Saturday, 30 July 2016

Waterfall Country....

It hasn't been the greatest of starts to the school summer holiday with all the rain that we've recently had, however if your planning on taking a stroll to Waterfall Country this is no bad thing.
This is one of my favourite areas for a walk as it seems so secluded even though its only 20 mins from home. In Waterfall Country there are around 7 different walks, all starting from a few different locations within the Brecon Beacon National Park.

                    (Map Courtesy of Brecon Beacons National Park)

For Oscar and I this was just a short walk along the Elidir Trail classed on the Brecon Beacons National Park website as a very moderate to moderate walk. Myself and Oscar only walked around half of it on this occasion to Sgwd Gwladus and then back to the Angel Pub and car park. This is around a 1.5 mile walk to the waterfall and back to the car or pub...

The walk begins just to the right hand side of the Angel pub, through a swing gate and overhanging trees. The path follows the river Neath allowing you to take in the sights smell and sounds of the various smaller waterfalls along the path. With all the flowing water thundering down the valley, it gave me a chance to practice with the shutter speeds on the camera to get the water to blur. Some shots it worked brilliantly some not so well. but practice makes perfect.

All of the above shots were taken in the first 30 secs of the walk as there are various little points along the path that allow you to get down to river level and feel the power of the river.

The above photo shows the path and the proximity of the river to you. At all points the river is never more than 3 meters from the path, with the trees overhanging the path most of the time,the atmosphere along this walk is electric especially when the river is in full flow as it was this time. Walking along the path at this sort of proximity gives you a real sense of the power of the river. 

Oscar has recently taken to the water like a duck, given the state of the muddy path I was more than happy for him to take a little swim. Rather him than me as it was freezing. I kept him on the lead while he was in the river as given the strength and speed it was flowing at I didn't fancy chasing him down the path to launch a rescue effort.

As the path moves along the river it does start to climb and descend at  a few points, however at these points there are steps to assist and prevent walkers scrambling up the hills. You can certainly get people of all abilities on this walk, even if you have a little one in a pram. as where the path does get narrower, there are small places for people to tuck in and let others pass. 

 When the path comes out at Sgwd Gwladus you emerge into a massive open area that has been hollowed out over many years with the waterfall nestled into the north eastern corner. I took this photo from the western side of the path however just before you come out into the opening you can cross a bridge to swap sides of the valley. If you choose to do this you are able to walk behind the waterfall after scrambling across some of the rocks. I didn't do it on this occasion ( I have done this on previous occasions and I would recommend it I've included a photo below for you to see) as Oscar was a bit over keen on running everywhere and I didn't really want to end up in the river...

On the way back to the car I crossed the river at the bridge I mentioned above, and headed back down the river ever so slightly as at this point the river Neath meets the Afon Pyrddin. This is also the way to continue the walk further as Sgwd Gwladus is a dead end.

Oscar still managed to get dirty again so on the way back to the car we stopped off for him to have another swim/ bath. He was more than happy to jump in.

I honestly don't believe my words do this place justice, it has to be visited. I can't recommend it enough.
Thanks for reading, let me know what you think. Until next time....

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Gateway To The Brecon Beacons National Park...

I absolutely love the Brecon Beacons National Park. Whether its an opportunity to explore a new mountain peak or another beautiful trek up Pen y Fan, I'm up for it. This Monday I woke rather early off a night shift, it was a stunning day with blue sky's and plenty of sun so I harnessed up Oscar, packed the camera and headed for the Beacons. 

Given that I was running on just a few hours sleep, I decided to not go for anything too stressful or serious and stopped off at Garwnant visitor centre. This is considered the southern gateway to the Brecon Beacons National park. It has a variety of trials suitable for walking and cycling and it is situated just off the A470 around 5 miles north of Merthyr Tydfil which makes for easy access for anyone wishing to pop in. 

There are 3 different walking trails, along with two mountain bike trails, an adventure playground for children or big kids, along with a luscious picnic area nestled in amongst the trees. My favourite trail is called Wern Walk, it is around 2 miles long and I can usually walk around this in around an hour, however the likelihood is you'll be stopping regularly to take in the stunning views and if your anything like me taking lots of snaps.

One of my favourite views is out to your left as you drive up the hill towards the car park, on a clear day the view down the valley looking onto the Llwyn-on Reservoir is not to be missed. From there you head further up the hill passing the newly refurbished visitor centre and cafe on your right before entering the car park. There is a small charge of £2 to park but there is no time limit to how long you can stay.

