I think most people are a victim of aimless internet browsing, some more so than others. Seeing those photo-shopped images of far away places and beautiful scenery filling up your news feed. Just what you need when you’re sat at an office desk all day. (Not that I do this during work time of course ;-)) It can often result in a fierce envy to be somewhere else. And almost immediately a plan is being hatched in the depths of your brain. This naturally leads to more internet browsing but this time you have a purpose!! The brain goes into overdrive planning this new adventure and creating an organised list of things to do and carefully selecting the items you may need to take with you on this adventure. You quickly flit from one site to the other and before you know it you’ve booked a last minute trip to Cat Island, Japan Ok so this hasn’t happened yet but the excitement of planning a trip is sometimes just as fun as actually going!! Or for me it is at least.
This impulse holiday/trip planning is slowly becoming a regular habit of mine and this was no different when I decided to visit the Brecon Beacons. Quite often impulses are shopping related like a lot of other people. I mean how great would it be if I owned that useless item that I have to wait 4 weeks for, via China post! It’s a similar impulse to this where I just have to do it now! This time I was lured by majestic waterfalls and the highest peak in South Wales, Pen Y Fan. After recently heading up to North Wales to climb Snowdon, again a last minute impulse adventure, (Check out my character building journey to Snowdon ) I just had to go back to Wales. The downside to this was that Snowdonia was a 6 hour drive from my home in Hove. The Brecon Beacons in South Wales were only 4! This was a no brainier. I’d leave work and be there for 9.30pm taking into account that part of the journey requires navigating around the worlds first circular car park. AKA The M25. Sold!! I also received an email the day before, offering me £25 off with Air B’n’B. If that wasn’t a sign then I don’t know what was…
There’s a well known saying, ‘Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone’ which recently I’ve decided to adopt a bit more. Never in a million years did I think I would ever climb a mountain, OK so Snowdon is no Everest, but I did climb it, and loved it. With this quote in mind I decided to book a home-stay, something that scares me slightly. Tales of being smothered in the night by hairy, sweaty strangers, or being held captive for 20 years with no escape! No thanks. Mostly all a load of nonsense of course. So this meant that I would have my own bedroom in someone else’s home and stay with them for the weekend. The home-stay was in a lovely quiet little hamlet called Lower Chapel just north of Brecon and the host was welcoming, warm and friendly. It was only a 25 minute drive to the Pont ar Daf car park where I planned to start my ascent up Pen Y Fan early the next morning.
I planned to get the Pont ar Daf car park for 8.30am. As I left Lower Chapel at 7.45am I was feeling quite smug as was sure I’d beat the crowds. Nope. Turns out people like climbing big hills very early in the morning as the car park was completely full and overflowing to the grass verges out the front. Every passing driver scanning the grass verge like a hawk eyeing up it’s next meal. There was still a couple of spots on the grass so I quickly nabbed one! I had printed off an easy to follow circular route map from the National Trust website with the starting point being at the southern end of the car park. Taking the path leading up to Pen Y Fan then across to Corn Du, down and back round to the car park. As I was now parked a couple of hundred meters from the car park I noticed a sign directly opposite my car which said Pen Y Fan. Good enough for me! I realised that this was the path leading up to Corn Du so I would be following my map just in reverse. It is worth noting that that the path is very clearly marked out and you don’t necessarily need a map which was just as well because mine fell out of my pocket about 10 minutes in! The Maps online often have have a nice little bit of interesting information about the area though which is nice! I now know nothing 😉
Even at 8.30am it was already 20 degrees outside and not a cloud in the sky. It turns out summer does exist in the UK this year! I had grotty weather up Snowdon and scorching heat up Pen Y Fan. Somewhere in between would be good next time please? Thank you weather gods! The track got very busy very quickly and most of the people appeared to be partaking in some kind of boot camp challenge! All kitted out in camouflage with great big rucksacks, running up the mountain!! It made me feel sick just looking at them. Rather them than me I thought as I slowly snail paced my way towards the top!
Someone had clearly had a good time up there as an empty bottle of Jacobs Creek had been placed on top of the cairn! Nice little addition I thought, probably best to stay away from the edge though after a bottle or 2! Now here’s something I did learn without my map… The cairn on the summit of Pen Y Fan was originally a Bronze Age burial chamber and when it was excavated in 1991 a bronze brooch and spearhead were found inside the chamber! Creepy!
The walk back down was great – the views were amazing and the cute little lambs bounced about on the surrounding hillside like white springy clouds. Every now again I’d pass a small stream of water trickling through a narrow channel down the hillside and into the the main river below. I topped my water bottle up in the trickling spring water as I was running very low – It was so clear, cold and refreshing!! I was worried it might have sheep poop in it or something but it was best the best water I’d ever tasted!
After lunch I decided to head out in search of a waterfall. I had ordered a booklet of waterfalls online and decided to make my way down to Pontneddfechan – I was keen to do a longer trek taking in multiple waterfalls but unfortunately my walking boots had other ideas – I had developed a huge blister on my heel and the compeed plasters had to be whipped out – I decided to just walk through the woods on the Elidir trail to the first waterfall.
The trail starts in the car park to the Waterfall Centre. The area is draped in enchanted woodland which was a welcome respite from the Sun. By this time is was about 26/27 degrees and the tree canopies provided a much needed escape. The trail follows the Nedd Fechan river for about half an hour until you reach Sgwd Gwladus waterfall. At the bridge I followed the sign to the viewing platform which is right in front of the Waterfall. It was great, people were having a BBQ on the rocks to the side of the basin and young guys were jumping from the top of the waterfall into the circular pool below. A magical haven surrounded by natural beauty. Suitable for families, kids, dogs and explorers!
As I was walking back through the forest, I remembered something I had read in the ‘Hikers’ Facebook page that I follow. Someone had mentioned that if their feet were aching the best cure was to find a river or stream and dunk your feet in. So this is exactly what I did…
I believe the trail leads onto quite a few other waterfalls further up the river. I know I will definitely be returning soon to take on the rest as I feel cheated by my blister!! Lastly do you think it is socially acceptable to go skinny dipping in the waterfalls? Asking for a friend…