I’m on my knees, I’m soaked, and it’s pitch black. I’ve just gone down The Toilet, a hole in the rocky floor of a cave, and now I’m trying to flush myself clear. There is light at the end of the tunnel, literally, albeit only a dull glow from our guide’s head torch. But I can’t really focus on it as the space is so tight, it’s impossible to hold my helmeted head up, and my legs are under water.

This, as unlikely as it may seem, is caving for beginners.

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I’ve already been through The Wormhole, a slit in the rock 
so shallow that it involved a commando-like stomach shuffle for almost 10m, head sideways. The Letterbox – which, 
I think, speaks for itself – is still to come.

As a first-timer, I thought, rather foolishly, that I’d be in for a gentle start. But I’ve barely managed to stand upright during the several hours I’ve spent in 2.5km Porth Yr Ogof, near Pontneddfechan, heart of Wales’s Waterfall Country. This is adventure the Welsh way, one of many opportunities to get wet and wild in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Cheery, laconic guide Dave only guffawed when I mentioned that one of the wellies I’d been given had a large gash in it. It soon becomes clear that my feet would have become just as wet if I had pristine boots, just not as quickly.

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The Brecon Beacons are like that; friendly but no nonsense. This is outdoor heaven, but one where no one tries to make you feel that this is a province for experts only.

The Brecons sweep 65km across southern Wales, from north of Cardiff all the way to Swansea. It’s unusual for 
a national park in that it’s not just wilderness; among the mountains (including Pen y Fan, south Wales’s highest peak at 886m) are towns such as Abergavenny and Brecon.

Adventures include canyoning (like white-water rafting, without the raft), gorge walking (a less extreme, but no drier, form of canyoning), river running (swimming through rapids) and rock climbing. All can be tackled by anyone, if you’ve got the nerve.

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During the cave adventure, I feel the oppressive weight of the huge shelf of rock that keeps the roof from falling in, edge through tiny gaps as the sounds of other cavers echo eerily, and emerge, blinking, into the misty rain. The cave entrance is a mystical sight; the river crashing over rocks through a narrow gorge, then disappearing into what looks as if it should be a dragon’s lair.

Rather drier is a river expedition on the Wye. The sun is high in a blue autumn sky as we’re handed our Canadian canoe at Wye Valley Canoes’ base next to Glasbury’s stone bridge. After several inelegant circles to get the hang of it, we point downstream, paddling only to keep us central on the winding river. We see kingfishers darting across the water, then find ourselves bouncing through rapids, all with a backdrop of the Black Mountains. By lunchtime we’ve managed 8km to pretty Hay-on-Wye on the English border. Our arms are aching and we’re ready for the shuttle back – and glad that we didn’t choose the full-day, 16km trip.

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Even walking is an adventure here. From Porth Yr Ogof,  I take the 6km Four Waterfalls path along the river, up steep steps, down forest trails and past several crashing falls before reaching Sgwd yr Eira (Falls of Snow). I clamber along the steep-sided muddy bank, spray soaking me, and then disappear on the ledge behind the foaming waters. Another day I leave the Waterfall Centre in Pontneddfechan (opposite the Angel Inn) and climb the steep, muddy path following the River Hepste for another handful of falls. These walks can be managed alone, but guides are available – although they’re used more for exposed mountaintop hikes.

The amazing thing is that, in the Brecons – tucked inside our very own UK – I experience things that I never thought I would, from the tops of mountains to deep below them. And these are experiences open to everyone. Great Britain, indeed.

A half-day’s caving is £55pp with Adventure Britain, which also offers canyoning and more  adventurebritain.com Canoeing from £20pp for a half-day with Wye Valley Canoe Centre   wyevalleycanoes.co.uk More on Brecon Beacons at   breconbeaconstourism.co.uk

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Getting there

Trains from London Paddington to Abergavenny, changing at Newport, cost from £62.50 return (nationalrail.co.uk). The X43 bus connects Abergavenny and Brecon, taking about an hour. Tickets from £4.50 return. (stagecoachbus.com)

Where to eat

A gastropub just west of Brecon that combines local fare (Welsh lamb and beef) with veg from the garden in a modern-rustic setting, Felin Fach Griffin’s dishes start at about £16, but it’s 
a treat. (eatdrinkleep.ltd.co.uk)

The Bridge Café in Brecon is more of a bistro, with veg-rich evening meals from £9.  (bridgecafe.co.uk)

Where to drink

Just north of Abergavenny,  Skirrid Mountain Inn dates back to the Norman Conquest, and doubled as a courthouse with indoor hangings. There’s a selection of real ales from £2.50. (skirridmountaininn.co.uk)

The Angel Inn in Pontneddfechan is a great place for a pint after caving or 
a waterfalls walk. Pints from £2.50.(theangelinn.pizco.com)

Where to sleep

The River Café is a neat Italian B&B on the Wye. Local beer and lots of fish and pasta are on hand for exhausted rowers, cyclists and hikers. From £35pp B&B. (wyevalleycanoes.co.uk)

A Victorian farmhouse in 
a lovely setting several miles from Brecon, at Brecon Youth Hostel rooms sleep up to 10 and you can self-cater. There’s also a bar serving organic wine. From about £20pp. (yha.org.uk)