Tuesday, 14 September 2010

New Blood


We started to panic a bit as we are drawing closer to the end of the traditional wild swimming season. We don’t want to wait months to swim again. Maybe there is no ‘season’ anymore and with a good wetsuit, boots and gloves we can keep going through the winter without dying of hypothermia.

We decided to get a waterfall under our belts and with Sgwd Gwladys only half an hour away she should be our first. This is the first spot we went to that is listed in Daniel Starts ‘Wild Swimming’.

We had some new blood with us for this trip. Our friends from Bristol had been booked in to stay with us over this weekend so Paul was informed to bring his wetsuit with him for a surprise. My eldest son Jake had been showing a keen interest in our antics, much to the dismay of his mother, and begged to come along too.

So the four of us jumped in the car and headed off for the 30 minute drive to the falls. Me and Owen filled this time with some traditional taunting of the new blood with tales of ice cold water, dangerous currents, whirlpools and mysterious monsters. When we arrived, the car park of the pub was full and there were a lot of cars parked along the road. There seemed to be an abundance of Regatta clad ‘professional’ amblers milling around the place. We pushed through the crowds as the excitement started to build in anticipation of what was in store for us. Stepping through the gate and looking down the gorge to our right we were instantly disappointed, the river was in flood. We all thought there is no way we are getting a swim today as the ferocity of the white water and whirlpools held our gazes.

We all agreed to walk up to the falls to check it out for next time. The walk took about 20 minutes and the river was raging for the entire length. The gorge mentioned in wild swimming was completely flooded. We crossed the footbridge at the confluence of the two rivers and followed the path. The flow in our river had been halved and the glimmer of the possibility of a swim began to grow.

We started to hear the falls, the roar got louder with each step. As we rounded the final corner and the falls came into view the sound was deafening. The falls lay at the base of a deep valley and sat in the middle of an amphitheatre that must have been designed by an acoustic engineer.

In the plunge pool were three people, wearing big smiles on their faces and getting a thorough pasting from the water. We sat for 20 minutes and watched intently. Paul climbed up the valley side to look on top and a couple of minutes later appeared on the edge of the falls.

By the time he had got back down the other 3 swimmers had vacated the pool and left. We got changed full of anticipation. Owen was first in, then Paul, Jake and me.

I walked towards the falls and stood knee deep in the plunge pool. After watching Owen and Paul get battered by the falling water I dived in. The colour of the water took my breath away. It was golden brown and must have been stained by the peat bogs further up the valley, it was like swimming in real ale illuminated by a golden sunset.

When I surfaced I swam towards the impact zone. The water sucked me towards the chaos and then pushed me away at the last moment. I clambered out to join the rest of the boys hidden in the mist behind the curtain.
The power of the main body of water was intense, you could feel it in the air, the sound of the impact passed through your body. We decided it was unlikely we would make it through the main flow so we moved to the edge and a less violent sect6ion of the curtain. The amount of water falling seemed small but it hit the body and head with an almost painful force.

We dived back into the golden soup and floated around the plunge pool being pushed this way and that by the angry current.

Owen went back behind the curtain and sat down on the rocks edging himself closer to the boiling white water. He was a couple of yards from the main impact zone and had a big smile on his face as the powerful natural Jacuzzi raged around him.

After a bit more messing around we got out and dried off. We climbed up to the clearing at the top of the waterfall and cracked open a beer (Dr Pepper for Jake). We sparked up the camping stove and threw on a slab of Welsh Black Beef prime rump steak. Ravenous from the cold we were soon guzzling down our chilli cheese steak baguettes.

We cleared up and made our way back to the car noting possible dipping spots on the way back, we couldn’t leave without having a pint in the pub could we?

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