All aboard for a short walk
near the Dolgoch Falls
Sometimes a photo just doesn't do justice to
its subject matter. It isn't that it just gives a momentary snapshot into
something at the click of a shutter. It can perhaps never quite capture the
essence of a place as accurately and forcefully as being there yourself.
It was with that in mind, as I snapped away at
the Dolgoch Falls, that I thought this camera isn't conveying these
energy-charged falls in an effective and convincing enough way.
The hynoptic rhythm of the falling water as it
hit terrace after rocky terrace, and then plunged several feet in to the
gurgling Fathew River below was an impressive sight to behold.
A frothy mass of foaming water in various arch
formations on, camera however, didn't quite reveal the falls as the
vibrant and explosive sensation it truly is.
With three series of waterfalls, emanating from
the Nant Dolgoch stream, it proved impossible to contain them all within
my humble digi-camera's frame.
But as the split-second confirmation shots
revealed, cameras do unfortunately lie and mislead. To obtain a true
insight into a natural wonder, there is no intrument better than a pair
of human eyes.
It is certainly a strange paradox, that dark
areas become well lit under the auspices of a camera, and conversely
bright scenes become almost invisible to its peremptory lens. It's quite
puzzling to see 'the perfect shot' appear shrouded in a hazy mist or be
conveyed as an 'overcast sky' - when the sun is beating down overhead.
No matter, as I struggled to get the camera to
offer a lustrous vision of the area, the pictures, I reasoned, could only
really give anyone a limited impression of the stunning locale. As the
old adage goes: seeing is believing. People really need to make a trip to
see them at first hand.
And your mode of transport is fortunately quite
wide. Car will take you to the Dolgoch Falls hotel in well under an hour
from Glyn-yr-aur. However, there is a far more traditional transport on
offer - in the form of the local narrow gauge railway.
The Talyllyn Railway, still running since it's
inaugural opening in 1866, does actually use rolling stock, now
refurbished, from the Victorian era when it first hit the 2' 3" wide
The oldest of the steam engines, at a mere 145
years old, is the Talyllyn itself. Built by Fletcher and Jennings in
1864, the 12 ton engine was refurbished in the late 50s and is still one
of the stalwart locomotives that makes the 2 hour round trip.
In the peak season 4 services are run a day,
and at a steady 9 miles an hour, people have plenty of time to drink in
all the mesmerising sites from the Cader Idris and Dysynni Valley up
until the terminus at Nant Gwernol.
Initially built to carry slate from the Bryn
Eglwys works 7 miles north of Tywyn, it was only a matter of years before
the railway provided passenger services aswell.
Dolgoch was actually a place where the steam
locomotives would take on water in any event. But by 1873, several other
stations, including this one, were opened, and helped to service the
outlying hamlets and farmsteads.
Soon afterwards, local quarrymen tried to find
sufficient seams of slate near the falls, but soon stopped as none were
So today, as you approach the falls on the left-hand
track, you will see a large cave, which is evidence of the former mine
It's perfectly safe to venture as far as
they'll take you, but a torch or strong light is needed.
To the right of this ,there is a platform to
take in the Dolgoch Falls in all their effervescent brilliance.
A professional photographer, with tripod, was
already snapping away. However, his vantage point was better as is it
proved later, when I went through my pictures. The light where I stood
didn't offer the best of perspectives. However once the walkway was
followed around the falls and
down to the right hand pathway, better pictures were certainly
Fortunately, funding was found (in 2001) to
allow people a sturdy pathway up and over the top of the first section
two sections of the falls.
People should follow some stone steps a little
further down river and follow them up the hillside, until they come to a
bridge and can watch the upper and lower falls cascade vigorously over
The higher sections feature thinner skeins of
water that all merge together in a frenzied jumble to bear down
ferociously on the underlying bedrock.
Certain sections are more gnawed and chiselled
than others, while stones on the riverbed balance precariously on top of
each other, not knowing which is next due for a toppling.
Once over the bridge, you can stop at another
perfect viewing point and have an excellent perspective on the cascading
falls. A few better shots were taken here.
Down on the right hand bank (now on your left)
you can walk to another new bridge and downwards towards the Dolgoch
However, it's certainly worth checking out the
Dolgoch station, if you've driven here by car. And people can follow the
signs near the entrance gate up to the station platform.
People can also pass through a white gate
before the station and look at work done by the local Tracksiders, who
are instrumental in the upkeep and running of the whole site.
They have built a viewing platform for visitors
to just watch the trains as they go by and have also constructed some
Interestingly, it was only with the foresight
and generosity of volunteers that this heritage railway ever came into
In 1948 it was closed due to a calamitous rockfall,
the death of the owner and the collapse of the world market in slate.
Some famous railway enthusiasts of the time
including the Rev W Awbry, creator of Thomas the Tank Engine, stepped in
to the save it from total closure and ruin.
