Walking and photography weekend with HF Holidays in the Brecon Beacons - Part 2
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Brecon Beacons and Waterfalls
Can you imagine a more wonderful experience than walking behind a waterfall? Well probably you can, but it's better than Tesco's. Our afternoon's walk was to take us to the renowned but entirely unpronounceable Sgwd yr Eira waterfall. Where, to reiterate, we could walk behind the waterfall.
First we had to help ourselves from a picnic table laden to overflowing. From boiled eggs to chocolate caramel bars to little bags for dried apricots and nuts, this was the the real McCoy. Pick and mix. Add to this a sandwich designed to our own specifications. Such planning.
A word about the Brecon Beacons. We explored the middle section within an easy drive of Brecon. We inhabit a tiny, over-crowded island and it is next to miraculous that an area so unspoilt and lovely exists. The mountains are somewhat greener than Snowdonia or the Lake District, not as rugged but comprise the highest mountain range in southern Britain.
Ruth Morgan was to be our guide on our afternoon's walk to one of the most wonderful of the Brecon Beacon Waterfalls. Ruth was marvellous. She rolled her tongue round her consonants in a way that just screamed native Welsh speaker, although the area was overwhelmingly English speaking from what I could hear. Intelligent and authoritative, our volunteer leader inspired confidence.
Usually the walkers from HF Holidays are ferried out to their walks in mini buses allowing for walks that are linear as well as circular. For our small party, Laura, Jane and Alan chauffeured us in their cars. Laura's was the most stylish as befits senior management. Jane's lacked air conditioning and the open sunroof ruffled my hair! But she made up for it with her knowledge of the travel industry and her charm. Anyway, the drive to our departure point was idyllic, the Beacons green, lush and, amazingly for such a popular National Park (over 4 million visitors a year), it was quiet.
I've no idea where we stopped to park but it had houses and in less than one hundred yards I was telling everyone to look at the orchids I had discovered. Everyone took photos, I guess on manual setting, F-something or other. Ruth told us they were spotted orchids. But I'd spotted them first.
The Brecon Beacons National Park was established in 1957. I'm hit by some fervour to preach. Too many people I've spoken to have never been there. For goodness sake, Pen y Fan is the highest point in the South. The park is ravishingly beautiful with a range of scenery to send Capability Brown back to the drawing board.
The walk to Sgwd yr Eira was delightful with foxgloves, mountains and even a Red Kite to distract one from the exertion. Ruth shared her knowledge on route. How Millstone Grit and carboniferous limestone act in such a way as to create underground rivers and caverns, for instance. I wish my A Level Geography teacher had been as interesting.
Not the easiest descent but we were at the waterfall. You could see people behind the cascade. Soon we joined them and Ruth was taking our photos. In the dark against a backdrop of blinding light and crystal water we definitely needed flash. Water poured down but we were protected by an overhang in the recessed cave. I never thought I would write this but … it was an experience I shall never forget.
Picnicking by the Afon Hepste river at the foot of the falls should have been a pleasure were it not for the mosquitoes. Wearing dark trousers I sat in the shade only to be propelled into the sunshine by one of the blighters biting me twice on my knee and leg. It died but left its marks.
We climbed up a long, steep flight of steps to a forest walk before decending to the spectacular Sgwd Clun-gwyn waterfall. Everyone took photos from our vantage point high above. I stretched for the best view only gradually becoming aware of how precarious was my position, inches from a sheer drop to the waters below. Photography suddenly was not that important to me.
Now I'm going to admit to being a complete klutz. My lovely Rembrandts in my camera were suddenly no more. One third of the images were gone. Yes, my unbranded, huge capacity, cheap as chips, sd card direct from Hong Kong had corrupted my data. So it is thanks to Alan that I have his images of the waterfall and subsequent cave. The SD card suffered the same fate as the mossi.
We walked by the river, scrambling over the exposed roots of trees. I had time to talk a bit more to Ruth. She was a mine of information and by asking her questions I hoped I would slow her down. We got onto the subject of walking technology. She advocated a brand of lightweight waterproofing that makes Gore-Tex as redundant as a Nissen hut, footwear technology made to measure in Richmond, walking sticks that emulate the human walking cycle and, best of all, a system of piping that allowed her to drink cool water at will.
Eventually we reached the Blue Pool where the river waters re-emerge from their underground passage. Climbing up to Porth yr Ogof car park we descended to the huge cave where the waters disappear underground, the sound of which resound through the dark caverns. Magnificent.
Then there was only sufficient time for a quick shower back at Nythfa. And no massage!
Dinner was rather special as Frank Marr, the representative from Brecon Beacons National Park and co-organiser of the weekend, treated us to a sumptuous meal at the Felin Fach Griffin, a gastropub extraordinaire, where the service was fabulous and the company memorable.
• Read Walking and photography weekend with HF Holidays in the Brecon Beacons - Part 1
• Read Walking and photography weekend with HF Holidays in the Brecon Beacons - Part 3
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