Just back from my latest adventure in “Bea” as we have now decided to call our van. Another trip to Wales this time to the Brecon Beacons which I’ve driven through but surprisingly never actually visited. Keen to enjoy the spirit of van adventures my brother-in-law Mark joined me.
We chose Grawen Caravan & Camping Park just outside Merthyr Tydfil as it seemed like a central location and ideally located for a planned trek up Pen y Fan. We arrived around 5pm and the site was already starting to get busy but were allocated a great spot alongside the small stream running through the site.
During my pre-trip research I discovered that the Brecons is renowned for its waterfalls almost as much as the towering heights of the Beacons. Pontneddfechan is the waterfalls center intersected by several rivers cascading through beautiful tree lined gorges as they wind their way down through the surrounding hills. I found quite a good map which shows the different trails and waterfalls by name.
Having checked the weather it looked like we were due for a misty start on Saturday so decided to visit the waterfalls and head back late afternoon for a possible hike up Pen Y Fan. We decided to take the Afon Mellte trail as this seemed to have the most waterfalls including the beautiful Sgwd Yr Eira though as we were to discover they are all stunning and different.
Following the advice of our campsite host (the lovely Freda) we began our walk from the visitors centre near Ystradfellte. The head of the trail is also the entrance to the Porth yr Ogof cave system which runs for about 1.5 km to emerge in the Afon Mellte.
For about the next mile we wandered through an enchanting woodland trail of twisted oaks and velvety moss covered boulders meandering alongside the Avon Mellte.
The first waterfall we came upon was Sgwd Clun-Gwyn which cascades down three levels over which you can walk, though be careful especially when the river is flowing as fast as it was when we visited no doubt by the torrential rain of the last week.
A short walk along a wooded path was our next waterfall, Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn, the Mellte a continuous curtain of rushing water.
One of the many photo of Mark posing…note the retro shorts…I’m sure the’re styled from the the table cloth we have at home !
We didn’t realise that the waterfalls have a secret…take a close look to the right of the photo below and you might notice a slight speck of yellow amidst the spray…
You can actually walk behind them though I’m not sure walk is quite the right word ! Amazingly about 20 canyoneers clambered their way along behind the waterfall to emerge at the other side whereupon they then made their way down the falls.
Next was Sgwd Y Pannwr which begins with the Afon Mellte tumbling rapid like over a channel before rushing over the falls to create a whirl pool below.
Finally we arrived at Sgwd yr Eira, this time the Afon Sychryd cascading over a 30ft drop in a spectacular curtain of rushing water and white spray, which in name is beautifully translated as “fall of snow”. A walkway allows you to walk behind the torrent of water but make no mistake unless prepared you’ll reach the looking like a drowned rat ! Obviously that didn’t stop me stopping midway to try capture the experience of being “inside” the waterfall (using my sons Olympus waterproof camera I’d brought along).
Notice the feint image of a shimmering rainbow to the right of the image.
The time was about 6pm and we’d pretty much spent the whole day at the falls having arrived just after 9am so decided to wrap up and head back. After about an hour looping back up the trail we arrived back at the visitors center fairly tired after the long day and looking forward to getting back to the campsite for some scram and a refreshing beer. Alas the wonderful Bea had other ideas…would she start would she hell. After three cranks and a fairly loud backfire she’d said her piece and no amount of coaxing or soothing words (or worse) were going to make her budge.
We spent the next hour peering into the engine bay in the increasing darkness vainly trying to diagnose the problem at one point joined by a lovey couple and their two young boys realizing we were in spot of bother. Getting nowhere fast and with darkness upon us there was nothing left to do but call in the experts. Que the next challenge, when in Wales don’t expect to get a mobile signal ! Luckily the village of Ystradfellte was only about a mile and half away and the map showed a public phone and a pub…great !
After a short moonlit walk we found ourselves outside the New Inn. The phone box had been vandalized but the landlady was more than happy for us to use the pubs phone whilst enjoying a consolation beer. If you’re in the area I’d recommend a visit to the New Inn, a good old fashioned pub and very welcoming. We ended up talking to some folks from the local caving club who even offered us the opportunity of staying at the clubs bunk house if we were really stuck. The club has its origins in the London borough of the same name, ironically not far from my home 200 odd miles away.
Having called in the cavalry we made our way back to await the arrival of a man who we hoped would coax be back to life…a naive hope ! He arrived at just gone midnight and then spent the hour and half trying to coax Bea back to life. The eventual prognosis was the mechanical fuel pump had given up the ghost and without a spare we were basically stuck. So with nothing more to be done we finally turned in at 3am to await the to truck next morning.
So yet again an eventful van adventure, seems like Wales is a bit of a jinx with our first adventure back in April suffering a blowout on the way out. That being said we had a fantastic day in Waterfall Country and I’d love to come back in the Autumn or maybe even during the Winter …but Pen y Fan will have to wait another day too !