Places to visit: Sgwd yr Eira

Yolanda Brooks

I've swooned at the beauty and power of Niagara, snapped away with wild abandon at Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite and canoodled under the same Jamaican waterfall where Tom Cruise romanced
Elisabeth Shue in the movie Cocktail. But back on home turf, waterfalls barely registered. Until a friend took me on a cross-country walk over the Brecon Beacons to Sgwd yr Eira.

This south Wales water feature may not have a 52-metre drop such as Niagara, but here you can get up close. At around 15 metres, it's not the highest waterfall in the Brecon Beacons National Park (at 27m that distinction belongs to Henrhyd waterfall). But despite its "lowly" status in the waterfall hall of fame, Sgwd yr Eira is picture-postcard perfect.

Sgwd yr Eira, the waterfall of snow, is on the Hepste river, and it's a curtain waterfall so when you have finished admiring the view from the front, you can step inside and admire it from behind. Sheep used to be driven along the walkway behind the curtain and although it is wet with spray, as long as you're wearing sensible shoes and don't make a dash for it, it's quite easy to cross.

It's not just the view of the waterfall that makes the trek worthwhile - there's some great scenery along the way. Sgwd yr Eira is in Coed y Rhaeadr (wood of waterfalls) and the combination of spray from the falls and shade from the thick canopy has created an area rich in plant life.

The nearest village to Sgwd yr Eira is Ystradfellte, and there are two car parks, Cavers' and Gwaun Hepste, both of which are good starting points to get to the waterfalls. It is possible to take a circular walk to see a series of four falls - Sgwd yr Eira, Sgwd y Pannwr, Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn and Sgwd Clun-gwyn. It's 5.5 miles long and you should allow three to four hours.

The official Brecon Beacons site at www.breconbeacons.org has information on closed footpaths. The information centre at Brecon on 01874 623156 can also provide information on foot and mouth restrictions. Maps of the walking routes through Coed y Rhaeadr are available from the ranger at Gwaun Hepste car park. Directions to the falls are also available at www.neathporttalbot.gov.ukwaterfallshepste.html

The Cavers' and Gwaun Hepste car parks can be accessed from Ystradfellte, off a minor road off the A4059 south west of Brecon. A longer trek to the waterfalls is possible further south from the Craig y Ddinas car park near the village of Pontneddfechan off the B4242.
The Brecon Beacons Bus Sunday network has a route that runs within hiking distance of the falls.
Timetable info: 01873 853254;
www.breconbeacons.org

A longer version of this review appears in this week's TES

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Yolanda Brooks

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