“Have you ever been to Aber Falls?” I was asked this by one of the more experienced walkers in the group. “No” was my response, because I hadn’t. “It’s quite nice if you haven’t been before,” was the reply. This immediately elicited the question “So what is it like if you have been before?”
I kept an open mind. However being someone who had grown up half an hour away from the mighty High Force (the Niagara of County Durham), I wasn’t expecting that much. Our bus parked in Abergwyngregyn and we made the 40 or so minute walk to the falls with ease. This is an incredibly easy place to get to, with a smooth path leading right up to the foot of the waterfall. There is a mildly troublesome section at the start, with several muddy steps (akin to those you may find in a woodland path) and a narrow footbridge. However this can be cut out by walking along the road and meeting the path further up.
Halfway along the path there are a couple of farm buildings, one of which has been converted into an ‘information cabin’. Originally a stable, it has been furnished with a couple of wooden benches, and the walls adorned with images of the local area. On one wall there is a cross section of a tree trunk, with facts about the surrounding area written on the wall. These little tit-bits of information also relate to the age of the tree, for example ‘1782 – This tree is planted as an acorn – one of hundreds planted by Penrhyn Estate woodsmen.’ This is quite a cool, and alternative way of telling the areas history, and along with the small 3D map of the area, this building is one you ought to pop your head into.
We left the stable and carried on to Aber Falls, which is a perfectly nice waterfall. This may appear to be damning with faint praise, however that is what it is. It isn’t particularly beautiful, nor is it very powerful, however if all you would like is to have a picnic with a waterfall in the background then it will serve your needs. One of my fellow walkers summed it up well. When asked if he had got any good photos of the falls, he responded “They are OK, but really all photos of Aber Falls tend to come out the same.” And that is it, Aber Falls is a consistently pleasing feature, it isn’t anything more but be pleased that it is nothing less.
We would spend around half an hour at the foot of the waterfall, before carrying on with the walk. Cutting back on ourselves slightly, we went over a stile and began to climb up and along the slope of loose rocks that lie to the left of the Falls. This section would have been relatively easy to cover on most days, however today was quite blustery, and quite a few of us had to cling on. If you are planning on doing this walk, take this section into consideration. The rocky areas have been smoothed considerably by walkers, and as a result can become very slippery when wet. Pack a good pair of gloves, because you will have to use your hands.
Once around these rocks, you will cut up into a valley, with Llwytmor, and Llwytmor Bach [ɬwiːtmɔː / ɬwiːtmɔː bæx] to your left, and Bera Mawr [ʹbɛrə ʹmaʊə], and the river Afon Goch [ævɒn gɒx] on your right. There is a clear path running parallel with the river, which you will follow until right underneath Bera Mawr. This area draws comparisons with some of the more northern of the Dales. There are many likenesses with Tees and Weardale here, for a moment I could have been walking around Cowgreen or Balderhead. The stream tumbled down several small waterfalls, causing rapids and deep pools of crystal clear water. Snow started to fall around us. If you are lucky, you may bump into some of Carneddau’s famous ponies. These wild horses have been living on the slopes in the Carnedd region for several hundred years, and have recently been found to be a unique breed in Britain. We spied two of them beginning to hunker against a wall as the bad weather drew in.
If you are wanting to climb Bera Mawr you will have to cross the river. How difficult this is will differ from day to day, but there are several good places where you can get across safely without getting too wet. We found such a place, crossed, and planned our ascent of Bera Mawr. There had been snow flurries all week in the area, and as a result there was several inches coating the summit. This made the ascent a lot more difficult than it would normally be. The slope is steep in some areas, and although the snow relieves some of the pressure on your ankles, it does make for slippery climbing. The wind wasn’t helping either, whipping around our faces and chilling any exposed bit of skin. Hoping that it would die down slightly, we trudged up the hill side, until getting to the more rocky part of the peak. After quarter of an hour of reaching up snow covered rocks, we turned back. The wind was too strong.
Getting down from Bera Mawr in the snow was a lot simpler than going up. Once past the rocky section, you can just sit back and sledge down the hillside. If you don’t mind getting slightly wet trousers, this is always a fun and quick way to get off a peak in the snow. The snow was really beginning to pick up at this point, and we were pleased we hadn’t attempted to summit. We stopped off for a quick lunch at the river side, and then continued back the way we came.
As long as it is dry this area offers some enjoyable walks. And if you went on a better day than I did then you are bound to get some amazing views from the top of Bera Mawr. Aber Falls also offers a good end point for a day walk. Start in Bethesda and you can tick off 4 Hewitts in relative ease, before having a relax at a perfectly pleasant waterfall. Even if hill walking isn’t your bag, the small valley running between Bera Mawr and Llwytmor will offer a great place for a family to play and picnic in the summer. The small river is good for a paddle, and there are several areas to do some simple scrambling. I will definitely be heading back, and not just to attempt Bera Mawr again.