|Craig y Dinas, 'Fortress Rock'|
From the car park your immediately met with a huge contorted slab of Carboniferous Limestone, known as Craig y Ddinas which roughly translated means 'Fortress Rock' due to the presence of Iron Age earthworks on the summit, although today much of this was covered by snow. The scrubby woodland which features around the base of the rock was mainly Sessile Oak Quercus petraea Ash Fraxinus excelsior Hawthorn Crataegus sp., Hazel Corylus avellana and at least one Small-Leaved Lime Tilia cordata. The north facing cliff face was covered in Maidenhair Spleenwort
Asplenium trichomanes and Hart's Tongue Fern Asplenium scolopendrium which thrive in the cool damp conditions.
The path skirts the top of the wooded valley, with only the background noise of running water. Some areas of native semi-natural woodland remain along the top in a rough mixture with moorland although large areas look like it was planted up with Larch between the wars, which has recently been clear felled, perhaps due to Phytophthora although the evidence of this was lost in the deep blanket of snow. The odd old Ash or Oak tree was left in the middle of these clear fell, too old to be planted with the larch, these were a hark back to a time when large blocks of conifers became a blight in the landscape, acidifying the rivers and reducing the native flora.
|The gorge at the meeting of the Afon Hepste and the Afon Mellte. |
Significant stands of conifers can be seen on the horizon
With the snow covering much of the flora, we made it relatively quickly to the path leading down the face of the gorge towards the falls. Even from quite a distance we could hear the roaring of the waterfall. The setting of the waterfall is in a deep gorge where the Afon Hepste plunges over a band of resistant gritstone to form Sgwd yr Eira or Fall of Snow, the obvious choice of waterfall to visit in this kind of weather condition. An old drovers track passes behind the falls, the walls of which are covered with bryophytes, Green Spleenwort Asplenium viride and a species of Dryopteris. The track would have witnessed the shepherds moving their flocks to the hills in the summer and back to lower grounds in winter but these are merely ghosts of the past, now its just used by curious walkers and tourists, its previous use consigned to history.
Although there were no Dippers in the river there were plenty of Robins Erithacus rubecula about, they seemed drawn to us, hoping a misplaced step would turnover a rock and expose some worms. Most sat attentively in the trees close, never more than a couple of meters away and we wandered about the falls, although occasional it flashed past to skirmish with an intruder. Even after leaving the falls one stuck close for a good 20 minutes, occasionally swooping down to grab an unseen morsel. Up on the higher ground there were very few birds about, most likely due to the snow which has forced them down into the valleys. A pair of Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula were busy nipping off buds, a single Jay Garrulus glandarius crossed the open ground into a copse of trees. A pair of Red Kites Milvus milvus circled in the fading evening light,.signalling our time to leave this wonderful valley.