We made a quick visit to the waterfall at Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, in Powys last year and vowed to return. So in late august we did just that not thinking that being still in the holiday period it would be so much busier than our previous spring visit. But many people were walking off into the hills so our wander was still quite quiet.
After our usual coffee and cakes which we enjoyed in the cafe at the base of the falls we set off up a narrow path and quickly found the stream that flowed rapidly from the falls themselves. The cafe is part of an interesting and unusual endeavour, a business which involves a campsite and retreat as well as the cafe, a little empire to nourish the body, the soul and the mind. It is a place to find peace and get close to nature.
We heard the falls well before we saw them, the roaring and rushing of water dropping over 100 feet splashing on rock outcrops as it falls. When the falls come into view we are always forced to stop just to stare and take in the scene. It is simply beautiful, a place where the gentle beauty of nature is disturbed by the sheer power of water. A mist of spray drifts among the trees. All around is green, bright almost fluorescent green. Ferns, mosses and lichen reveling in an atmosphere full of droplets of water, very pure clean water, not yet subjected to man’s pollution. It won’t be long before this stream, crystal clear but for a hint of the coffee brown stain from peat, will be subject to agricultural run-off. Nitrates, herbicides and sheep dip chemicals. But for now its purity adds to the delight of the place.
After enjoying being close to the roar and rumble of the waterfall we took a narrow track into the valley. Our feet made no sound on the pine needles that covered the path so we could hear the sound of the falling water getting quieter as we moved deeper into the heavily wooded slopes of the valley side. The trees grew close together so had grown tall in their search for light.
Every boulder and the bases of every tree trunk were carpeted in mosses and lichens, soft and silky to the touch.
The boulders had been rolled down the slope by the forces of gravity after the equally powerful force of erosion had separated them from the rock faces of the vertical outcrops towering above the tree line. Erosion had also removed the soil and scree that once anchored this tree and its roots to the ground. Today it somehow remains upright by holding on with only half of its giant roots still in the ground.
The openness at the end of the woodland afforded us vast views of the mountain range underneath which we had driven to find the waterfalls.
In a place dominated by huge trees, massive mountains and rugged rock faces it is good to study tiny delicate things as a contrast. There can be no more delicate flower then the Harebell and no smaller plants than mosses, lichens and algae (algae and lichen are not strictly speaking plants). Although the beetles we came across were small at only a centimetre or so long they certainly did not look delicate. They looked tough as they moved through the grass with purpose. Theses little chaps are powerful predators in the mini-beast world.
Fruit was colouring up on Hawthorns, Rowans and wild Crab Apples. We imagined that once the migrant thrushes passed through Wales they would home in on this valley side and gorge themselves on this fruit bounty.
On the more exposed slopes of the valley trees live short lives and they grow stunted by the harsh winds and cold winters. This does though give them beautiful shapes, their branches and trunks taking on bonsai like twists and turns. The clean air here meant they wear coats of lichen, moss and algae. The first three pictures below are of a dead tree, partly felled but still giving a home to these tiny members of the plant world.
On our return back along the track we took a detour to see if we could get a closer look at the falls by going upwards. The path rose steeply and we found ourselves on a ledge almost halfway up the falls so we did get different views but not as dramatic as we had hoped for.
What a great place this is, possibly as close to wilderness as we can find in this part of Wales. The walk isn’t easy or indeed sensible for either of us – me walking with a crutch and one leg without any feeling and Jude being scared of heights and hating walking with a gap alongside. But we did it and we enjoyed! And we will probably do it again! No – we will definitely do it again!