Resolven, Neath Valley
If you are on the lookout for an easily accessible, yet impressive waterfall in South Wales, you need to add the Melincourt Falls to your list
Short Walk to the Imposing Melincourt Waterfall
South Wales is blessed with a wide variety of waterfalls. Many of these are located within the Brecon Beacons National Park, with the main concentration found towards the National Park’s southern edge in the area known as ‘Waterfall Country’.
The two most popular walks, each leading you to multiple waterfalls, are the Four Waterfalls walk and the Elidir Trail. What’s more, a short distance to the west lies the single, but hugely impressive, Henrhyd Falls.
However, there is another majestic cascade that lies just to the south west of the National Park’s boundary, in the Neath Valley, and is known as Melincourt Falls (in Welsh: Sgwd Rhyd-yr-Hesg).
As impressive as this waterfall is, I believe that it doesn’t get the coverage it deserves mainly because it sits outside of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Well, let’s go explore…
Where is the Melincourt Falls?
The falls are located on the Melincourt Brook (river), 1 mile (1.6 km) south west of the village of Resolven, in the Neath Valley.
Where to Park for the Melincourt Falls?
There is a dedicated car park for the Melincourt Falls walk located just off the B4434 (Grid Reference SN821019), directly across the road from the trailhead. Check out the exact car park location below:
Melincourt Falls Walk Description
From the car park head directly across the road and follow the path to the right of the small white stone building.
You will soon pass a sign indicating that you are entering the 13 acre / 5 hectare Melincourt Nature Reserve managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW).
The Melincourt Falls walk now leads you through a tranquil, verdant, wooded valley, along a flat, well made up dirt/gravel path, with the Melincourt Brook sitting 8-10 metres down to your left.
You simply remain on this trail for 10-15 minutes until the path comes to an end and the Melincourt Falls appear directly ahead of you.
The falls themselves are certainly impressive, plunging 24 metres (80 feet) over a resistant band of Pennant Measures sandstone onto the multitude of boulders that have tumbled from the falls’ shelf over the years.
If you wish to get closer to the falls or indeed cross to the other bank for a different viewing perspective, it does require some scrambling over incredibly slippery stones and rocks. You have been warned!!!
Once you have finished admiring the falls and taken your obligatory photo or ten, it is a case of retracing your steps back along the trail to the car park.
Melincourt Nature Reserve – General Information
The Melincourt Nature Reserve consists of ancient broadleaved woodland of predominantly Sessile Oak containing a variety of wildlife. In addition to the Melincourt Falls, the reserve also houses the remains of an 18th century ironworks.
In 1986, the reserve was purchased by the Glamorgan Wildlife Trust, now the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW). Financial assistance was received from the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Royal Society for Nature Conservation and the Countryside Commission for England and Wales.
The aim was to conserve the natural environment and wildlife in this area.
This impressive ancient woodland not only consists of mature Sessile Oak but also Birch, Ash, Rowan and Sycamore. The valley floor is dominated by Alder, Wych Elm and Small-Leaved Lime.
Of the 80 species of flowering plants recorded, it is Bluebells that carpet the woodland floor in spring. Between the months of May and August, it is the yellow trumpet flower of the Common Cow Wheat that covers much of the upper slopes.
In the wetter areas around the waterfall, Opposite-Leaved Golden Saxifrage, Square-stemmed St. John’s Wort, Tutsan and the insect-eating Common Butterwort can be found.
The moist and humid atmosphere creates ideal conditions in which ferns and other non-flowering plants such as mosses and liverworts thrive.
15 species of fern have been recorded including the Lemon Scented Fern which grows in abundance along the main path. Some of the others recorded are the Green Spleenwort, Brittle Bladder Fern, Hard Fern, Broad Buckler Fern, Male Fern, Lady Fern and Royal Fern.
Numerous bird species can be seen regularly in the woods throughout the year, including the Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Buzzard and Jay, whilst Dippers and Grey Wagtails commonly fly along the brook.
During the summer months, migratory birds such as the Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler join the birds that are regular breeders.
The Melincourt Ironworks, situated high up on the northern side of the gorge, started production in 1708 and relied on charcoal as a fuel and water as a source of energy.
A large overshot waterwheel that drove air bellows was powered by a diverted watercourse, providing the air blast for the main furnace.
The remains of this furnace and an air furnace exist today but the water wheel has long since disappeared.
The works closed after 100 years of production in 1808 for reasons that are not precisely known.
The waterfall was accessible enough to be visited by a number of artists, the most notable of whom was J.M.W. Turner, who in 1794 made a drawing of the falls which he included in his South Wales sketch book and is now part of the Tate Gallery collection in London.
Some years later, Thomas Hornor visited the site and produced a painting of the falls and ironworks clearly showing the large overshot waterwheel used for the blast furnace.
The Melincourt Falls flows over a massive bed of hard Pennant Measures sandstone which overlies a much softer shale back to undercut the sandstone. Blocks of this overhanging sandstone eventually collapse, usually along vertical joints. This results in the falls retreating upstream over time.
Melincourt Falls Walk – Our Thoughts
If you are a fan of waterfalls, like we are, the Melincourt Falls are an imposing cascade and are certainly worth a visit. What’s more, they are easily accessible so great if you are visiting with young children or those with limited mobility.
A trip to Melincourt Falls is not so much a day out but something to do enroute to, or returning home from a day out. In reality, the whole experience should take no more than one hour including your time spent enjoying the falls.
If you are visiting with young children please be aware that there is a considerable drop (8 metres approx) from the path down to the river, along sections of the Melincourt Falls walk.
All in all, this is a pleasant stroll to a very striking waterfall. However, if you are looking for some cascades in the locality that require you expelling a little more energy, you may want to check out these Brecon Beacons waterfall walks.
Melincourt Falls Walk Q & As
How long does this walk take?
Maximum 10-15 minutes each way plus however long you wish to spend at the falls.
How difficult is the walk?
The walk is short, flat and very easy.
Have you completed the Melincourt Falls walk?
If so, kindly share your opinions in the comment box below.
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