Grade B. 11 miles
Date: Saturday, December 19, 2015. Weather: High winds, steady rain, waterlogged ground.
Cwm Clydach is a nature reserve on the outskirts of Clydach, run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. It is ancient broadleaved woodland, home to breeding pied flycatchers, redstarts, dippers and buzzards. The Lower Clydach Riverflows through the centre of the reserve.
The Cwm Clydach Walk traverses through a diverse range of landscapes, including sheep pastures, steep uplands, open moorland, deciduous woodlands and river gorges. It also incorporates several places of historical and cultural interest.
Cwm Clydach walk begins from the car park of RSPB nature reserve, in the village of Clydach, accessed via the B4063, from Junction 45 of the M4. After bridging the river, turn left in the centre of the town. Follow the road until leaving the built-up area. Look out for a public house on the right-hand-side of the road, then a narrow stone bridge. Immediately after crossing the bridge the RSPB reserve car park is seen on the right. The walk is mapped and annotated on a notice board at the edge of the car park.
The walk comprises three distinct sections, the first two of which intersect one another.
- Fenced pasture uplands ①-③, ④-⑤
- Open moorland ③-④, ⑤-⑥
- Wooded river gorge ⑦-⑩
The hill walking on this route traverses a patchwork of relatively small fields, typically well grassed, with some marshy, waterlogged patches. This part of the route is characterised by a mixture of solid, traditional and modern gated styles, as well as clear way-marking.
Some gateways are ankle deep mud, trammelled by livestock. At the time of year we undertook the walk, there were no cattle in the fields we crossed, only sheep and several horses, including a couple of miniature “Shetlands.” At one point, the route passes through a farmyard.
There are two steepish sections: between ①-② and ③½ and ④½ miles respectively. The first leads to the smaller summit of Craig yr Allt, the second to Cwm Bryn.
Though the main pathway diverts shy of the actual summit, it is possible to ascend fairly easily to the top of Craig yr Allt, which is marked by a derelict fence protecting what appears to be a small gravestone.②
The moorland proved challenging to cross, because at the time we encountered it, mist had descended and visibility was significantly reduced. I suspect it would be considerably easier in normal conditions. Besides a few boggy sections that needed be circumnavigated, the main challenge was that the “beaten path” marking the Cwm Clydach Way was not always distinct from other routes. Even so we encountered a useful waypoint, about half-way across the moors, which was reassuring.
The final section of the walk, perhaps four-tenths or even fully half of the distance, was along the river gorge. The route was considerably boggy and outright flooded in places. Indeed, at one location the river bank had evidently been undercut and collapsed during the recent floods, requiring more-than-usual care in traversing that section of the route.
The Cwm Clydach Way offers a challenging and diverse walk that is likely to be rewarding for the determined walker. Even so, the route is evidently capable of becoming considerably waterlogged during a long wet, autumnal season, such as experienced in 2015. Be warned; be prepared.