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Aber Falls (Gwynedd)

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A waterfall, also known as Rhaeadr Fawr, located about two miles south of the village of Abergwyngregyn, Gwynedd, Wales.

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      28.03.2009 09:04
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      Simply one of the most beautiful places in Wales

      Aber Falls is an impressive 120 foot waterfall, set in a stunningly beautiful, steep sided valley in the Snowdonia National Park. The waterfall can only be reached on foot; because of this, it seems wild and remote but in reality it's only about a mile from one of North Wales' busiest roads, the A55. Proximity to this road makes Aber Falls extremely easy to reach. Aber Falls is set in the Coedydd National Nature Reserve. National Nature Reserves are protected areas containing Britain's most important wildlife and geological formations, so the NNR classification tells us that this area is something special. To get to Aber, exit the A55 at the Abergwyngregyn junction. The Aber Falls route is signposted from here. Note that it's only a short drive of less than a mile, but up a steep and winding narrow road lined with stone walls. If you don't fancy this drive, there's parking in Abergwyngregyn. The car park for the falls walk is found at Bont Newydd Bridge. As soon as you get out of the car, you'll realise that you're already in beautiful surroundings. The bridge at Bont Newydd is a delightful stone arch over the Afon (river) Rhaedr Fawr. The fast flowing river beneath the bridge is surrounded by elegant trees, making this one of the most scenic car parks I've ever been in! That charming little bird, the dipper lives in the river and can be seen anywhere along its' length including near the car park. This lovely brown bird is aptly named as it feeds by 'dipping' under the water looking for insects and grubs on the river bottom. They're supremely adapted to their aquatic environment and can walk along under the water, even in strongly flowing water. The walk to the falls is along a gravel path, and takes about half an hour to complete. The walk follows the path of the river up the valley, through extremely picturesque woodland and meadows. Within about 15 minutes, you'll reach the visitors centre. It's hard to believe when in such tranquil surroundings, but the valley was an industrial centre until relatively recently, and the centre has displays showing this. There are also displays showing the wide variety of wildlife you're likely to see and hear during your walk. Sadly, you won't see red squirrels (although the greys are common) as they died out in the valley not so long ago. Just up from the visitor centre is what looks like a pile of rocks. Apparently, this is the remains of an iron age round house dating back over 2000 years. Realising this, the 'pile of rocks' suddenly becomes more interesting. It's amazing to think of Iron Age people, going about their business, living in this tiny house so long ago. As you head up the valley, you'll start to get glimpses of the falls in the distance. Gradually, the size of the waterfall is realised, but it's not until you get to within a few hundred yards, that the awesome power of the falls becomes apparent. Pictures can do the falls more justice than my words, but you have to be there to get the full effect. It's possible to walk right up to the waterfall and stand just outside of the crashing water. The whole of your sight will then be taken up by the massive, dark stone face and falling water. The amount of water varies dependant on rainfall, so it's best to visit on a nice day, just after torrential rain. I did this in August last year and the experience was quite exciting. The noise was tremendous. It was not possible to talk near the falls due to the sound of the water crashing into the pool and onto the rocks. The spray travelled over 40 yards, soaking anyone it its' path. The awesome power of nature is evident on a day like this, and you can see just how mere water has been able to carve out a cliff over 100 feet high over many millennia. Even the temperature was lower near the falls, the massive cliff blocks out the sun making that summer's day decidedly cool. It's apparently possible to bathe in the pool at the bottom of the falls; you do need to be careful as it's quite deep, and the wet rocks extremely slippy. If you do go for a paddle, you'll be sharing the pool with the resident brown trout. Having got to the falls, there's plenty of places to picnic or just sit and enjoy the views. There should be plenty of wildlife for you to look out for too, if you go in summer. There are two routes back, the way you came, and a walk down the other side of the valley. If you want to go this route, be aware that it's rougher than the walk to the falls, and much wetter. To do this walk, cross over the river using the pretty wooden bridge and follow the obvious path which follows the cliff for a while then bends down the valley. After a few hundred yards, you climb slightly and the view in front opens up. When I first saw this, I stopped and stared; it's achingly beautiful! You can see down the wooded valley, past the lovely meadows, with the blue sea beyond and Puffin Island in the distance. On a sunny day, there are few places I'd rather be, it's lovely. The path continues down the valley, through the woods so you get another chance to see the wildlife of this special place. In summer, pied flycatchers will be doing what their name suggests, flying up from a branch catching flies in mid air, then returning to their perch to swallow their meal. You should hear the repetitive disyllabic call of the cuckoo, a sound that's becoming rarer these days. Redstarts, wood warblers, tree pipits, and wheatears can all be seen, and you may catch a glimpse of the 'mountain blackbird', the ring ouzel in the rocky areas. The path ends at the road below the car park so carry on back up to your car to finish the day. I hope I've given you a good impression of what this walk is like. I visit here every summer, it's one of my favourite places to be, I'm sure you'll enjoy it too.

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