To start the trail the advice is to stroll slightly back down the hill then take an immediate right on to the forest track, however I personally prefer to go a bit off track and head through the forest and learning area, as you can see Oscar also prefers this route as there is far more mud... but don't tell Aislinn. For me there is something that is hard to explain, but I just love strolling amongst the rows of tree's in and out of the different rows finding my own path through.

Once you've got onto the road its a nice steady stroll along the track for around a mile. Eventually bearing to your right and down to the hill you'll come across some beautiful views down the valley and the old Wern Farmhouse. Now just the remnants it provides some stunning photo opportunities, admittedly in the summer its a bit harder to access but I've been in the winter months where you are able to get in amongst the ruins and take some incredible photos.

From the old Wern farm the trail meanders along the side of the mountain crossing a small stream, providing an ideal spot for any hot dog... to cool down in. Yes Oscar took the opportunity for a swim, no bad thing though as it helped clean the mud off. The path then continues its journey along the mountain side towards the visitor centre where the cafe awaits with a selection of cakes and sandwiches to refuel any hungry family. 

I couldn't help heading back to the begging of the trail to take a few other snaps of the Llwyn-on reservoir.  

I hope you've enjoyed my post. Please let me know what you think below. 
Until next time...

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Dare Valley Country Park Adventures....

So I've finally taken the plunge and decided to purchase my first Digital SLR Camera. Photographing the outdoors is something I've always enjoyed something I have taken from my Grandfather (I'm sure you'll see more of him in coming posts). I've decided to purchase a Canon EOS 1200D with an additional 75mm - 300mm Lens all of the photographs in the coming posts will be from this or my trusty iPhone 6.

I absolutely love the outdoors and any chance I get I'm out exploring with my trusty companion Oscar (He's the little Westie in a lot of the photos) and often my girlfriend ( will tag along for a morning stroll, or if its something more strenuous my cousin or Grandfather will join us too. I currently work shifts so I am lucky enough to get 4 days off at a time (plenty of chance to explore new places).

Today I took the opportunity to go for a walk I haven't done for years. I packed the camera, harnessed up Oscar and headed to the Dare Valley Country Park. This is somewhere that is around 10 minutes drive from home and I instantly realised what I had been missing these last few years. 

The Dare Valley Country Park is situated at the top of the Aberdare Valley nestled between the town itself and the suburb of Cwmdare. It has recently undergone development and is continually growing, the recent redevelopment of the visitor centre and outdoor pursuit centre has been of great benefit to the local community, as well as providing a nice little quiet area for a sandwich or two. 

We entered the park from the Cwmdare entrance and parked near to the outdoor activity centre. From there we headed west along the Bwlfa trail towards the horseshoe style mountain Tarren y Bwlfa (known locally as the Darren) and taking in the small village of Bwlfadare. All in all this walk is around 2 miles however you can shorten this by lapping the first lake which makes it perfect for those after a more shorter walk or with younger children.

Upon the start of the walk we chose to stroll along the Dare river listening to it trickle past as in the silence of the Welsh valleys. After a short while you exit the canopy of the trees and are able to take in the lake and its surrounding beauty. We then moved on a little further up the lake to a point where you are able to walk down onto the lake shore, Oscar in particular loved this point as he got to make a friend and go for a swim. Admittedly I did not expect there to be so much mud at one edge resulting in the dirtiest Westie ever! As you can imagine I was very encouraging of him to have another swim/ bath.  

From the lake the path continues west towards the site of one of many covered mine-shafts in the valley and the nearby reservoir. The reservoir was teaming with wildlife from a family of Crows in the trees, to Swallows dive bombing the water to catch the selection of insects flying over it. There were also a variety of Dragonfly in the nearby reeds.

As we continued further East we approached the site of the old Bwlfa mine-shaft and the site that lay around it, nestled into the foothills of Tarren y Bwlfa its quite an imposing site. Just standing there for a few moments with my Grandfather as he regaled tales of he journeys from the local college to the pit canteen for beans on toast for breakfast at 3 shillings a time.

We then began the stunning walk back to the visitors centre along the river banks again. There is a path that heads slightly further up to the the bottom of Tarren y Bwlfa to a plinth that provides a vantage point for watching the Peregrine Falcons that have been known to nest on the cliffs, however this is for another day.

As we approached the visitor centre it was lovely to see so many vehicles filling the car park and using the visitor centre facilities, these include several meeting rooms, a beautiful cafe and also a selection of hotel rooms and camping facilities for both caravans and tents. We walked through the visitor centre and back to the car, not stopping on this occasion for a coffee however we will be returning.

I thoroughly hope you enjoy my first ever blog, please feel free to comment on your favourite places to take a leisurely stroll or with any tips for my photos or blog...