Date: Sunday, December 27, 2015. Weather: Wind, rain, fog.
Mynydd y Betws is a mountain located on the border between Swansea and Carmarthenshire, south Wales. It is the highest mountain in Swansea, and the highest land between the River Loughor and the Upper Clydach River.
There was little in the way of views to complement this walk, due to a fine drizzle and fog that enveloped most of our ramble. Even so, the occasion provided a good opportunity to walk off some of the excesses of Christmas and to look forward to the advent of a new year with fellow Ramblers.
It also provided a couple of interesting talking points, including a beautifully reconditioned barn, with excellent tiling and stonework — in particular, the carefully crafted, arrow-straight air vents running vertically either side of the 12ft high barn doors.
A large oak tree provided some considerable commentary. Discussion centred around the well-known tune, “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Ole Oak Tree” (I think!). I only heard part of it and was left unsure if there is any historical link to the song, but the consensus certainly seemed to be that this was a fine “Ole Oak Tree” and a worthy setting for a group photo…
We also passed through a farmyard exhibiting an “interesting” outbuilding…
And observed unseasonably flowering gardens…
All-in-all a very satisfactory ramble, eked out from amongst a busy Christmas season, amidst some very wet autumnal weather.
Date: Friday 1 January 2016. Weather: High winds, light rain.
Port Eynon is thought to be named after Prince Einion of Deheubarth or an 11th-century Welsh Prince named Eynon. Eynon is a Welsh surname, evident in the village graveyard. Smuggling is thought to have been a common engagement of the local residents in the 17th century to 19th century. In the second half of the 18th century, through to 1919, a lifeboat was operated from Port Eynon. On several occasions, the lives of lifeboatmen were lost at sea on rescues. A memorial to these men exists in the village churchyard. Port Eynon Point, to the south west of the bay, is the most southerly point of the Gower Peninsula. The bay is part of the designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
A ramble is an ideal way to begin a New Year. The more so when you’ve set a goal of 100 rambles, as I have done, for 2016. This seven-mile ramble began in the public car park, accessed from the southern end of the bijou Gower village of Port Eynon.
The route begins by traversing the top of Port Eynon Point, ascending to and then from the trig pillar. For the next three miles, it follows the Wales Coastal Path (WCP), passing over the tope of Culver Hole, thought to date from the 13th or 14th century, with connections to smuggling.①
Although Culver Hole itself is not visible from the Coastal Path, the cliffs and coastline generally provide dramatic, engaging views, particularly during blustery conditions, as experienced on this occasion. Further along,② the WCP passes through Long Hole Cliff Nature Reserve (not marked on all OS maps). Along with Port Eynon, this area is considered one of the best places to view significant sea bird colonies. On this occasion my companion and I enjoyed witnessing a noisy pair of oystercatchers, flying and then landing on the rocks below.
At the three-and-a-half mile point, the route turns inland along a footpath marked Pilton Green.④ The remainder of the walk requires careful navigation across farmland, some of which is extremely wet and muddy underfoot. Generally, the way is marked fairly well by footpath signposts and waymarks. There are a number of alternative rights-of-way routes by which to return to Port Eynon.
On this occasion, the road into Overton ⑥ provided a welcome relief from the extremely muddy conditions we had encountered. We continued through the village and then southwards, along a marked footpath that returned us to the Coastal Path just before Port Eynon Point.
This walk is number 1 of 100 I hope to complete in 2016.
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Date: Saturday 11 December 2015. Weather: High winds, heavy rain.
Nestled into the southern slopes of the Fforest Fawr massif, west of Merthyr Tydfil, Waterfall Country is one of the most beautiful and popular parts of the Brecon Beacons National Park and the Fforest Fawr Geopark, with steep, tree-lined gorges and an abundance of tumbling water. Known in Welsh as Coed-y-Rhaeadr (Wood of the Water), Waterfall Country lies within the triangle formed by the villages of Hirwaun, Ystradfellte, and Pontneddfechan. Old red sandstone and a long belt of outcrop limestone have created a highly distinctive environment of wooded gorges, caves, swallow holes and waterfalls. The Rivers Mellte, Hepste, Pyrddin and Nedd-Fechan, tributaries of the Afon Nedd (River Neath), their headwaters in the Fans, wind their way south through Waterfall Country via steep-sided, tree-lined gorges. The most famous waterfall is Sgwd-y-Eira, the Snow Waterfall, on the River Hepste, where a natural path leads right behind the curtain of water.
Cwm Senni was our programmed destination for today’s ramble. High winds and heavy rain caused us to abandon that route in favour of one offering relatively sheltered terrain. Our ramble thus began in Pontneddfechan, from a car park near to the Waterfalls Centre.
The ramble proceeded from the car park and through a gateway to the rear of the Angel public house. Shortly after passing through another gateway the route encounters a high rock face consisting of dark, sedimentary sandstone.
