The sky was mostly blue when I got up on Thursday. The sun was showing red through a narrow slit between the hill on the opposite side of the Valley and a band of cloud. The forecast was for a sunny day. And my knee was less painful than it has been for a couple of weeks.
I get very frustrated and restless when I’m stuck around the house so I decided it was time to get out into the mountains. I hesitated to commit to too strenuous a walk so I came up with the idea of going further west in the Brecon Beacons National Park to ‘Waterfall Country’. It’s a bit of a tourist honey-pot in the summer but I reckoned it would be quieter in November and it has the advantage of a series of easy ‘trails’ prepared and maintained and I thought they would be less of a strain on a wonky knee. It’s also very spectacular and photogenic.
A great deal of trail-marking has been done since I last visited the area about 15 years ago and I set out along a well surfaced broad track, crossed the river on a footbridge and then climbed the valley side on a well maintained and satisfyingly strenuous path zig-zagging up to the ridge.
The path along the ridge had dramatic views of the gorge, somewhat reminiscent of the wooded Viros Gorge running down to Kardamili in the Mani Peninsula where I spent two weeks in the summer.
What was very different, however, was the nature of the paths. Those above the Viros Gorge were baked hard, rocky, a pleasure to walk. The path along the ridge to Sgwd yr Eira was appalling. The notice board in the car park at the bottom had warned that the path might be ‘wet’. In fact much of it was wall-to-wall mud, in places nothing but slurry. Despite the variety of mud colours, peat-black, slate-grey, cow-pat-brown, it was not fun walking.
While I was slithering, cursing, and trying to protect my knee from sideways pressure, I ruminated about why it was so bad. The conclusion was staring me in the face in the shape of the myriad squelchy boot-prints. The problem is that the authorities encourage walking in the area with signed trails, maps, visitor centres and the like but the paths cannot take the amount of foot traffic given how wet climate and the ground are. It is only to be expected that an area of waterfalls has a lot of rainfall and surface water run-off. In places the path has been gravelled and compacted, in other places duck-boards have been put down but nowhere near enough to protect the ground from the damage it is suffering.
However, nothing could detract from the impressive waterfalls, particularly contrasted by autumn colours. Slowed up by the mud and multiple protracted photo-stops I only managed to visit 3 falls, each dramatic in a different way. Then I back-tracked to the car nursing my aching knee, determined to return when I am fully fit and work out a route to take in more of them. A good day. An area well worth a visit but something needs doing about the paths.