Sugar and Water

Glyn-neath Travel Blog

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        A half eaten croissant on a blue swirly plate sat beside my cup of 'wake me up' Darjeeling tea. I powered the Mac up and started writing away; quite awake for a Sunday morning. The mobile rang, "Matt, hows things?" I said quite cheery considering I have to go back to work the next day.
        "I'm bored." said Matt immediately, "Watcha doin'?"
        "Just a bit of writing, why what's up?"
        "I'm bored."
        "Well do something dangerous, let your intellectual hair down for the day and do something really silly and get yourself into a bit of a sticky situation."
        And that we did.
Perfectly Ripe Raspberries
Certainly that wasn't really the conversation we had, but two hours later Matthew had turned up in the orange thing ready to take a trip to Glyn Neath, a small village tucked away at the top of the Neath Valley in Wales. It holds at it's crown a couple of jewels, waterfalls along the iron saturated flowing rivers. The waterfalls aren't exactly in Glynneath, but we've always referred to it that way. It's nearer a small hamlet Pontneddfechan holding a few houses, a pub and a near untouched quaint church just a mile and a half from the waterfalls car park.

        My car was now fixed, after many oily fingered weeks I'd managed to put it back together and it even passed the MOT. "There's no point in taking two cars is there?" Matt asked.
Forest surfing. Thanks to Matt for the photo.

        "No, I don't mind taking mine, I really need to take it for a run and make sure nothing is going to fall off." and with that Matthew bravely entered my car. The sun was out and the roof was off, well, may be the sun was out I don't remember but we needed all that fresh air to let the smell of the burning new grease and oils which would remain with us for a little while.

        We arrived at the same car park I'd used on the many times I'd been to the waterfalls before. We're quite privileged with some of the mountain ranges, even now only thirty minutes away from my house are mountain ridges you can walk along, looking down into misty pastel green valleys lined with pine trees and endless black tarmac that cuts through and over the black mountains becoming dark, quiet and twisted.
The entrance to Narnia

        The small car park was nearly full but we found a space and just about scrapped the four pound charge in change for the machine. I raised the soft top while half eating my sandwich and moaning that, "I really want to eat my second sandwich as well" while Matt set up his camera on the top of the car to take an undescribable photo of us two unprepared idiots.

        Almost immediately the pine trees lined the entry path to the forestry. Only a few minutes in did we find a thorny bush on the side of the white gravel pathway lush with perfectly ripe raspberries. You couldn't even buy them this fresh or as bittersweet. We eat a few samples before moving on, saying hello to the few other walkers who passed by.
The dense forest

        The pathway opened up into a long slightly muddy trail that sat balanced on the top of the ridge. We were possibly going too far. We'd already passed a turning and so decided to head back a little; only after trying the local forest surfboard (see silly photo).

        "Lets go this way!" said Matt excitedly, wanting to walk the sloping track, cut heavily by some gigantic forest truck that left its tyre prints in the earth like some prehistoric dino. After much moaning, from me, we took Matthews short cut that lead into an opening containing just the shards of tree remains. "Lets go into the forest then." Matt replied to my, "We're NOT going through that lot" complaint, and soon we were sloshing through soft peat-like trails towards the soft-focused dark fern light-filtering entrance to Narnia.
A stool but no toad
Well, thats what it looked like to me and I swear I saw Harry Potter making his way out of it.

        Thankfully Matt had chosen the right way to go and we joined up to the wooden shelved steps that lead down to the waterfalls that I remember. The effort was soon rewarded, thirty minutes or more of walking lead us to the sign that the local council had left telling us that it was too dangerous today to visit the falls, but we went anyway squeezing past the sign and heading down the ever steepening steps. The rushing white noise of water soon became loud and the bottom of the steps fell into an opening with few people already there looking at the panoramic view of the fall.

