On Friday I got on a minibus and went to Wales. This was not a spontaneous action, it was all for a research trip about wilderness experiences. There was 12 trainee teachers in total alongside a lecturer from the university and two “celebrity geographers”, people well known in the field of primary geography. I was a little apprehensive about the weekend due to not really knowing anyone particularly well but after several minutes of meeting the group I knew it was going to be crazy and brilliant.
Once we’d finally arrived and got settled into our accommodation (a converted farmhouse complete with feral cat) we headed out for our first adventure. We parked in a little car park and were sent down a footpath without being told where what we were about to see. The path followed the Afon Mellte (“lightening river” in English) and as it turns a corner it flows into a cave and seems to disappear. The cave is called Porth-Yr-Ogof (“the mouth of the cave”) and is shaped like a letterbox. It’s pretty awesome and the geologist in me got very excited (he does that on such occasions).
Porth-Yr-Ogof, the largest cave entrance in Wales. A quick Google also reveals it was in the TV show Merlin which pleases me.
It was pretty spectacular in the cave but obviously it’s dark and pretty much impossible to capture the atmosphere on a camera. We all sat down and listened to a story about dragons, which is something you could do with children, and then went round to the point where the Mellte resurfaces, the Blue Pool. Apparently lots of people have drowned in it after trying to exit the cave system there. Lots of cavers go through the cave system but I am so glad we didn’t because I would have hated it. I’m large, some bits of cave are small, it would have been horrific.
That evening we had a pub dinner, 16 of us filling up a little Welsh pub run by a little Welsh lady. It was a great opportunity to get to know each other. Plus the food was great. They seemed to specialised in curries so I had a chicken tikka, followed by some ice cream. After driving around looking for petrol for quite a while, we returned to the farmhouse. It turns out they have the least comfortable beds ever and I only got around four hours sleep in the end. I’m sure it was pretty amusing for everyone to see my first thing in the morning though. I’m always in quite a zombified state but with less sleep than usual I must have pretty much seemed like an extra from Dawn of the Dead.
We’ve moved onto Saturday morning now in case you’ve not been keeping track. Once all of us were ready we returned to the same car park but this time followed a different path. Once again we didn’t have the faintest idea where we were going and hadn’t even seen a map. We were following the Afon Mellte and looking at how the river changes over it’s distinct sections.
Some lovely views of Afon Mellte
After struggling along some tricky terrain we eventually came across this amazing sight:
That is the incredible waterfall which is Sgwd Clun-gwyn (“White Meadow Fall”). It’s properly spectacular and there’s a huge fall from the place you stand to look at it so you have to be pretty careful. We were all slightly horrified when an old-ish woman stood rather too close to the edge of the waterfall but fortunately she was fine, despite her obvious insanity.
Not far above the waterfall a group were doing some gorge walking which basically involves letting the fast water take you down the river a bit (preferably not over the waterfall though). It looked like it was great fun.Then the group were climbing down by the side of the waterfall and jumping into the plunge pool at the bottom…
Going, going, gone! Someone leaps into the plunge pool of Sgwd Clun-gwyn!
We continued walking and some considerable time later we came across this even more amazing sight:
This is Sgwd Yr Eira (“Fall of Snow”), raging more than ever after the recent rainfall. And then we discovered we could walk behind it…
TO BE CONTINUED…