Unlike last weekend’s 790 mile circular road trip for a swim this weekend’s was only 460 and though the planned swim at Aberystwyth had to be abandoned due to very unfavourable sea conditions there was a backup.
Nevertheless that prospect looked none too promising the following morning. The previous evening’s rain had mostly blown through leaving the roads littered with autumnal detritus washed down from the verges whilst the hilltops of the Brecon Beacons were still being blotted by low, unmoving clouds which dumped occasional heavy showers. The side road to Pont Melin-fach was barely car width, steep, twisting and the verges in places had been excavated by runoff into precarious drop offs. Put a car tyre over there and you’ll in trouble. Unsurprisingly therefore there was only one other vehicle in the small car park.
Beside the car park the river rushed by brown and foaming after the rain and the first waterfall and pool 100m downstream were not an encouraging sight.
The Sgwd Ddwli Isaf or Lower Ddwli Falls made a solid curtain of streaky water that crashed into the pool kicking up a strong breeze in the otherwise still air, a breeze that buffeted the trees and carried with it a thin mist. Whilst on the one hand it hardly looked enticing, on the other it looked quite exciting.
The water was no cooler than the River Dart had been back home a few days before, warmer if anything, there was certainly no sharp intake as I slipped over one of the hidden stones and lurched forward and submerged from thigh to chest deep. The pool was evidently quite deep as after that I was out of touch with the river bed.
Up close the falls were loud, the air was as much water as air and waves slapped me in the face as I pushed closer, but 1m from the middle of the curtain of writhing water was as close as I could get against the flow. The left hand end was a thinner stream of water but fell tight to the rocks that backed the falls. I whirled down and around the pool to the right hand side where clearly there were natural steps up out of the water to a narrow ledge.
The ledge was covered in a cushion of moss which sank beneath my hands as I crawled forward. I flicked aside several pieces of driftwood and disappointingly further on at the back of the falls several plastic bottles had been thrust into a niche, so sad. However here there was at least a decent clearance between the rocks and the water and the risk of being plucked off and dumped onto the stones seemed much less. Gaps flashed by in the curtain affording me blink of an eye views of trees now washed by sunshine.
Making my way through to the far end of the falls there was a small gap in the water which allowed me to slip back into the pool and drift casually back to the beach. Not a long swim but certainly a dramatic one.
And next weekend the road trip continues.