Only a few days had passed since we had returned from the crazy Italian tour, like a whirling dervish I had managed to erase all trace of our trip, we packed cases and then the van, bid farewell to the children and set off for an eight-day road trip.
I’m always up for the challenge of bettering the ‘on foot’ milage from the previous year, Mark is happier to take a more sedate approach so in an effort to compromise we meet somewhere in the middle. We set off with plans to walk the Brecon beacons but we all know what happens to best-laid plans.
Securing camp for a night proved difficult which always fills me with dread, although I have wild camped it’s not my first choice. We called several sites that just couldn’t accommodate but fortunately, we had a bit of luck at a site we’d stayed at a few years ago had room for a night. Tally bont campsite is in the village of Tally bont halfway between Aberystwyth and Machynlleth. We arrived on-site in the early evening after a day in the van, he’s not built for speed.
£22 got us a non-electric grass pitch at the far end of the site, it was a case of park where you like and everyone was respectful of each other’s privacy, in all my years of camping I’ve come to understand that this is one of the many unwritten rules of etiquette. Mark positioned Moby so that we enjoyed a breathtaking view of the mountains but didn’t infringe on anyone else, then later that evening we sat with a glass of wine in our tiny home (how we’d missed it) and watched as darkness slowly claimed the view till morning.
Mark was at home in his favourite spot: standing at the cooker, it was a joy to consume a meal that we (loose term) had produced ourselves after two weeks of eating in restaurants.
Bird song and the sun invading through the curtain pulled me from sleep the next morning. We surveyed the damage within the camper from the night before, if you didn’t know better you’d think the place had had teenagers in it: empty beer bottles and a wine bottle lay discarded amongst the crisps packets and dirty plates we couldn’t be bothered to wash, clothes heaped where they had been dumped and both doors blocked the flotsam and jetsam of life on the road. We’d sunk into relax mode now that the stress of daily life with children and work were removed from us. If we wanted to eat we needed to reorganise our home though.
A simple breakfast al fresco was just what was needed before our plans for the day. I’d been told by a friend that the four falls walk was a good way to ease your way into a week of hiking, and we thought it would be a good way to test Mark’s leg as we hadn’t done anything significant since the accident the previous year.
Two hours later we were shipshape again and rolling on, with plans to meet up with my friend that evening and our accommodation sorted for another night we set course for the four falls trail.
Forty minutes later we found ourselves at Gwaun Hepste ( for those that require something a little more pronounceable: four falls car park). we paid £4 for the day and it had toilets all be it portaloos but they were well-cared for.
The sky was looking a little ominous and I don’t mind admitting that merely 10 minutes in, our fading ability to cope with the pace was showing -we were both feeling it.
We began our walk through woodland, which was equally as breathtaking as the falls turned out to. Trees draped in moss took on the appearance of monstrous woodland dwellers which Mark didn’t miss an opportunity to photograph. We continued our walk down a slippery stone path, that thankfully had a wooden balustrade. the attire of some walkers still astounds me, people in inadequate footwear and the wrong clothing, made their way along the path in the rain – accidents waiting to happen.
We heard the roar of the beast, that appeared through the mist as we approached it. Sgwd Clun-Gwyn was the first of the falls. All around plants clung to the wet rocks, basking in every wayward droplet. On either side, smaller waterfalls had formed in cracks. It was a little precarious underfoot so I clung to Mark in the hope that he might hold me up should I need supporting.
I managed to not take a photo of the first falls, but that’s the price of enjoying the experience and not thinking about blogging!
From here it was onto the next one: Sgwd Eira, if I thought the last one was impressive, this was something else. Every time I’ve ever pictured a waterfall, this is what I see- high walls of rock, with trees hanging precariously over the edge, a cascading curtain of white water, that hits the ground with ferocious intent. We’d read that there was a path behind it, I can say without a doubt that it was a highlight for me.
The sound was deafening, we had to shout at each other to be heard. Lingering wasn’t an option, after only a few minutes we were soaked, as were the troop of DofE students passing by and the two men regretting their jeans.
We’d fallen into an acceptable pace and bearly noticed the undulating, unpredictable terrain as we blazed on. There were many more people now, the collection of D of E kids were slumped over bulging backpacks looking shattered eating lunch, elderly people happy to plod at a steady pace, lost in conversation and family groups on a Sunday stroll.
Ten minutes later we found ourselves at our third fall: Sgwd y Pannwr, no less impressive than the other two but not as accessible. Mark had fun getting ankle-deep into the water to catch some cool shots on his phone and many posed for that ‘Instagram’ photo.
Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn was the last of our falls and it seemed like everyone was heading there at the same time. The path was uneven and slippery, as always I was glad we were wearing the right shoes they make the difference between moving on without paying too much attention to where you stand as you remain pretty stable or gingerly taking each step because you know one false move and you’ll be on your bum- you can’t beat good shoes! EVER!
Politely all of us gathered at the falls took turns to be in prime position to take photos, one rather brave or stupid boy, stripped to his boxer shorts, stood under the cascading water while screaming at his mother to take the picture. It may have been August but it was by no means a scorching day when you’d appreciate the cool temperatures, it was typical British summer’s day.
We climbed up along the right side of the falls, high above the true path, there was something scintillating about being above all those following the path. They were unaware of our presence and vantage point, we were alone but at the same time, we weren’t.
Our route continued to take us higher and higher and further and further away from people until we were emersed in greenery. No voices offered our ears, only our own and often we walk in silence it’s very calming, to know we are having a shared experience but that we don’t need to talk is liberating. In silence, you can find solitude. The quieter you are the more you notice of nature’s sound.
Eventually, we had to speak as we’d gotten a little lost in our attempt to avoid humans, after consulting the map we got ourselves back on track, back to humanity and back to the van.
It had been a great way to start our camping/ walking trip. We’d tested the leg and I’m pleased to say it was fine. It was now time for a catch-up and another dinner cooked for us.