GUIDE TO THE AFON TAFF FECHAN
NAME OF RIVER: Taff Fechan.
WHERE IS IT?: South Wales, the raging river of Merthyr Tydfil.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put-ins are possible near the Pontsticill dam river right at the bridge near Pontsticil at MR060106 or from Pont Sarn (GR045097). Here there is a carpark beside the road about a hundred metres from the river on river left. You won't miss this spot....the river is crossed by a bridge with a scary looking narrow gorge below and the carpark had burned out cars in it last time we were there. We left someone with our cars! Takeout just before the A465 crosses the river, there is a layby on a side road up a steep slope from the river, on river right.
APPROX LENGTH: 2 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 1-2 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown, but note the comments above about leaving cars.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: I have only paddled this in medium/ high conditions. It seems to stay up well, this was a few days after rain.
L. Nettleton adds...'The dam does not release water unless it is being drained or is overflowing. I visit the area regularly and have only seen an overflow for about 2 weeks in 5 years (this year).'
GRADING: 4 (5).
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Undercut gorges. Tree blockages. Shopping Trolleys. Car thieves. A very dodgy looking gorge.
David Bishop, UWC Cardiff CC (Jan 2004)...'The Taff Fechan has two trees in a couple of the smaller drops after the mini gorge, the first can be cleared in decent water (the drop just below the remains of an Escort seen on the right), the second is a portage. No relaxing when it's high.'
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: From launch point to Glais Bridge and 'Blue pool' (below the 15 foot waterfall) it is mostly a pebble/rock stream with shallows all, over it. Just under the viaduct some 100 metres above the narrow gorge there is a short stretch of Grade 2/3.
A good but short trip. At the put in described, the river squeezes into a tiny gorge which looks extremely dangerous. When we looked in highish water, the line was obvious (there wasn't much choice!) but there were big undercuts and siphons everywhere. It looked quite easy to 'go deep' on any of the drops and surface UNDER AN UNDERCUT! Preferring Grade 5's which involve skill rather than luck and bottle...we bottled out. We've since seen the gorge in low water and this confirmed all our suspicions, as well as showing us that it also has bits of sharp scrap metal sticking out here and there too.
Chris Sladden adds (Nov '01)...'The narrow and dangerous gorge described in the guide is just that. Objectively it is just that. However, in my early days living in South Wales (late 80's) I plus a few friends ran this on a few occasions at low and good medium flows. Maybe, we had luck as there certainly are dangers but I can't remember any terrible cock-ups.'
L.Nettleton adds...'We portaged over the falls but the gorge and falls have been shot by a person who used to work at the Dolygaer Outdoor Centre at the far end of the reservoir whom I know. He did it in fairly low water and, even though he is thought to be a shade dafter than Shaun Baker, didn't think it would be possible at higher levels as the gorge was really unjamming from obstruction to obstruction rather than a passage through and greater water pressure would make it even less possible.'
Directly after in the gorge is a 15 foot waterfall which looks like it has a shallow landing but was straightforward to paddle (ie. fall off). To get to it you either seal launch into the gorge...or run the above rapid. If you don't want to paddle the waterfall, put in on river right below.
Below this the valley opens out for about half a mile and easy rapids follow. The river soon enters a series of narrow gorges however, and the first of these is only Grade 3, but catches those unused to undercuts out! Following gorges have small drops in and you'll need to get out and inspect where possible. The following series of gorges are Grade 4. Note that one of these had avoiding a shopping trolley as part of it's technical difficulties. We also had to make portages along this section, due to log jams. This was directly after the Oct' 98 floods, the river may be cleared of trees now...or it might not. When the valley opens out and you see the A465 crossing the river ahead, get out on river left, cross the footbridge and follow the path up the slope to the cars.
OTHER NOTES: Anybody run the river below this? The River Taff from Llandaff is a good gentle touring paddle.
L. Nettleton adds...'At the time we did it (March '00) there was a lot of run off water coming in from the side streams and it was good but shallow to the start of the first gorge. I wouldn't grade the gorges at 4 in moderate water, 3 would be more realistic and when I did it the only problem was a tree across the top of the 2 small falls in the last gorge. It would have been nasty at higher levels but was easy to bypass when we did it. The run down to your exit point was a rock garden and too shallow for comfort. We took out at the same point, RL just below the road bridge. Members of the Aberfan Canoe club used to do the trip regularly and considered trees to be the only real problem.'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark R, Chris Sladden, David Bishop and L. Nettleton.