Sgŵd Gwladus waterfall walk featuring Fossil and Firebricks audio trail

A short walk that packs a big punch.

This delightful walk may be short and undemanding, yet it’s intensely interesting every step of the way, packing in a wealth of information on the area’s geological and industrial heritage. It takes you to one of the most atmospheric of all the falls in the Brecon Beacons’ Waterfall Country and is suitable for families, though young children should be supervised at all times since the path runs beside a fast-flowing river. 
 


Need to know
Length: Around 2½ miles 
Time: 1–2 hours
Start and finish: Waterfalls Centre, Pontneddfechan, on the B4242 a mile or so north-east of Glyn-neath
OS map ref: SN 900076 
OS map: Explorer OL12 (1:25 000 series)
Facilities: Car park, visitor information centre, toilets, refreshments at local pubs

 
Fossil and Firebricks Audio Trial

The following audio trail accompanies the walk and take you along an almost level path from Pontneddfechan to the beautiful waterfall of Sgwd Gwladus – the Lady Falls. The footpath offers a smooth and continuous surface to stop seven. After this point there is a set of steps to climb and 2 wooden bridges, with stiles, to cross. Beyond the first bridge the path is uneven and often quite muddy.

 
You can choose to listen to the audio tracks individually or download the complete audio trail (8.84 MB).  
Download map and directions 


Pontneddfechan is located at the northern end of the Vale of Neath.  At Glyn-neath follow the signs on the B4242 for Pontneddfechan. The waterfalls Visitor Centre will be on your right, almost opposite the Angle Inn. 
 
Track 1 - Waterfalls Centre (1.4MB)     Download / Listen
The bands of limestone rock that outcrop along the southern rim of the Brecon Beacons have created a very different landscape to the Old Red Sandstone that characterise most of the National Park. In place of hilly open country and big skies there’s a gnarly, fissured landscape of deep wooded gorges, caves and many, many waterfalls. Nowhere else in Wales has such a richness and diversity of waterfalls within such a small area. Find out more about ‘Waterfall Country’ at the Waterfalls Centre, where exhibitions and displays delve into the geology and history of this compelling – and very different – corner of the National Park.
 
From the Waterfalls Centre, cross over the road and head around the right-hand side of the Angel Inn, towards the gate. Go through the kissing gate and along the track for just 20m to the Farewell Rock on your left.
 
 
Track 2 -The Farewell Rock (1.04MB)     Download / Listen
 It’s actually a band of thick sandstone, though the local name tells you far more. Miners called it this because they knew that it lay at the base of South Wales’s coal-bearing rocks. When they reached this sandstone it was time to down tools and bid farewell to any more mining activity.
 
Continue for approximately 100m along the path until you reach the wooden gate. Then take the path on your right that doubles back on itself and make your way down to the black coloured rock by the water’s edge, which contains evidence of fossils
 
Track 3 - Fossils (1.27MB)     Download / Listen
315 million years ago South Wales was covered with a muddy sea. Look out for evidence of this in the small spiral-shaped fossils, the remains of animals that lived in this sea, in the black rock at the water’s edge.
 
Retrace your steps back up to the main path and continue ahead keeping the river on your right. Within 150m follow the river around a right-hand bend. A metal gate will come into view on the path ahead. Look out for the line of stones in the path that have holes drilled into them, remains of the old tramway.
 
Track 4 -Tramway (1.16MB) Download / Listen 
Stones on the path with holes drilled into them acted as sleepers for a pony-drawn tramway that operated for almost all of the 19th century, transporting silica from the mine upstream for manufacturing into firebricks.
 
Continue through the gate ahead to the ruined corn mill on your left, which has been fenced off.
 
Track 5 - Corn mill (1.26MB)     Download / Listen
This ruined mill, dating from the 14th century, used water power to grind corn.
 
Carry on along the path and after a few minutes go through the gate with an adjacent ladder stile. A few metres further on the fenced-off hole in the rock on your left-hand side marks the entrance to the silica mine.
 
Track 6 - Silica mine (1.14MB)     Download / Listen
The pure silica here was used to make firebricks that lined the metal smelting furnaces of the Industrial Revolution. ‘Dinas silica bricks’ were a prized product, in demand not just locally but worldwide.
 
Follow the path as it bends around to the right to alder woodlands near the picnic tables.
 
Track 7 - Alder woodlands (1.17MB)     Download / Listen
The damp, boggy land here is an ideal environment for alder trees. Their wood was used for clog making and also as a source of charcoal for the gunpowder works on the River Mellte in the next valley to the east.
 
Continue along the path and up the steps to where the rivers Nedd Fechan and Pyrddin meet and where you can see two bridges.
 
Track 8 - River confluence (962KB)     Download / Listen
The rivers Nedd Fechan and Pyrddin meet here. Sgŵd Gwladus, the end point of this walk, is a short distance upstream on the Pyrddin. If your taste for waterfalls has not been slaked you can follow another path upstream on the Nedd Fechan that takes you to three more falls, but please note that this route, unlike the Sgŵd Gwladus walk, is steep and uneven. 
 
Cross over the first bridge, turn left and head along the Pyrddin towards Sgŵd Gwladus, as indicated by the green finger post. 
 
Track 9 - Sgŵd Gwladus (1.33MB)     Download / Listen
This lovely 10m-tall waterfall set in a shady amphitheatre, was formed when softer mudstones, or shales, eroded much faster than harder, more resistant sandstones when raging torrents of meltwater from the last Ice Age carved out the area’s gorges. 
 
After visiting the waterfall retrace your steps to where the two rivers join. From here cross the other bridge over the Nedd Fechan and walk to the mine entrance (don’t go in!) approximately 25m downstream.
 
Track 10 - Trial Level mine (1.27MB)     Download / Listen
Another local mine used for extracting silica.
 
Retrace your steps back to Pontneddfechan.

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The audio trails were produced for the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority by www.audiotrails.co.uk.  BBNPA has used reasonable endeavours in the preparation of this trail but cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information contained within it. The route suggested in this trail is for guidance only and does not constitute advice or recommendation.  BBNPA gives no warranties, either express or implied, regarding the availability, suitability or safety of the route described and following the route is undertaken entirely at the individuals own risk. BBNPA reserves the right to alter the content of the trail at any time without prior notice.