They, with the support of many others, restyled
it into a tourist attraction (in 1951) and saw it become the first ever
heritage railway line run in the world.
The station today is formed of traditional
Welsh stone and has signage and posters with something of an Art Deco
Information posters detail the timetable and
share details about the railway's history.
You then need to proceed across another bridge
that takes you to the opposite side of the platform and back down near to
the falls themselves.
A small, but impressive viaduct has been built
to ford the River Fathew and takes the railway across to the station at
You can marvel at its sturdy piers as you walk
underneath towards the entrance gate and back out into the carpark. Then
it's time for perhaps tea at the Dolgoch Falls Hotel, or a picnic say in
the nearby woodland setting.
Directions: From Glyn-yr-aur, follow the roads through to Dolgellau.Then take the A470 south to
Machynlleth. When you reach the right hand turn off to the Talyllyn Lake
(the B4405), take this route and follow for several miles until you come
to the Dolgoch Falls Hotel and its car park.
A short trek through the
To some people it's all about looking right
when you go out on a walk: you need to have the right brand of nordic
walking pole, all finished off with a William Morris pattern, or say a
camp stove that shouts out the durability ratings of thermal socks ...
But, surely, it's simply enough to want to go
out for an amble: sturdy trainers and casual loose clothing should more
than fit the bill.
Thankfully, my reasonably priced walking shoes
were holding their own on this bright autumnal afternoon as I strode out
to follow a waymarked path through the Fathew Valley.
Well they were until the picturesque meadow
revealed its darker side.
Just a few hundred yards from the Dolgoch Falls
hotel, traces of a fairly flat and level route could be seen etched in to
All was sure to be plain sailing, or so I
thought. However, cattle and rainfall are two things that should never
mix, especially in a field with deep, loamy soil.
Skirting the field and gripping onto the
fencing helped to haul me to some higher ground, and a fair distance away
from the 'mudbath'.
After passing through two rusty farm gates,
it's then easy to follow the pathway, which almost parallels the tracks
of the Tallylyn railway on the side of the valley.
A patchwork of pleasant fields unfolds before
you and a generous woodland
decks the hillside that rises up on your left.
The soft crunch of russet-coloured leaves under
my feet and a bright sky above set the mood for this walk, which
typically lasts under an hour.
A sea of ragged ferns had colonised various
sections of the hillside, but oftentimes the silver birch, oak and
sycamore would beat them back until they were barely visible at all.
Streams would cascade down from the higher
ground to join the water courses raging throughout the Fathew Valley.
And nervous sheep, unsure of strangers, would
gingerly cower at field corners not sure whether you were friend or foe.
Any meek salutations to pacify their nerves were met with disbelief or
Sheep seem to be hard-wired to be permanently
suspicious, perhaps as surplus rams they know that there will only ever
be so many field changes until they would never come back.
Several farms were dotted around the wide
valley floor and a few tractors could be seen in the fields, while
intermittent traffic zoomed past in the distance on the Tywyn-bound A-road.
What's perhaps most impressive are the hills
that rise either side of the valley and cut an impressive swathe through
No-where can hills or mountains be found quite like
Snowdonia in all of the Principality. They have such mega dimensions and
proportions that dwarf the landscape.
It's not suprising perhaps then to note that in
times past, Welsh princes of this region generally held sway over much of
the rest of the Wales. A few miles from here is one stronghold, Castell y
Bere, of Llewelyn the Great. One of the last remaining Welsh princes who
had any significant power in Wales, he managed to build several Welsh
fortresses from here to Criccieth.
He married King John's daughter Joan, and his
main powerbase was near modern day Caernarfon.
His grandson, also Llewelyn, was the very last Welsh, Prince of
Wales, and was usurped and killed eventually by the forces of English
king, Edward I.
Castell y Bere is hidden among these labyrinth
of hills and mountain passways and is definitely worth visiting when in
this locale. Perched high on a rocky outcrop, it is one of the largest
ruins of a Welsh castle in Snowdonia.
It has some of the most breath-taking views of
hills, valleys and mountain tops that this area has to offer, and was
eventually taken over by the English when Wales fell gradually into their
It was said it took some time for the English
to defeat the Welsh, because they would just head for the hills, lay low,
and then regroup for a fresh and concerted uprising. But beaten back they
were and some of the grandest castles are those left by the English
Today, this part of Wales has still very much a
predominantly Welsh flavour and feeling. However, the English seem to be
keen to 'invade' this area anew, weither as day-trippers or tourists -
and if local accents reveal anything at all, many have also made this
oustanding place their permanent home.
Now back to the walk: after traversing the pathway
for some time, a smallholding should come into view, and people need to
follow the pathway behind the back of house and garden, and carry on the
designated walkway along the hillside. It can be followed for a fair few
hours should people so wish the whole length of the valley.