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Where is the Best / Nearest Waterfall to Tan yr Eglwys cottages?

We are fortunate to be located above the Swansea and Neath valley, so within easy travelling distance by car to the many waterfalls in this area. The terrain of these deep sided valleys was created by glaciers in a bygone age. The streams and rivers and ample rainfall have created crevices with high falls of waters and the area harbours many spectacular sights. Whilst many Summer guests ask about the waterfalls, please consider that much rainfall is required to provide the gushing streams and rivers, sometimes the water flow is weak, but neverthless lovely lush green areas to enjoy. The other seasons can all be equally impressive, the spectacular Autumn foliage gives way to stunning frozen falls, but whilst the foliage dies back to reveal wider pathways, these can be slippery! At all times in the year, only wear appropriate footwear please.

Whilst social media has been invaluable at showing our wonderful waterfalls to a far wider audience, it has generated a vast interest in the area and as access to most of these waterfalls is along country roads, then issues are arising regarding access and also parking. Do be considerate of this when planning your visit and consult the following https://carpark.beacons-npa.gov.uk 

Frequently our guests ask of the whereabouts of the nearest waterfall, but many considerations are to be taken into account before decisions are made! What is the make up of the guest party, are there young children or teenagers in the family, are there any disabilities or impaired mobility issues? Do we have seasoned walkers asking the question, what is the weather forecast and what day of the week is a visit being planned? By reading and researching each waterfall walk, guests come to appreciate our questioning and inability to provide an easy, quick solution. Hopefully a quick read of the following will reveal the attributes and issues relating to each waterfall.

Aberdulais TinPlate Works and Falls

This is one of our nearest waterfalls, but sometimes the reference to Aberdulais Falls can be quite miss leading, nevertheless a great place to visit for many guests. This is a National Trust site and it is a great waterfall experience for young families or anyone with an interest in the industrial heritage of the area.

From behind the safety of railings, young children can safely experience the noise and spray of the falling water. Additionally, there are the remains of the ruined tinworks lovingly restored to show the once rich industrial history that was developed here as a result of the force of the falling water. The waterflow is impressive, but the site is truly interesting as an introduction to the industry that once existed on this site and indeed in the whole valley.

There are additional opportunities to see the largest electric generating waterwheel in Europe, small exhibitions detailing the site’s history, sometimes children ‘s workshops are arranged and the lives of the worker’s are illustrated. The falls have attracted industry for centuries, , from flour mill, a quarry to tinplate works. As far back as the late 1700’s the artist William Turner visited, sketched the falls and industry, later producing large paintings depicting the scene.

In addition to favourable comments from families with young children, guests using a wheelchair have returned from here with praise for the lift that enables them to reach all levels of the site. Personally I can observe the lift appear up out of the ground, almost tardis like for hours – do try it? (If this is of appeal to anyone using a wheelchair, I would suggest you should always phone to establish that it is available during your planned visit.)

Melin Court Waterfall

This is on the opposite side of the Neath valley to Aberdulais. There is a roadside carpark and the falls are accessed in just a few minutes of walking, although it is up a steep bank. The bank at the side of the pathway, falls sharply away in some area, not particularly dangerous, but it is not an area to allow children to wander on unaccompanied. It is however a great place to quickly see a waterfall without a long walk and in just a short time. Generally this is not a visitor hotspot, so easy to park and quick to achieve a waterfall photo!

Henrhyd Falls

This is located over towards the Upper Swansea valley, the access reached from a National Trust car park at Coelbren. The location is slightly out with the recognised Neath valley and is just bordering on the South Western perimeter of the Brecon Beacons National Park. It is the tallest waterfall in South Wales having an impressive 90 ‘ drop (27m).

Be aware that the spectacular waterfall is due to the change in level of the land and the popular path access has very steep steps and can be challenging and slippery in damp or frosty weather! However it is worth the effort to reach it, as there is a pathway behind the falls, providing ample photo opportunities behind the curtain of water! Some may recognise the area from the final scene of The Dark Knight Rises – this is the entrance to the Batcave!

