Grade C+. 4 miles.
Date: Wednesday, 25 November 2015. Weather: Squally winds, light rain.
This relatively short ramble is a perennial addition to the Llanelli Ramblers calendar for good reason. It provides a variety of topography and some pleasant views. The walk is essentially a circular route, following the contours of Banc-y-Daren—a hill within the Cwm Cothi (Cothi Valley), overlooking the Carmarthenshire village of Brechfa, which has existed since the 6th century. Brechfa was home to one William Thomas (1834–1879), better known by his bardic name of Gwilym Marles, a Welsh minister, poet and great-uncle to Dylan Thomas. Dylan received his middle name, “Marlais”, in honour of William Thomas, who is believed to have inspired the character of Rev. Eli Jenkins in the play Under Milk Wood.
Our walk began besides the church hall, opposite St Teilo’s church and graveyard, on the B4130 through Brechfa. Heading southwards along the road, we crossed the Pont Newydd, bridging the Afon Pib, before turning left into a pedestrian pathway adjacent to Brechfa Methodist Chapel.
Almost immediately begins a long, quite demanding, uphill track, with relatively steep gradients of 14–20%, i.e. between 1-in-7 and 1-in-5. The tarmac track twists and turns until levelling out, after about one mile. At this point our route turned off the track and crossed a field, to a group of derelict stone buildings. With light rain beginning to fall, we used this sheltered spot to take a welcome “coffee-break.”
From here, we began a gradual descent, paralleling the route of Mill Leat, to our right, at the bottom of a steep, wooded bank. As we emerged from the woodland, the landscape seemed, quite suddenly, to open up. It provided us with a stunning, welcoming vista, particularly when the sun emerged for a minute or two.
Shortly afterwards, we reached the bottom of the valley and turned into and across the farmyard of Ty-Ilwyd.
Our route followed the contours of the valley, before descending slightly again to encounter the swollen Afon Cothi (Cothi River). To this point the weather had been forgiving. Squally winds had brought occasional bursts of rain, but never with sufficient severity to disturb our progress significantly. As we entered the woodland besides the river, the rain became stronger, yet the shelter provided by the woods allowed us to enjoy our lunch without too much disturbance.
After lunch, we followed the course of the Afon Cothi, passing a disused quarry. Along this stretch, the pathway became increasingly waterlogged, such that at one point it became a small stream. Crossing a small wooden bridge, fording a tributary of the Cothi, we traversed a wide bog, during which a rainbow briefly brightened the skyline—and our afternoon!
All that remained of our journey was a short uphill stretch across a grassy meadow and then back down the hill, along the road into Brechfa. As we completed this final leg, we were treated to a number of delightful views, as sunlight kissed the top of the hills and danced amongst light mists of rain…
Our day ended, in the charmingly-refurbished Forest Arms, with welcome drinks and a vote of thanks to walk leaders, Rob and Sue.