        Matt had the idea to walk in behind the water fall and when I noticed other people doing the same, I agreed, despite the danger after all the rain we'd had and the thundering amount of water coming from the top of the river.
The path gets steep but Matt is ready to hit the falls
The spray in your face as you approach the falls in amazing as was the stripes of brown in the water flow where rusty iron ore is dredged up by the water. Because of the climate in Wales, we have climate rather than weather, the summer air was thick and humid. Behind the water fall is an etched path in the stone and quickly walking through presents no problem, though the sign on the other side does state, "Don't Linger".

        We finally dragged our cameras away from the idyllic tourist spot and headed up the other steep side of the ridge. We decided to hunt out the other waterfall that I remember so well. Forty or so minutes later we had travelled quite a way down the other side of the ridge and became concerned. We'd travelled along the top of the ridge, the view of the river blocked by the high forest trees that dipped into the steep river side cliffs.
One of the main waterfalls
We followed the first pathway we could find that lead back down to the river and found a foot bridge that crossed the still fast flowing river, Matt raised his arms with success, I ran onto the bridge with relief; our excitement was to be short lived and the day would soon turn sour.

        Unsure exactly where we were we decided to just follow the edge of the river along the obvious foot trail back in the direction we'd come, after all, we were now back on the same side of the river weren't we? Walking on we passed some old buildings, which according to the signs and the automated wind-up tourist talky box, was an old gun powder factory. We pressed on, time was also moving against us. We reached two openings that had signs of previous life.
Just about to go under the waterfall
A small dead fire with rotisserie made from branches on which a single cup hung. Further on another opening but less signs of the living other than the slightly narrowing trail and a single pile of stones reminiscent of the Blair Witch Project.

        Things were now becoming confusing and unreal. We'd reached a split in the river. It took a few minutes before Matthew worked out that the river we were now aside was the wrong one and we had no way of getting to the other side. Low on water and only a little chocolate left it was becoming harder to think straight. It sounds so mellow dramatic and in the scheme of the outdoors it probably was, but after walking for over five hours some confusing and dangerous decisions were easily made.
We find a bridge across the water, things are about to change though..
We walked on, now trees that had some time ago fallen across the path presented more obstacles to climb over. The pathway became even more narrow. Small trickling streams crossed our now angled pathway with black lethal slime on the rock underfoot. "Hang on, lets stop" I said, "lets make a decision, we don't know where this is going" now feeling exhausted and knowing that in an hour I wouldn't find it hard to make decisions, I would make dangerous ones. "do we go on, I mean we don't know where this goes, the path is looking bad." The path in front lead into more tree blocked winding mud tracks along the shear drop along the riveen.
        "I think we should go back." Matt said, serious concerned.
        "Do we go on for say two minutes and then turn back?"
        "No, I think we should go back, we've had some scary bits already.
The river flows into an opening, some lads are strangely pulling a log from the water with a rope
We said we'd go on for five minutes before."
        "You're right, we know we can get back that way."
        We came to a joint decision, adding together what sense we had left and made our way back slowly at first, sliding and having some close calls, this was now a situation.There was four hours of sunlight left and I didn't to be spending the night here. Despite the late light nights, the clouds had long returned and the light had faded to a dull near dusk spread. Finally we got back to the flatter grounds and our walk moved to a sprint, stopping only once at the first clearing and then jogging onwards until we reached the gun powder factory.

        We didn't dare head back entirely the way we'd come.
Part of the old gun powder factory
This would have meant heading back another hours walk into the forest and cutting underneath the waterfall again; we'd had enough danger for the day. We headed to the edge of the ridge along the top of the valley and downwards towards the village. Unfortunately the village grasped the sign towards Pontneddfechan showing four and a half miles to the car. "Matt, look, a pub, shall we go in there?"
        "Yeah, lets get a drink, we're out of water, it's going to take two hours to walk to the car." he said pointing out that it was already nearly six o'clock.
        "We might be able to get a taxi as well." I suggested.

