WATERFALLS AND WILD WOODS
Another fabulous walk in the Brecon Beacons from our Walking Wednesday hero Kevin Walker from Mountain Activities. This week he takes us on a wonderfully watery wander through the valleys of the Nedd-fechan and Pyrddin, with an optional hard-core expedition to find the spectacular but largely inaccessible Sgwd Einion Gam.
Please note that Kevin offers this walk in his programme of activities, if you do want to experience the more hard-core adventure, you may want to go along with him. We know we’d rather have him to guide us!
DISTANCE – 5kms (3 miles)
HEIGHT GAIN – 60 metres (200 feet).
START POINT – Small Car Park in Pontneddfechan.
GRID REFERENCE – SN/901077.
MAPS – OS Explorer OL12. OS Landranger 160.
The main route is a straightforward stroll on mostly good if sometimes muddy paths. The optional extension to find Sgwd Einion Gam is real expedition, involving several river crossings, trackless back-woods, and an extremely precarious path!
Pontneddfechan is easily reached from the A465 Heads of the Valleys road. The small parking area is on the right, down the lane that leads to the right of the Angel Inn. There are public toilets and an information board here, and the Brecon Beacons Geopark Information Centre is close by. The area is very popular, particularly at weekends, when parking is at a premium!
1. Standing with your back to the main road and the parking area to your right, you will see a large green gate in front, with a smaller pedestrian gate to its left. Go through this gate and follow the track (an old tramroad) along the left bank of the Afon Nedd-fechan, with occasional reminders of past silica mining to the left, and picturesque cascades to the right. The path gets narrower after a secluded picnic area, and after a total distance of about 1½ kms, leads to the confluence of the Afon Nedd-fechan and the Afon Pyrddin, where there is a footbridge on the right. If you carry straight on, a well-trodden path leads to a viewing area where you can get a good if
distant view of Sgwd Gwladys. The best view, however, is to be had by crossing the footbridge and turning left onto a reasonable path that leads along the right bank of the river, veering left and descending to river level at the far end. In reasonably dry weather, it is possible to balance precariously on stepping stones and walk behind the waterfall, although people regularly fall in! To attempt this continuation in wet weather is asking for trouble!
2. Just before the path descends to river level, another path leads up the steep slopes slightly right, to reach a pleasant meadow at the top of the falls. As you emerge onto the meadow, a large rock to the right is the “Rocking Stone”, so named because it was once so finely balanced that it could be moved back and forth with just one finger. Sadly, it no longer rocks, having been knocked off balance in 1850 by a gang of over-enthusiastic navvies!
3. It is from this meadow that the more adventurous might like to start the
expedition to find the spectacular if somewhat inaccessible Sgwd Einion Gam, which lies a further 500 tortuous metres upstream. If you decide to continue, you do so at your own risk, for the journey is seldom easy, there is no real path (apart from a collapsing one across an almost vertical, unstable slope), and it is necessary to cross the river several times in order to avoid steep and crumbling cliffs. Please note that this journey should not be attempted during or shortly after wet weather, when it becomes positively dangerous. Whether you attempt this or not, you should eventually retrace your steps to the confluence.
3. Do not cross the footbridge used on the outward journey, but instead cross a second footbridge (to the left as you return), following a finger post pointing to Cwm Gored Silica Mines, shortly passing a mine entrance to your left. Follow the path downstream, eventually coming to a stile, beyond which you should continue along the broad path running parallel to the river. This soon leads to a large, ruined building – the remains mill that serviced the Cwm Gored Silica Mine, the workings of which lie up the valley to the left.. Continue downstream for some distance, past more mine remains, eventually reaching a finger post pointing to Pontneddfechan. Follow this to the left, and zigzag up the steep slopes.
4. Cross the stile at the top of the slopes and turn right, then follow the obvious path alongside the fence, over more stiles and down a rounded spur, to reach a sturdy wooden footbridge. Cross this and continue on a path between two buildings to reach a road, where you should turn right. Walk along the pavement to where the road bends left, then trend right onto a narrow lane that ends in a long flight of steps leading to a bridge, on the far side of which is the Angel Inn and the start.
This is one of the walks followed on Kevin Walker’s walking breaks. Full details of these and all his other courses can be found at www.mountainacts.co.uk