Traditionally known as Fairwell Rock, its name is understood to have orginated with coal miners, who identified it as marking the edge of the Coal Measures. Once encountered, it was “Fairwell” to coal—and profit—from that point onwards!
Returning to the course of the Afon Nedd, the route continues to ascend, past white water rapids and a series of waterfalls.② At one fall, formed by a narrow entrance cut into a table of millstone, kayakers gamely tested themselves against the demanding conditions.
At Pont Melin-fach,③ the route parted from the Afon Nedd and travelled up Heol Calch. This tarmac track was chosen in preference to the parallel footpaths because of their muddy condition, identified by the walk leader.
At the top of the hill, we turned left and followed a main road for about half-a-mile.④ At this point we turned down a north-easterly track, signposted to a bunkhouse and, shortly afterwards, to Sgŵd Clun-gwyn (Fall of the White Meadow). We were soon rewarded by seeing these spectacular falls, in full flow.
Having bridged the Afon Mellte, we encountered a signpost warning that the lower Waterfall Links Path was in dangerous condition. Accordingly, we opted to take the higher Four Falls Trail.⑥ As a result, we could only glimpse the powerful falls of Sgŵd Isaf Clun-gwyn, from high above, looking down through the trees. Chatting to other walkers, after the two trails converged again, suggested that, while a conservative approach was warranted in this instance, the path remains safely navigable to experienced walkers.
Shortly afterwards, we sheltered beneath some trees, in order to have lunch. Fed and watered (sic), we descended carefully from the higher path, in order to cross behind and beneath the spectacular curtain of water making up Sgŵd yr Eira, fed by the Afon Heptste.
Though our spirits were never entirely dampened by conditions, most of us were by this time soaked to some degree or another.⑦ Persistent rainfall had been relentless, throughout the day. Spray from Sgŵd yr Eira was the final straw for my waterproof trousers, which until then had done a fairly good job of keeping me dry.
Soon after socks and boots became waterlogged. On the positive side, waterproof jacket, mid- and base-layers did a fine job of keeping my core temperature up. Even so, the remaining two to three miles felt more like a survival course. A fine mist pervaded everywhere, light began to fail and conditions underfoot became constantly boggy, muddy or slippery for most of the route’s remainder.
Having started out adjacent to the Farewell Rock, the route fittingly ended adjacent to the equally foreboding, 45m high limestone face of Craig-y-Ddinas, which is lined with tilting strata.
Five hours and twenty minutes after setting out, we arrived back at Pontreddfechan, where we swiftly removed waterlogged boots and clothing and retired for warmth and refreshments in the Angel Inn, where a vote of thanks was given to the walk leader.
Date: 4 December 2015. Weather: Blustery, light rain.
Fan Brycheiniog is the highest peak at 2633 feet (802.5 m) in Y Mynydd Du (the Black Mountain) region of the Parc Cenedlaethol Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons NP) in southern Wales. Picws Du and Fan Foel are the adjacent fans (peaks, summits, “beacons”). Llyn y Fan Fach is a dammed lake of approximately 10 hectares on the northern margin of Y Mynydd Du. It lies at an altitude of 1660 feet, or 506 metres.
This walk was an opportunistic reconnaissance, with a future weekend group ramble in mind. A mild, dry weather forecast offered a small opening in a period dominated by rain and high winds. For me, it was the first time I’d ascended a mountain on my own. The occasion provided object lessons in reading the landscape and observing how the weather on top of a mountain can differ markedly from that just a couple of hundred feet below.
The route is accessed from a car park lying down a lengthy track, accessed via the village of Llanddeusant and the hamlet of Blaenau. The walk begins with a steady gradient, with increasingly panoramic views of the fans (peaks, summits) lying ahead. On this occasion, cloud was swirling lightly around the Picws Du. My hope was that I would be upon it in around an hour and a half’s time.
For the first mile, the track follows alongside the fast-flowing Afon Sawdde.The river provides a dramatic, burbling accompaniment, as it descends over a number of weirs. It is fed by numerous tributaries, as well as draining from a set of filter beds which are passed after about a mile. The track is firm and well-drained, all the way to the edge of Llyn-y-Fan-Fach (“the Peak’s Small Lake”).
Shortly, after this the route bridges a drainage channel from the lake, via a small concrete slab. It then crosses the open moorland of Waun Sychlwch, in the immediate shadow of the escarpment of Cefn Twrch (“Boar Ridge”). At this point, the weather was blustery and dry. At the same time the weather atop the mountain was visibly changing. Whilst Picws Du was visible, Fan Brycheiniog (“Brecnock Peak”) and Fan Foel (“Bald, rounded Peak”) were enveloped in cloud.
At the 2.4 mile distance, the route approaches Pant y Bwlch (“Valley pass”). The pass is narrow and tricky in places, including some overhanging rocks that must be navigated carefully and without haste. At the same time, it provides dramatic views of the escarpment below Fan Foel and, looking backwards, the valley below Twyn yr Esgair (“Down the Long Ridge”).
