Tuesday, June 16, 2015

South Wales Day 1 – Mistaken identity at Porth yr Ogof

I was travelling down to South Wales to help out on a photography workshop, and as usual I was running late. I had hoped to get a bit of photography done of my own in Waterfall Country, that area of the Brecon Beacons that is home to so many beautiful Welsh falls, before making my way down to the coast to meet up with the group that evening.

By the time I arrived at Pontneddfechan, the small village that is the de facto starting point for all things watery and falling, it was already mid afternoon, and thanks to the fact it was a glorious day, there were people everywhere. I had planned to visit Sgwd Gwladys, or Lady Falls first of all, but considering the amount of bodies about, I figured my chances of getting a decent photo to be unlikely.

I therefore decided to head to a less active spot, and after consulting the map I settled on The Four Falls Trail, which, because it's a bit more remote, was certainly less prosperous with visitors. I had not been there before and it sounded like an enjoyable way to stretch my legs. As it's name suggests, it's a walking trail that takes in the splendour of four impressive falls, it was also, I quickly learned, not an inconsiderable jaunt, and I would have to be pretty brisk if I was to complete it and get back in time.

Before embarking on the walk though, I was keen to visit a rather special place located near the car park. It was Porth yr Ogof, the largest cave entrance in Wales, and not a spot I wanted to miss. I followed the path as it descended into the forest, snaking round large boulders and fresh springs of verdant ferns until I arrived at the end of the trail. Upon taking in the sight of the cave entrance I was immediately filled with dismay and confusion.

The largest cave entrance in Wales was puny, never mind the idea that I would be valiantly striding into the foreboding darkness like a gutsy hero, resolute in my quest for heroic adventure. I'd be lucky if I didn't get a hernia trying to squeeze my over proportioned gut through the diminutive gap now before me. 

You can just see the lilliputian entrance to the cave among the

I know Wales is a small country but I felt sure that its biggest cave mouth would present a more impressive sight. Downhearted I took the path back the way I had come, and spotted a stile I hadn't noticed on the journey down. This new path curved around to the left and led to a larger clearing which looked much more promising. Once I had rounded the bend and taken the rocky steps down into the ravine I saw what I had come for, there was the mighty Porth yr Ogof right ahead of me in all her glory, well done Wales, well done.

That's more like it.

With my heroic spirit returning, I set about getting some shots of the gaping maw as it gobbled up the River Mellte into its two and a half kilometres of passageways. At 17 metres wide and 5 metres tall, I had no problem strolling into the cavern to get some pictures looking back out onto the lush greenery as it clambered up the surrounding rock walls.

Looking out from the cold, noisy and rather fabulous Porth yr Ogof

I had the place to myself, but it was anything but peaceful, the sound of the rushing water as it bounced and boomed off the craggy interior was cacophonous, and the fresh, indeed chilly air, was in marked contrast to the muggy atmosphere above. But it was a beautiful place and before long time had slipped away, and the notion of seeing one fall never mind four was completely out of the question. So I had visited waterfall country and not got a single shot of a waterfall. Job well done in no way whatsoever. I would definitely have to come back.

The rather fetching path that leads to the cave.

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