to get to the other side of the stream. There
is also a footbridge crossing the stream where it joins the Neath.
Neath River Continuing upstream
along the bank of the Neath River, we encountered four good-sized
(unnamed?) waterfalls and numerous small rapids. The trail was very
soggy in spots but eventually let to a small park and paved road.
The path shown on the map leaves
the road shortly and follows badly marked and very poorly maintained
farm lanes back to the car. It was a pretty walk but wet and with
lots of downed trees and branches blocking the path.