Monday, 21 April 2014

Waterfall Country

I find it often takes three goes to do something properly, or three days. (Or four if you stop for chocolate.) Going on an excursion involves:
1) Thinking about it and even setting off to try and get there while en route to somewhere-else but realising you don't know the way.
2) Looking it up on the map and setting off, but you are not quite sure how interesting it will be/how long the journey will take, so you don't get the full experience on that occasion.
3) OK, now we know enough about it to go and allow the proper time to do the whole number. We know what clothes we will need, how long to expect to be away from the kitty-cats and, most important, what provisions to take and what refreshments are likely to be available on the spot. We are motivated to check out all the information available from various websites, and we know enough from our personal experience to tell what the information means and which bits of it are useful.

Luckily my friend had done Stage 1 of the trip to Waterfall Country, having tried to set off and go there on an exciting birthday excursion. I had long wanted to see this local attraction so when she mentioned her disappointment at not managing to get there, I googled it and found a confusing looking map. (The relevant page in our Road Atlas has of course long dropped out and got lost among the crisp packets in the car.) We packed up a picnic and our piglets and set off.

We took the A470 to Merthyr Tydfil and turned off onto the A465, eventually leaving the road for the small side road on which the Waterfall Information Centre is situated. (There is a large brown Tourist Information sign at the turn-off.) The journey is about 45 minutes, and this route goes along the wide dual carriageways which are such an enjoyable feature of driving through the Valleys (outside of rush hour, I mean). Views are spectacular, especially as you get up to the Heads of the Valleys. On the way back, we followed the signs to Cardiff (or Caerdydd in Welsh). This is a shorter and quicker route, although the roads are smaller and prone to frequent roundabouts so the driving is more tiring and the views are mostly of supermarkets in the villages along the way. 

A few years ago I saw a sign for Canalog 
Loegre - which means the middle of England 
in Welsh, ie the Midlands. Clearly someone 
with a sense of humour in the traffic signage 
department had come up with this gem. 
Nowadays you can quite often seen this 
place name improperly translated 
on the Valleys roads.
Incidentally, Waterfall Country is split into various factions (of course), so trying to find out about it properly means looking at several websites. Wikipedia is good background stuff, and I think there are basically two other areas: the Fforest Fawr Geopark and the Aberdulais Tin Works and Waterfall. There is a Waterfall Information Centre (postcode SA11 5NR) in Pontneddfechen, which is pronounced and sometimes spelt Pontneathvaughan.

Getting to the Waterfall Information Centre involves looping back on yourself alongside the A465. Come off the A road where signposted (onto the B4242). Take a right turn at the traffic lights in front of the boarded up pub and keep going straight for a while. The Centre is right there on your right and there are two or three pubs on your left. There aren't any waterfalls, that's the start of paths to several of the larger waterfalls. However after parking (with a little difficulty, it was quite busy), we popped in and bought some educational material for the piglets (which they of course ignored). The man in the centre advised us of an excellent short trip to make, where we could park and have our picnic.

We carried on down the road for a short distance. There is a point where the road curves up to the left, but if you take the junction to go straight on, you pass some houses and a pretty chapel, then come to a small lane, go over a narrow stone bridge (I think it was very untrusting of my friend to suck in her breath as I swung the car cheerily across it) and there is a car park immediately on your left with three or four picnic tables. You can hear the water rushing along and birds singing, it's very jolly.

The car park

From here there is a well gravelled path which takes you on a 10 minute walk, accessible for pushchairs and wheelchairs, to an attractive small waterfall. There was lots to see along the route, as the Spring flowers are coming out. None of us were too tired out, and there was no need for specialist footwear. (Unless you are a) rock-climbing or b) gorge-walking in which case you of course require a) special climbing shoes and stuff, b) wetsuits and a properly trained guide). If you take younger children, you will have to keep a sharp eye on them as there is ample opportunity for them to scamper off the path, scrambling down to the little river, and fall in it on their heads.

I would really love to go to the bigger waterfall which you can walk behind (like the dwarves in Hobbit 1 just before they get caught up in the Stone Giants' battle). However now I know that to go there will be quite a tromp and involve wearing proper boots, or perhaps wellies? And there will have to be a substantial meal involved at some point, so I will plan accordingly (and make sure I pack our pocket handkerchiefs).

The path starts off, running past a small blackthorn tree in flower.
 Thick moss growing up alongside the path.

 One tree has something like an ear.

Violets, growing by mossy tree-trunks.

 Lords and ladies.

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