Waterfalls seem to hold some mystical power over the human gaze and the bigger they get, the more power they have over our fickle spirits. Pistyll Rhaeadr is certainly the highest waterfall in Wales, but its magnetic appeal stems more from the elegant manner of its descent rather than just sheer height.
There has been a campsite here for many generations (since about 1920), along with an Alpine-looking building serving as a tea room and café – and both fit in with the landscape seamlessly, as if paying homage to the magnificence of nature. Several years ago, however, Phil Pacey, who lived in Norwich at the time, came here for a weekend and fell instantly and totally under its spell. Fate also had it that the café and campsite were for sale, so he promptly sold up and became the personal property of Pistyll Rhaeadr.
Over the years, the importance of the essence of beauty being a natural miracle changed Phil’s approach to running the campsite and he has gradually attempted to educate visitors into leaving behind their urban habits and tuning in to a less hectic and more natural way of life, if only for the brief period of their stay. The sign on the site gate now proclaims this place as ‘Pistyll Rhaeadr Retreat Campsite’ and follows it with a few very simple rules of occupancy.
The first one to raise eyebrows is ‘no electronic music’ – oh, how this is music to the ears – but guitars for campfire singalongs are fine and then ‘behaviour and respect – share the peace of this place, don’t create a disturbance’. There is also a ‘no alcohol’ rule (well, the odd glass of wine, or so, is fine, but campers are discouraged from bringing a whole offy’s-worth along) on this campsite – so this site may not be everyone’s cup of absinthe.
Then there’s the membership scheme to consider and the annual £25 fee. Some may think that this is a simple economic device intended to make Phil a richer man, but besides deterring the Wreakers of Campsite Havoc, who get habitually thrown off sites after one or two nights, this tends to involve folk more closely in the soul of the place. And it also encourages us all to return to this haven of tranquility.
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