Through the Woods to the Waterfall: a walk to Aberfforest

waterfall

This is an enchanting walk, full of interest and adventure, but it does require a degree of agility and wouldn’t suit anyone with mobility problems. The path is uneven, steep in places and can be muddy. Allow at least two hours there and back, depending on how much time you want to spend at the beach.

Start at Gedeon Chapel on the Newport side of Dinas Cross, where there is parking space. Cross the A487 to a wooden finger post, then over the stile and down to the corner of the field. Keep to the path which will lead you over a stone footbridge and into the woods. (It’s a sea of snowdrops here in spring.)  The path continues along the valley side high above the little river which trickles down below on your left. Don’t turn where another path joins but carry on left, past a ruined building which must have been a small dwelling long ago.  The trees here are lofty and many are draped with the tangled, trailing stems of climbing plants which give the wood a jungly feel.

You might spot the faint residual signs of a sculpture trail that once accompanied the footpath, with structures made from natural elements designed to rot back invisibly into the landscape – as they have done. Nature too provides its own décor in the form of ferns and fungi, stones, banks and tree bark. Often there are surprises to be found if you look about you. Once I spotted on a large stone the remains of a meal recently partaken by a bird of prey (just feathers and some tiny feet were left) and recently there was a bucket of river clay, a display of small damp pots and an invitation to make your own – courtesy of local school children.

As you descend by degrees the damp air is perfumed with earthy fragrance and all is hushed until you gradually become aware of a new sound:  water splashing, gushing, even roaring (depending on the amount of recent rain) and there between the trees is the unexpected sight of a waterfall cascading down a mossy rock face  into a pool below. Water droplets anoint the vegetation all around and the ground is damp and slippery – take care!

Now you have a choice: you can cross the old mill stream above the waterfall, and find yourself in the lane leading into Aberfforest farm: a stile here will take you down to the coast path and the beach; or you can follow the stream below the waterfall to the stepping stones, pass below the farm and reach the small bay with its shingly shore, wooden bridge and single lime kiln.

Wales’ former national poet Gillian Clarke spent holidays at Aberfforest when her grandparents owned the farm in the 1940s and much later she used her memory of it in a poem. Here are a few lines.

It was our job at Fforest to feed the hens

With cool and liquid handfuls of thrown corn.

We looked for eggs snuggled in hedge and hay

And walked together the narrow path to the sea

Calling the seals by their secret names.

Subsequently the farm became a boatyard and chandlery, and is now a racehorse stables with prizewinning nags you might see in the fields around. The secluded beach is quiet rarely has more than a few people, if any at all.

To return, unless you retrace your steps, you have a choice. The farm access lane will take you straight back to the A487 although some way further east from Gedeon. Alternatively you can follow the coast path in either direction. However, my preferred return route is to ascend the valley on the other side. To do this, cross the bridge and where the path forks turn left. The route is easy to follow, passing a house and then continuing uphill as a vehicular drive that meets the narrow Cwm yr Eglwys lane. At this point turn left and walk back to Gedeon, about half a mile.

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