From 3 - 400 meters up as you ascend the Eastern slopes of the Radnor Forest you begin to get a sense that these high hills will yield more than just a majestic water feature, because no matter the direction in which you look you are afforded views of the regions most celebrated outdoor destinations. There are the Malverns 45-50 miles East, the Long Mynd in Shropshire to the North East and the Clee Hills and the Mortimer Forest near Ludlow, the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons appear magnificently to the South and there are the wild Cambrian Mountains with the peak of Pumlumon to the West. It's a a massive view from the forest and as each new vista is revealed whilst upon the rugged tops you realise what a gem of a place this is in, not only the catchment area of the Wye, but the border country of Wales and England also.
Externally the views are indeed fantastic and stimulating on every level and yet it doesn't overshadow the forests interior, which is equally as impressive with its rugged moorland and its steep sided gullies and ravines that channel huge amounts water into the Wye via numerous brooks and rivers. See Radnor Forest. You are glad to be in such a place especially if you are fortunate enough to see roaming deer in the massive plantations that grace the slopes here or Short Eared Owls that frequent this ancient hunting ground in addition.
So, on we tread towards the Water Breaks Its Neck making camp as we venture forth. The first camp was amid great views of the Whimble at 599 meters as it was situated just to the Southern edge of the forest itself on the Northern fringe of Great Creigiau at 646 Meters. Here I felt at home watching what I thought to be Merlin but could have been mistaken. later I walked in the forest where a friend in the making Matt Price was sculpting a mountain bike trail amid the tall pines. Resonating he took me on a quick tour of this huge and impressive pine forest that hugged every slope available.
On the second day we traversed the top end of the mighty Harley Valley where weapons testing takes place further below this deep gorge like feature. Always up for a test we took the path less travelled and went straight up one of the gullies off the valley to arrive at the top of Great Rhos the highest point at 660 meters. We bypassed the trig point and headed for the Esgairnantau Plateau where I met with the Northern edge of the Warren Plantation the smallest of the two Pine forests to grace these slopes. Below was the majestic and sweeping Nyth Grug Valley, which gives rise to the source of the Water Breaks Its Neck. We were now on the Western flanks of the Radnor Forest.
Walking through the Nyth Grug Valley towards Water Breaks Its Neck your surprised once again by the space the forest offers the dreamy hiker. It's cavernous and sweeping invoking a deep breath of pure enjoyment. In a gully and or deep depression to the valleys North where a small plantation meets the main Warren Plantation we are greeted by a dry channel the first signs that we are near the waterfall although with it being dry there are doubts. Moving forward seepage finally emerges to fill the channel forming what will become the Black Brook. Further on down-stream the water strangely disappears only to re-emerge again just prior to the falls. The water went underground because there was too little to carry it over the small rises on the bed of the brook. Nothing will stop gravity!
Enveloped now by the Warren Wood with its mighty Redwoods I head for the ravine below where the Water Breaks Its Neck is flowing all be it as a trickle. This is a magical space populated by moss and trees that appear fluorescent. To many it is a sacred space and as you near the falls messages etched in stone lends special meaning to the amphitheatre type destination that is the Water Breaks Its Neck waterfall, which rises roughly 15 meters above. It's invigorating, somewhat calming simultaneously and inspiring to the eye.
From the start it promised to be a good trip. On the bus from Hereford I met Rebecca from Malvern a lady more advanced in years than I but with a spirit much younger than her years. She was off to hike the Cambrian Mountains as a roamer of the land as much as a bush-crafter eating wild foods along the way. At Kington Lynda from Cambridge emerged telling us of her love for the Offa's Dyke National Trail but also of her ailments due to old unworked muscle groups being called into action. She was fun and joked that Rebecca was in actual fact 'Rebecca Gryls'. In New Radnor Sharron from the local store, which was simply laid, out greeted us with a smile allowing us to know the village was indeed alive with a warm welcome.
In the forest, as mentioned, we met Matt who has since contributed the photograph on the right to this page. A farmer's son from the Walton Basin below the forest it demonstrates the alternative life that plays out amid these rugged hills.
I walked over the mountains, survived off nuts and raisins, saw no-one for over 24 hours, walked 15 miles + one day, was not rained on, felt fit, experienced the nothingness of the uplands and the pleasure of descending into the valley below reaching the first deserted farms and the promise of people and company ...
Rebecca Roseff (From her Cambrian Mountain Adventure) Aug 2015
6,7 & 8th August 2015