Book Reviews - Glamorgan & Images Below

Glamorgan, its History and Topography - by C. J. O. Evans

Steve Wray

I have recently come across a copy of this interesting book which was first published in 1938. Fortunately, I have the more recent second edition, revised in 1943 and reprinted in April 1944. The book provides a detailed and fascinating description of the county and its features. In particular, I believe that club members may be interested in the following information concerning the area around Ystradfellte:

"Pont-Nedd-Fechan, standing at the confluence of the Mellte river with the Neath, is an excellent place to commence an exploration of the beauties of the neighbourhood. In this area, all within three miles, are 13 waterfalls. Pont-Nedd-Fechan is on the border of the county, and most of the falls and wilder valleys are in Breconshire. About 1¼ miles to the north-west up the valley of the Neath river, where it is joined by the Afon Pyrddin, is Ysgwd Gwladys or Lady's Fall on the latter river, and so clear from the 40-foot cliff does the water fall that it is possible to walk right under it. At the confluence is a primitive looking footbridge crossing the Pyrddin, made out of the trunk of a tree with a crude hand-rail…"

"Farther up the Pyrddin at a distance of about three quarters of a mile is the Ysgwd Einon Gam or Crooked Einon's Fall, where a stream falls unbroken in a cataract, 80 feet below, a magnificent sight. A bridge thrown across the Little Neath river, by a fall known as the Middle Little Neath, bears an inscription, "Erected by some Lovers of Nature". About nine miles up the Little Neath and east of Ystradfellte is a small cave known as Pwll-y-rhydd, which is accessible in dry weather, and is 30 feet high in places."

"To the east of Pont-Nedd-Fechan, and on the right of the Brecon road, stands the conspicuous Craig-y-Dinas or Dinas Rock (425 feet)… An imposing mass of limestone, it is almost perpendicular and rises nearly 200 feet above the river Mellte and the gunpowder works below. Recent explorations have led to the discovery of an impressive cave and passage ways beneath Craig-y-Dinas. A cavern upwards of 50 feet in height is reached by means of a narrow fissure which has its entrance about 25 feet up the steep cliff face near the new sand works. A distance underground of more than 200 yards has been investigated…"

"After a walk of nearly three miles, the wooded valley of the Hepste river is reached. Here are the Upper Hepste Fall, the Ysgwd-yr-Eira, the beautiful "spout of snow", 45 feet high, and, following the stream downwards, is the Lower Hepste Fall… The Lower Clun-gwyn Fall (40 feet) is first met, and three miles farther is the Middle Clun-gwyn Fall, called the Horseshoe Fall because of its descent from a curved ledge of rock; it makes a double leap and is best viewed from above, being considered by many to be the best fall in the Vale of Neath. The Upper Clun-gwyn Fall is farther ahead and has the longest single drop. A short distance above this fall, and about a mile south of Ystradfellte (in the county of Brecon) is a famous cavern, Porth-yr-Ogof or Cavern Gate (known locally as the White Horse Cave), through which the river Mellte flows for about a quarter of a mile at a depth of 40 feet to 50 feet below the road. This natural tunnel runs through the limestone rock and attracts many sightseers; its best entrance is on the north side. It can be traversed for roughly half its length, but torches are necessary; the entrance is reached by a path on the left bank. The opening is difficult, the yawning mouth of the cavern, 43 feet wide and 20 feet high, being overgrown with bushes. Into this mouth the stream disappears weirdly into the darkness where the noise of the hurrying water is almost deafening. The interior has no special attraction beyond that of curiosity. The roof is low in parts, but a shaft or opening known as the "belfry" rises at one part, casting faint gleams of light in the darkness. The lower exit is small."

I wonder if things have changed?

Images Below - Chris Howes 1997 Wild Places Publishing, 268pp £ depends!

Simon Davies

Chris Howes (the judge at this years photo competition) has finally produced a book for the likes of me. It is a complete guide to underground photography with useful hints on composition and lighting. I have always looked at some of the photographs produced in such books and thought - how is that done ? What lighting? Flash bulb or guns ? Chris Howes has thoughtfully attached to every photograph a guide with position and type of flash and in many cases the stop number, the film type and even how the photo was developed.

If underground photography is something you aspire to or like me occasionally dabble then this will provide a useful reference. Everything is covered from how to sort out focusing to how to deal with that annoying mist and fog that surrounds some photos - the trick apparently is to move the flash farther away from the lens !

As ever the there are literally hundreds of photographs to admire and dozens of diagrammes. There is an interesting exploration on alternative lighting styles including the exciting use of lengths of magnesium ribbon (Where can you get this stuff?). Croydon members who have lurked around S. Wales long enough will recognise our tame (if infrequent) diver in the form of bespectacled and be-bearded Malcolm Stewart in many of them. Clearly it is the offer of immortality which gave MS the patience for so many photo trips !

Chris' writing style is lively informative and as ever with a gently humorous touch that we see in descent. This book is probably going to become the de facto standard for underground photography guides. It will in future no doubt become the reference text for those learning the art.

One final word - the prize for gratuitous mention of title goes Wild Places Publishing for managing to squeeze the title of the book no less than 6 times onto the inside of the dust jacket.

Steve Wray
Simon Davies