Even after walking its paths many times, over several years, Taf Fechan Nature Reserve never ceases to surprise and excite me. The other day, whilst carrying out a riverfly survey at the north of the reserve, I looked upstream and thought ‘I wonder what’s around that corner…’. The river at this point meanders out of sight, and can only be followed if wearing waders or if climbed (or jumped) into from upstream, where the river thunders through a narrow bottleneck and pours down a little waterfall into a wide swirling pool.
I happened to be wearing waders at the time and made my way upstream with my camera, expecting to find an interesting view of the waterfall. Instead, a spectacular gorge came into view, hung with creepers and dripping from many sources, with its towering stratified limestone cliffs beautifully up-lit by the play of late afternoon sunshine on the water.
Dark corners and overhangs seemed to conceal cave entrances, and thoughts of emerging bats and resting otters came to mind. In a narrow crevice a dipper nest lay empty, viewed through a glistening water-misted spider’s web, and below, a huge calcite formation jutted out into the gorge, dripping with crystal water and dancing with light from glowing pebbles and shallow ripples below.
How on earth had I not came across this place before?
Maybe those teenage boys who make the deadly leap into the Blue Pool on hot summer days are not so crazy after all, maybe they are onto something?
But then this is just like Merthyr Tydfil, full of hidden gems that make you wonder why it’s not more visited, and make you wonder at its lingering reputation as an industrial wasteland. It’s enough to make me want to stand on the rooftops and shout ‘The Brecon Beacons are old-hat! Come and explore the Valleys!’. The area is positively bursting with interesting wildlife, hidden gorges, historical ruins and heart stopping beauty, all to be found, for example, on Taf Fechan Nature Reserve and the surrounding hills.