ADP Photography | The Elidir Trail, part 4: Sgwd Gwladys to the end!

The Elidir Trail, part 4: Sgwd Gwladys to the end!

January 13, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Where did we get to...ah yes:

Another twist in the river gorge and down and steep bank crowded by old trees.  There we saw the tributary Afon Pyrddin merging into the River Neath.  Sure enough, this was where we would find a path leading west(ish) up towards Sgwd Gwladys, The Lady Falls.  As feared, Afon Pyrddin was low, very low! 

Nevertheless, all looked beautiful as it bubbled and ran around boulders and rocks and it was still sheltered by this never ending canopy of trees.  The sun was also more courageous now, staying out longer between clouds.  People too, and dogs, were more plentiful.  It was getting on for 1pm, they were all coming up the ‘easy’ southern section of the trail from Pontneddfechan.

We crossed over the Afon by a small bridge and followed the path towards the falls.  It shouldn’t be far.  It wasn’t.  There is an interesting viewpoint constructed to view the Lady Falls.  Interesting because of its peculiar property of not actually having a clear view of the waterfall!  Very odd!  Oh well...

Oh my, this tributary of the Neath was low.  The Lady Falls comes over a natural amphitheatre carved out of the rock, the overhang dropping into a bowl shaped plunge pool.  There are photos with the river leading away completely awash with the motion blur of fast running water.  Not today! 

As you see from my image below, pebbles, lots of them making beach in the middle of the stream.  The fall itself was just a quarter of its average size.   The natural bowl shape allowed for more sky and light to penetrate the fall and sunlight intermittently caught the white water playing havoc with exposures. 

I framed up, again down low to maximise the foreground, after all, might as well make use of the details as the fall itself wasn’t so grand.  It still looked beautiful though, the thin cascade resembles a maiden’s hair more than the normal wider flow would.  There are local legends about this place, and how it earned its name. 

F/16 – 13sec – 24mm – ISO 100

This entry I found on World of Waterfalls.

The fall is named after Gwladus one of the 25 daughters of the 5th century prince Brychan. She fell in love with Einon whom her father would not allow her to marry and her sad spirit is said to flow in this elegant 20ft fall.

25 daughters???  Legendary already!

By the way, the website where I found that history, like many others, speaks of a waterfall centre at Pontneddfechan.  I looked for it before I started my hike, (to use the loos).  After my hike I learnt that it doesn’t exist anymore, (summer 2017), only the outdoor loos can be found at the bottom of the trail, which I haddn’t seen as we drove past.  Forget those outside loos, go to The Angel pub!  Great coffee...and probably better toilets!

The river was perhaps just 2 inches deep as it flowed away over rounded pebbles from the plunge pool.  Was the middle of the water flow the best place to get a reflection shot of the waterfall falling into the pool? It was!  Time to find out if the marketing around waterproof shoes was true! 

I stepped hesitantly three feet out mid-stream, planted my tripod having already gauged exposure on the dry pebbles.  The sun was playing games now!  In, then out, then in again!  Chasing exposure times as the shade of the clouds diffused the sun, only for bright sunlight to burn out the white water.  I was faffing around as water, cold water, lapped around my waterproof shoes.  Although no water came in, I could feel the cold around my toes.

F/16 – 5sec – 31mm – ISO 400

A couple set up a picnic on a large riverside boulder, no doubt enjoying the added spectacle of some idiot hopping around midstream.  Another composition; “Morning!”, I offered to the picnickers.  A sandwich was lifted by way of acknowledgment mid-mouthful.  That natural amphitheatre surrounded by ancient forest is a truly a beautiful picnic spot, regardless of how high the river level is.

But onwards.  We had to leave again.  30 minutes or so to our planned meeting time.  It was only an estimate as we had no idea how long the whole trail would really take, but I don’t like to keep people waiting, especially when they are prone to a bit of worry, and they have reason to worry as I am known for being a little reckless when a photo presents itself, (re: that idea I had about charging headlong down a steep bank to get a photograph at the first main fall).

We followed Afon Pyrddin back and rejoined the main river.  True to advertising this part of the trail was easy.  Flat!  Almost devoid of anything to step over or round.  A couple of ruined buildings, once constructed of now blackened brick, huddled in the trees, a small farm holding, complete with sheep, and a very dank, dark black tunnel that lead underground, covered with a locked grate.  Was this the fabled entrance to the faerie kingdom?

Down on this flatter, lower part, there were a few small cascades, ones that would have been beautiful to photograph but they were heavily obstructed by tree branches and there were no obvious means of approach.  Despite the improved nature of the path, the river at times still cut deep down into rock that meant any scaling down the bank was dangerous, if not almost impossible.  There was no more time.  Sadly.

Lots more people, and lots more dogs.  We were definitely closer to the end of the trail.  So wide and flat that my wife even had room to dodge out of the way, thanks to her fear of cuddly canines, without the threat of winding up down a bank and in the Neath!  That wasn’t the case back up on high ledges where once she had to choose between fur and fall.  She had huddled behind me as I chaperoned the dog around my legs.  Just a lab being nosey, then off chasing its owner.

One couple walked by, a couple of small dogs scampering around on their leashes, husband and wife...not speaking!  She looked very angry!  I found out later that the husband had almost flattened one of the dogs while parking his expensive motor!

We emerged to find my folks waiting by the wall by the bridge over the Neath at Pontneddfechan, across the road from the pub almost exactly three hours after they dropped us off at the top.  Perfect!  Tired, aching, but fully satisfied with the mornings exercise and photographic results.  Well, not quite satisfied.  Somethings to attend to.

Let’s go to the pub for a coffee, well, more importantly, I first had to make some room before any more liquid went in!

Refreshed, in bladder and in caffeine, we sat a few moments chatting about the experience.  My wife and I agreeing that it was surprisingly easy, even on the ‘moderately easy’ northern part.

An amazing trail to walk along.  I strongly recommend it.  But please, work to preserve it and look after it.  No rubbish and please don’t etch your name in a tree.  I am pretty sure humans would not like it if trees etched their name in us!

My only regrets of the Elidir Trail are that I may never see it again and that I should have told my folks to meet us after four, or even five, hours later.  If I could do it again I would definitely spend more time to make sure I have captured everything and really encapsulated the beauty of the area.

The Elidir Trail, entrance to the Faerie Kingdom?  Very probably!

Next serialisation of my summer exploits will be the hike to Janet’s Foss and Gordale Scar, in cold wind and driving rain (in August!)  A couple of Muppet Moments from that one too!


Please post any comments, questions and suggestions and links to your photos to share.

Best wishes

The Frustrated Photog.


No comments posted.