A couple of years ago we discovered one of Wales's ancient forests, and deep within it, a beautiful waterfall and pool. It was so humid and we were hot after our walk up the forest path so we felt sad that we hadn't brought our swimming things. BUT the water was so inviting and I mean, we hadn't seen a single soul all morning. We were all alone in the most magical place, we'd be crazy not to just strip off and get in...
Just as I took my shoes and socks off, three gorge scramblers in luminous wet suits appeared out of nowhere, on top of the waterfall, ready to abseil down it. So that scuppered that!
I made a promise to myself to come back and swim one day. Today was that day.
This forest is actually a temperate rain forest, also known as Atlantic or Celtic rain forest and as soon as you close the woodland trust gate behind you, you can feel it. It's deep and lush and humid. It smells of wet earth and wood and fungi and looks extra green. It makes you breathe deeply and sigh. Thank goodness we are here.
We parked in a lay-by opposite the Maentwrong water power station and we followed our footsteps from our last visit,
walking along the river and then climbing up and up and up lots of steps through the trees.
This place is home to some rare mosses, lichens and liverworts and is a site of global scientific interest.
Apparently some of the lichens in the gorge have been there since the ice age!
Now, I wouldn't know a rare one if I saw one but I marvel at the most everyday species anyway so there was no pressure to spot anything.
Look at these, like little periscopes surveying the area!
We found some fungi friends
and a rather splendid stag beetle.
Once we had climbed quite high we had to listen out for the waterfall below. We only found it last time because we heard it and we could just make out the pebbly river beach through the trees.
It was a scramble down a bank to get there but worth it.
We finally, made it back to the waterfall. We didn't hesitate to get in and swimming was every bit as magic (and as cold) as I expected.
I think we had about ten minutes of bliss and peace before some more gorge scramblers arrived (obviously the place for it) but by that time we were 'refreshed' and ready to warm up with a flask of tea. We were buzzing, from the cold water but also from the keeping of a promise!
We told my son and his girlfriend about this place and they visited the other day with their dog Moon. Here he is looking very happy. They also discovered a much easier route to the waterfall, coming in from the other side of the river. We'll try that next time but our scramble down the bank added to our sense of adventure.
You can find this incredible wood near Maentwrog in the Vale of Ffestiniog in Snowdonia. You can read more about it on the Woodland Trust site and find all the directions. It's well worth a visit.