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Waterfalls of the Afon Mellte and Afon Hepste

By Rudi Winter

This Geotrip is a figure-of-eight walk from Gwaun Hepste car park a little south of Ystradfellte. There is a small parking charge payable at a machine.

The walk begins by leaving the car park towards the south on a wide forestry road. After about a kilometre, a signposted track SN9311 : Take me down to the river by Rudi Winter branches off towards the right to begin descending towards the Afon Mellte. Soon after, the first and tallest of the waterfalls, Sgŵd Clun-gwyn, can be first heard SN9210 : Tree above Sgŵd Clun-gwyn by Rudi Winter and then seen SN9210 : Sgŵd Clun-gwyn by Rudi Winter on the right. There are large smooth rock slabs on the opposite side, from where it is easier to get up close to the big cascade.

Following the Afon Mellte downstream on a woody path atop a steep river bank SN9210 : Afon Mellte between the waterfalls by Rudi Winter, partly on a (comfortably wide) ledge in the middle of a cliff, we soon reach the next waterfall, Sgŵd Isaf Clun-gwyn SN9210 : Sgŵd Isaf Clun-gwyn by Rudi Winter . It comes in three steps SN9210 : Sgŵd Isaf Clun-gwyn by Rudi Winter arranged in an attractive bend. The path descends to the bottom of the lowest step, where it is possible to get right onto the rock slabs in the river bed SN9210 : Rapids in the Afon Mellte by Rudi Winter. There are a few path diversions on safety grounds in the area around the cliffs.

Another few hundred metres downstream, Sgŵd y Pannwr SN9210 : Sgŵd y Pannwr by Rudi Winter is reached. This fall has an interesting shape in that the edge is parallel with the direction of the river. There is a long rocky trench SN9210 : Upstream section of Sgŵd y Pannwr at low water levels by Rudi Winter which takes excess water from the upper river bed in spate conditions and feeds it sideways into the main cascade SN9210 : Sgŵd y Pannwr by Rudi Winter.

From here, the path zig-zags steeply up the side of the valley until it reaches the track skirting the edge of the gorge. After following this track to the right for a short distance, there is a path descending steeply over some steps into the gorge of the Afon Hepste, a tributary of the Afon Mellte. At the bottom, we find Sgŵd yr Eira, a perfect curtain waterfall SN9209 : Sgŵd yr Eira by Rudi Winter consisting of a single cascade. It is possible to walk behind the curtain SN9209 : Walkers passing behind Sgŵd yr Eira by Rudi Winter and look out SN9209 : View through Sgŵd yr Eira by Rudi Winter over the downstream section of the river. A pictorial notice SN9210 : Warning sign at Sgŵd yr Eira by Rudi Winter reminds us not to stay underneath the cliffs for too long as some rocks might fall down.

While the path does continue out of the gorge on the other side of the waterfall, this would take us too far away from the car park, so it is better to retrace our steps back to the point where we left the main track and continue on it (to the right). The track soon bends towards the north and follows high above the Mellte gorge through woodland until we return to the top of Sgŵd Clun-gwyn. This time, we follow the path upstream to a footbridge SN9211 : Footbridge on the Afon Mellte by Rudi Winter (which gives access to the rocky ledges beside the top of the main cascade). The path comes down to the river level and leads through beautiful broadleaf woodland SN9211 : Broadleaf woodland by the Afon Mellte by Rudi Winter. It is quite eroded in places SN9211 : Riverside path by the Afon Mellte by Rudi Winter because it tends to get flooded when the river is in spate. After another kilometre or so, the Afon Mellte disappears from view as it runs underground through porous limestone for a short section. There is a pothole SN9212 : Pot hole near Porth yr Ogof by Rudi Winter amongst some rocks to the right of the path just before reaching the minor road; it is one of the entrances into the cave system of Porth-yr-Ogof.

We turn right onto the minor road and follow it up the hill. After a few hundred metres, turn right again at a road junction and follow the road to the access to the car park, which is reached after a few hundred metres inside the forest.

You can see this trip plotted on a map on the Geo-trips page Link .

Trip profile: LinkExternal link

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Thu, 8 Feb 2018 at 21:17
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