        We entered the typical valley pub.
A delicate waterfall on the riveen face
A family of friends huddled in the corner, sat talking aloud and greeting us as we came in, "Alright lads." We quickly guzzled a pint of Lemonade each, "Have you a number for a taxi around here?" I asked trying not to sound too much like the spoilt city boy.
        "Oh no, not on a Sunday luv, they'll 'av all finished by now."
        I just looked at Matt with surprised, it was like being transported back twenty years, of course in reality we're just spoilt.
        Grabbing another bottle of water each from the bar before we left and being wished good luck by the locals, we headed up the steep road that lead back into the countryside away from the village.
Wanna come trekking?
I had an idea though, "Matt, this is silly" I said with some enthusiasm, "I run this sort of distance all the time, doesn't take me that long at home, I'll run ahead, grab the car, come back and get you!"
        "Go for it."
        "You staying here or walking on?"
        "I'll walk on yeah!"
        "See you in a bit" and with that I adjusted my bag and got into a light jog. I was soon back into a walk, I'd forgotten we'd been walking for hours already. Back into a jog, a walk, a jog, I couldn't keep it up, my knees were shot, Matthew hidden behind the few bends in the road behind. I tried again and then a car pulled up.
A short video clip of one of the water falls in Glyn-Neath, about an hour and a half before we almost got lost and ended up 6 or 7 miles from the car.
"Any idea where this road goes mate." said one of the two guys dressed like house builders. Out of breath I tried to reply.
        "Uh..." breath, breath, breath "uh, no mate, uh, uh, I'm not from round here, um, I know the car park for the waterfalls is up this way."
        "No problem, thanks mate." and they drove off. No lift then.
        The day light had reached that sticky point that only appears on a Sunday where it hits a certain dullness and never seems to get darker or lighter for what seems for eternity. I crossed a few cattle grids, passed a woman who stood in the doorway of a small shop in the middle of nowhere. She just slowly moved her head looking as I walked by on the other side of the road.
        IPod, I thought, I always run better to music, and I have my IPod! Soon I was sprinting at a good pace, my bag on my back, my knees in shooting pain but the run felt good. The rain started a short hard shower but I didn't care. Despite reaching Pontneddfechan I'd seen a sign that pointed to the car park and read one and half miles, so Matt was right, it really nearly was not far off seven miles. Soon enough I was in the car an hour after leaving Matt, changed and driving the car bare foot down the country lane and flashing my lights and beeping the horn as I reached Matt who was standing on the side of the road. He'd walked three miles.
        Only minutes later were we back on the dual carriageway, then the motorway and then back at my house in record time drinking a very refreshing cup of tea.
        So this leads to my advice. If you ever want to see the picturesque waterfalls at Glynneath, take plenty of water. Take plenty of food. Take a map, a torch, but above all, DON'T TAKE US!
CosmicTen says:
It was pretty stupid really. Wish I'd taken my hoofs with me now.
Posted on: Aug 15, 2008
mattango says:
Oh the blog arrives and I missed it... what can I say, I jogged the three miles on/off but my ankle was killing me! What an experience... especially the mountain goat sections.. we could have been killed! Remember climbing over that land slide section with the fallen trees... what the hell were we thinking!
Posted on: Aug 15, 2008
jenn79 says:
Poor things! I wish I hadn't been so mean when Matt called now =( It sounds like it was a really tough trek, and I think he was nearly delirious when he called. On the bright side, it does look really beautiful though!
Posted on: Aug 08, 2008
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Perfectly Ripe Raspberries
Perfectly Ripe Raspberries
Forest surfing. Thanks to Matt for…
Forest surfing. Thanks to Matt fo…
The entrance to Narnia
The entrance to Narnia
The dense forest
The dense forest
A stool but no toad
A stool but no toad
The path gets steep but Matt is re…
The path gets steep but Matt is r…
One of the main waterfalls
One of the main waterfalls
Just about to go under the waterfa…
Just about to go under the waterf…
We find a bridge across the water,…
We find a bridge across the water…
The river flows into an opening, s…
The river flows into an opening, …
Part of the old gun powder factory
Part of the old gun powder factory
A delicate waterfall on the riveen…
A delicate waterfall on the rivee…
Wanna come trekking?
Wanna come trekking?
A short video clip of one of the …
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photo by: CosmicTen