Melincourt Falls (Sgwd Rhyd Yr Hesg in Welsh) seemed to be one of the unsung waterfalls in an area of South Wales known as Waterfall Country. I suspect the reason why this falls wasn’t as well known as the others was that it was not part of the Brecon Beacons National Park (it was actually in its own reserve managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales) so I’d imagine it kind of fell off the radar for most of the literature let alone tourist itineraries. So when I finally managed to see the 80ft (24m) waterfall in person, I was quite surprised at how similar it was to Sgwd Henrhyd, which was said to be the tallest waterfall in South Wales at 90ft situated just a short distance further north in the Brecon Beacons towards the head of the Vale of Neath. However, the similarities ended there as I wasn’t able to go behind this waterfall, but then on the flip side, I had a very quiet experience overall as I was practically the only one around for most of both the walk and the viewing of the falls itself.
Speaking of the walk, the 15-minute (in each direction) walk to get to its base was mostly level as it left the public car park space across the B4434 road (see directions below). Shortly after crossing the road and getting behind the buildings facing it, I was immediately within the shady and tranquil confines of the 12-acre reserve where all of the sudden I was surrounded by vegetation clinging to the steep walls of the gorge. The trail pretty much followed along the eastern banks of the Melincourt Brook, and the stream added to the ambience of the Naturesque scene as it was further filled with the sound of its waters. About midway through the hike was a trail junction and a sign just past it. Following a short distance past this sign (ignoring the uphill trail on the right), I’d eventually get to the trail’s end where the impressive Melincourt Falls showed up suddenly around a final bend in its brook.
Given the rocky nature of the base, I was content with experiencing the falls from the end of the official trail. There were a lot of sharp and slippery giant boulders strewn about the base of the falls suggesting that the cliffs here continue to shed some of itself over time. And while I’m sure the daring might be able to make the awkward scramble to get behind the falls at its wet base, it didn’t seem like it would be a very wise thing to do. When I returned to the trailhead, it dawned on me that this might have been one of the easier trails, especially for a waterfall of this magnitude.
By the way, I also had spent time checking out that uphill trail near the sign, and it would climb up above the cliffs of the gorge with obstructed views back down towards Melincourt Falls as the trail would ultimately get past a gate before accessing the narrow and private Waterfall Road. Prior to doing the hike along the Melincourt Brook, we had mistakenly driven up that road as our GPS had fooled us into thinking that we should take the narrow up to get as close to the falls as possible. Little did we realize that it was not the place for visitors, but we started suspecting something was wrong when there were neither parking nor signage throughout this road, and just past a graveyard, the road ended at a private residence with aggressive unrestrained dogs ready to maul strangers.
By the way, the sign by the trail junction had mentioned that this falls had been visited by the likes of artist JMW Turner as well as the poet W Sotherby in the 1700s. Back then, industry was a more prominent part of the landscape, and it was said that Turner even mentioned their presence around the falls in his poems of this place. However, it was also said that the condition of the falls and reserve was in its much more Naturesque setting, which was said to be similar to how it was some 600 years ago well before the Industrial Revolution made its presence felt. Undoubtedly, the work by the trust did much to restore the look and feel of this place.
Finally, I had also noticed that the sign had spelled the falls “Melincwrt”. Then, I remembered that in one of our Waterfall Country maps, this falls was also spelled “”Melin y Cwrt”. When I looked up these words in my Welsh dictionary, the name didn’t seem to make sense as melin meant “mill” and cwrt meant “court” so putting these words together would make it the Court Mill Falls. I tended to think these alternate spellings were phoenetic spellings using the Welsh alphabet, but the actual Welsh name for the falls was Sgwd Rhyd yr Hesg [“SGOOD hrhud ur HESG”] meaning “Ford of the Rushes”, which I’d imagine might refer to those moments when the brook might change from its gentle demeanor and flood in times of heavy rain.
We visited this waterfall shortly after having visited Sgwd Henrhyd. For directions on getting there from the neighboring #directionsDan yr Ogof Showcaves (as well as how to get to the showcave itself from Cardiff), see those pages. So from the Sgwd Henrhyd, we drove back to the Inter Valley Road then took it for a little over 4 miles back to the A465 road at Glynneath. We then continued heading west on the A465 motorway for about 4.5 miles to the roundabout at the Resolven. Taking the first exit left to get onto its local road, it would eventually meander through the town and become the B4434 road, which would lead about a mile south of Resolven to the signed car park to the right of the road. Overall, this drive between the car parks of Sgwd Henrhyd and Melincourt Falls should take about 15-20 minutes.
Taking a different approach from Cardiff Bay (we took this route in reverse on the return drive to our accommodation after the hike), we would drive the A4232 motorway for about 9 miles towards the M4 motorway, then continue west on the M4 for nearly 30 miles to the A465 motorway. Then, heading northeast on the A465, we’d take it for roughly a little over 8 miles to the roundabout at Resolven, then follow the B4434 road as directed above to the car park. Overall, this drive took us roughly an hour.
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