Sgwd Gwladus

This is a very popular walk, but it has become increasingly difficult to park here! we have observed the chaos at all times on a sunny day, so we suggest a Plan B and a quick exit if you arrive and the area is congested please.

That said, this is an attractive and simple walk to follow which explains partly the popularity, but it has the added bonus of several places to eat and have a drink in the village.

The path begins at the ornate gates behind the Angel pub in Pontneddfechan and follows a fairly level path along what was once an old dram road. The now tranquil wooded setting disguises the scars of an area that played a large part in the industrial Revolution. There are remains of silica mines, a material which was instrumental in creating furnace bricks. (To discover more of this industrial past, there is a Gunpowder Trail starting from the far end of Pontneddfechan, parking at the again often congested village hall near to Dinas Rock. The access to these 2 small car parks is narrow and if you have secured a considerate parking place somewhere, I think it better to walk between either end of the village.)

However back at Sgwd Gwladus, once it is reached a path then backtracks to the small bridge and a more robust walk then can be taken along the Nedd fechan upstream. Appropriate footwear and a a degree of agility is required to negotiate a narrower and steeper route passing a further 3 waterfalls. This is known as the Elidir Trail which encompasses Sgwd Gwladus, Sgwd y Bedol, Sgwd Dwli Isaf and Uchaf before eventually reaching the Pont Melin Fach car park.

The 4 Falls Trail

Whilst the aforementioned Elidir Trail can pass 4 waterfalls, this is a different trail again encompassing 4 waterfalls and hence the trail title. This is a circular route which will take at least 4 hours to complete. It passes through woodland, has steep steps and also rough terrain underfoot.

The trail is best accessed from the Gwaun Hepste pay & display car park. There are other entry points eg Cwm Porth car park, but the roads are extremely narrow, often too busy and the car parking is very limited in numbers, therefore can become extremely congested and unbelievably gridlocked due to there being no space to manoeuvre there!

From Gwaun Hepste follow the woodland tracks before hearing the nearing roar of the Clun-Gwyn Falls. Onward goes the trail to Sgwd Isaf Clun Gwyn and then on to Sgwd y Pannwr and finally Sgwd yr Eira, before then circling back up to near Sgwd Clun Gwyn and finally back to Gwaun Hepste.

Dinas Rock

This is a very popular landmark at the far end of the village of Pontneddfechan, with a car park, but confined access roads. From there is access to 3 walks giving an insight into the beauty of this once industrial area.

Sychryd Cascades and Bwa Maen

In the shadow of the towering geological fold of Bwa Maen is a 20 minute walk or stroll along a flat easily accessible path. This goes through a wooded gorge to reach the Sychryd cascades. It is a low key falls in comparison to the others, but easy to reach and suitable for buggies and wheelchairs.

Sgwd yr Eira Trail (from Dinas Rock)

This in contrast is a lofty walk, contouring above the deep wooded Mellte and Hepste gorges ending at the impressive Sgwd yr Eira. The walk starts by going up the elevated path to the left of the main rock face. The rock can be very slippery, through the stone having been polished b years of wear and also by the wet conditions too. The support handrail is there to assist and the eventual reward is the ability to stand behind the curtain of falling water.

The Gunpowder Trail

There is ongoing work unearthing the curious remains of the Glyn-neath Gunpowder Works. To begin this walk, return on foot to the Village Hall, passing it on the footpath to the right hand side, parallel to the Mellte river. This was originally the dramroad track weaving it’s way beneath the craggy rock face of the Mellte gorge. The remains continue to be unearthed and brought back to life, certainly an ongoing project.

Penllegare Woods

If a smaller, tamer waterfall would suffice, with easy access and parking, then combine with a woodland walk at Penllegare Woods. This was once the garden of a Victorian mansion, after the house was demolished, the gardens became overgrown and largely forgotten. In recent years, volunteers have rediscovered and reclaimed the beautifully planned Victorian footprint. The gardens are now comprising of mature woodland, with native and exotic plants now well developed and cared for. There is a lake and the Llan river also flows through the valley plus an ever popular tea room. Of added interest, in terms of engineering is the addition of an Archimedes Screw which was installed near the waterfall in order to generate electricity.

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