|Photo courtesy of geograph.org.uk|
A few miles up the Neath valley is the small village of Cwmgwrach, which in English translates to "Valley of the Witch". Nobody knows exactly how it got its name, but it goes back to at least the 9th century and locals are very proud of their witchy heritage. It is incorporated on the badges of the local school and rugby team, as well as this super cool road sign ("Croeso i Cwmgwrach" is Welsh for "Welcome to the Valley of the Witch"). I love the warmth, quirkiness and humor of my Welsh heritage - these unexpected gems can be found everywhere.
Interestingly, Australian prime minister Julia Gillard hails from Cwmgwrach.
Eventually we made it to Pontneddfechan ("Bridge over the River Neath" in English). Dylan had fallen asleep, so Nancy, Gavin and I made the 3 mile hike to the Sgwd Gwladus (Gwladus Falls) while my dad stayed with him. As with most things in Wales, there is a legend behind the name. I am a sucker for legends, and here is the story behind this one.
Gwladus was said to be the beautiful daughter of Brychan of Brycheiniog, a 5th century Welsh prince. She fell in love with a young man called Einion, but their love was doomed. Both lovers are immortalized as waterfalls, and the legend goes that although Gwladus and Einion could never be together in life, their spirits flow together for all eternity, pouring over the rocks and merging in the pool below.
The hike to the falls is beautiful and secluded, and well worth the time. I have vivid recollections of getting in trouble with my dad as a kid for jumping off the top into the pool below. Looking at the falls and pool now, I can well understand why.
|Nancy and Gavin on the hike to the falls|
|Me and Gavin|
|Nancy and Gavin by the falls|
|Did I really once jump off the top of that?|
|By the pool at the bottom of the falls|
|At the top of the falls|
|Dylan woke up, and he and my dad met up with us during the return hike|