Afon Mellte in Spate

The day after our trip to Hereford held a little more promise: it was still raining, but not quite so enthusiastically and the forecast hinted at a brighter afternoon. In fact that seemed to be materialising as we drove down towards the Neath valley, but when we crossed the border into Wales, the skies opened again and things began to look much less promising.

It was still raining when we arrived at our destination and after a hasty consultation through adjacent car windows, we opted for an in-car picnic, to put off the inevitable. It had slackened off a tad by the time we’d eaten, and gratifyingly, when I offered the kids poking around in some cave entrances and a peek at some waterfalls in the rain they were all keen for the off.

The mouth of the Porth-yr-Ogof caves, where the Afon Mellte flows underground is just by the car park. B looked downriver in bemusement: “Well, we’re not going in there today, unless we want to kill ourselves.”


Our walk was a severely curtailed version of a walk that the surfnslide crew did last year. (Post here. You’ll find a map there and photos which contrast sharply with the ones here.)

A path leads past several more cave openings, each of them full of roiling brown water.

Where the water leaves the caves, there is apparently a ‘blue pool’. Not today; just a raging brown swell. A pair of dippers repeatedly flew in and out of the roof of the cave. I would guess that they had a nest there for which they would be understandably afraid.

The 'blue pool' 

In slightly less wild sections of the river, swallows and martins were skimming low over the water. It was hard to imagine that their insect prey would want to be airborne on this cold and soggy day.

Gorge below the blue pool

Extra excitement was added to our progress down the valley, because each side-stream presented a challenge. Andy and I both got wet feet standing in them in our perhaps inappropriate trail shoes to hand across the children.

Sgwd Clun Gwyn

Sgwd Clun Gwyn

This is an overused expression, but the waterfalls were awe-inspiring. As you can imagine, the noise was phenomenal. Beyond the first fall the path follows a course high above the river and eventually above the second fall. I was glad that Andy was there to share in the shepherding of B and S, who sometimes appear to have an under-developed regard for their own safety.


We were able to double back below the cliffs to the base of the second fall….

Sgwd Isaf Clun Gwyn 

Sgwd Isaf Clun Gwyn

Nobody was attempting to pass behind the waterfall!


A nonchalant pose.

By this point little S had had enough. Time to turn back – but we had made the most of a pretty shoddy day. I don’t think any of us is liable to forget it.

I’ve finally got around to having a stab at a video. Whilst you wait for a more professional affair to appear at surfnslide, here’s my (short) effort:

Afon Mellte in Spate

12 thoughts on “Afon Mellte in Spate

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Not half! It was having unfortunate consequences elsewhere, and so I feel ever so slightly guilty about just how much I enjoyed the day. If you have to get out when it’s raining, waterfalls are where it’s at.
      I’ve been promising myself I would have a stab at a video for ages. I really enjoy Andy’s – maybe it was the fact that I was walking with him which reminded me to experiment with the video facility on my camera. Movie maker seems fairly intuitive, so I shall probably do it again at some point.

  1. A fine little video there, they do add something to a blog post and an enjoyable day in the end despite the rain. Amazing to see the difference to the same time last year. I wonder if we’d have been able to get anywhere near walking behind the falls at Sgwyd-yr-Eira

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Thanks. It was a great day, rather surprisingly. In the end all of our kids decided that the last day was best of all, but I know that walk made a huge impression on them.
      I really enjoyed rereading your post and making the comparison – what a difference!
      I don’t think you would have enticed me to wander behind any falls that day.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      It was really something: I found myself thinking that they were the kind of falls which people bring photos of from exotic holidays, not understated and British at all!

  2. We always meant to explore that series of falls but never did, these would be the conditions for it – very good pictures.
    It’s a few years ago now but I vaguely recall some problem about accessing the upper falls – the Sgwd Isaf ones I think – does that still apply?.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Andy would be the man to give an accurate answer to that one. We parked in the car park just above Porth yr Ogof and downstream from there the access was excellent, as far as we went anyway. Upstream, I couldn’t say.
      Since rain seems to be a default summer setting now, waterfall walks will become the order of the day.

    2. Hi Geoff (this is Andy btw!). There is no problem with access to these falls and there are a couple of car parks with well signed routes between the main ones. The direct walk between the two you can see on the post is a liitle narrow but there is a signed alternative. This walk appears in a number of walking guides and the long route in my post from last year (linked in the post above) takes in more waterfalls in the Nedd valley – a classic of the UK

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      This was my first trip! The route which you followed was on Andy’s blog. I think you can be forgiven for the confusion since we do tend to go walking together fairly frequently and therefore often post about the same things. I reread Andy’s original post to make the comparison and as you say, the contrast was astonishing.

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