Once through the pass and onto the roof of the mountain, the weather was immediately distinctly less bright and the wind stronger. At this point, cloud had not enveloped the mountain and the top of the Picws Du was visible. My route now ascended 150ft gradually over the course of a mile. This brought it to the edge of the ridgeline of Fan Brycheiniog and the trig point, which marks the highest peak of the Myndd Du (Black Mountain).
During the course of this mile, the weather closed in markedly, with cloud entirely enveloping the moorland atop the mountain. Visibility was reduced to 100–150m. I was conscious that this meant the peat-bog terrain was now considerably more dangerous than on a clear day. I was grateful to discern the trig point coming into view. The presence of the nearby stone shelter offered me welcome refuge from the wind, which was now whipping strongly towards the nearby edge of the ridge.
Before setting out on this walk, I had studied the topography carefully. I knew that there was a clear path along the ridge line of Fan Brycheiniog. Yet the wind had now become sufficiently powerful to be pushing me around and preventing a sure footing. Accordingly, I kept well back from the ridge, which necessitated walking through marshy land, rather than the relatively level limestone pathway of the Beacons Way.
A cairn emerged suddenly out of the cloud, warning me away from the twisty ridge-line of Tŵr y Fan Foel (“Bald Peak Tower”). With the cloud now reducing visibility to less than 50m, I decided to take the shortest route back towards the pass, rather that following the Beacon’s Way around Fan Foel, as I had planned to do.
Although it was a short distance, it was without sight lines, such was the cloud cover and ferocity of the wind. Accordingly, as I crossed potentially treacherous moorland, wind and rain now full in my face, I regularly checked my path and orientation with a GPS tool, the functioning and battery level of which I had assessed repeatedly throughout the walk.
Gratefully, I soon re-encountered the path of the Beacons Way. It was now abundantly clear that the circular route around the ridge-line of Glastir y Picws should not be undertaken. I chose to descend immediately, via Bwlch Blaen-Twrch (“Summit Pass”).
The pass swiftly took me 120ft down from the summit. Immediately, the weather was again transformed. It became mild, rainfall was light and the wind blustery, rather than fierce. The next mile across moorland provided a gradual descent back to Llyn y Fan Fach. The final mile a rapid descent to the car park.
All in all, a fabulous experience, with useful experience gained.
Date: Saturday 28 November 2015. Weather: Strong winds; showery.
N.b. In descriptive text below, square-bracketed numbers , e.g. , refer to mile-interval markers, as per maps (above) and elevation (below).
This ramble provides a demanding walk, encircling the village of Meidrim, to the east and north, twice crossing the Afon (River) Dewi Fawr. The diverse route incorporates hills, stiles and tracks, cattle pastures, equine meadows, cropped fields, farmyards, woodlands, streams and springs. The keen-eyed walker can expect to spot red kite and buzzard and glimpses of a small waterfall.
In an area settled since prehistoric times, the village’s origins are thought to lie in the Iron Age. In the early centuries of the second millennium, Meidrim was an important religious centre. Later it had strong connections with the non-conformist movement. In the 17th century, Meidrim’s vicar was known for fervent preaching and publishing texts and translations in the Welsh language.
By the end of our ramble, a theme emerged: if the weather forecast is allowed to determine the course of a day, we may miss some good and unexpected things. On this occasion a drastic forecast, including 40–50mph winds in combination with continuous rain, gave us real pause for thought. Especially when we passed through lashing hail en route to our meeting place!
Setting out, so expectant were we of gale force winds and rain that we considered two way-points where we could opt to prematurely curtail our walk. The first of these was around the two mile mark, the other at about four miles .
In the event, as each hour of our day progressed we were increasingly pleasantly surprised. There was no need to “bale out” early; the weather was kind to us throughout the day. Even when squally rain showers blew in suddenly, elements of the landscape repeatedly offered us shelter just as it was needed.
The first experience of this came after a steepish climb (300ft) up the hill to the south-east of the village . We immediately enjoyed a fine view of the village, as well as the attention of a group of frisky ponies.
Within minutes a squally shower blew in. The sky darkened and the rain quickened…
Fortunately, we were able to take advantage of protection offered by a line of trees upon a bank of raised land beside our path. As swiftly as it blew in, the rain blew over and we were on our way again.
The next mile or so was undertaken via several lanes that followed the contours of the crest of the hill. The route then turned down towards Cefn-crŵth, where we encountered a spring feeding a stone cistern. It drew our attention because it was no longer a drinking station for farmyard animals, but a fish-tank containing a variety of small, ornamental carp .
At Sarnau Farm we encountered the first challenging element of this ramble. At this point, the public right of way passes through the working cattle-yard of Sarnau Farm.
Two sets of 8ft-high gates govern access to and from the yard. On this occasion, ingress and egress was necessarily carried out in close proximity to cattle. Furthermore, the gates are secured in a manner requiring careful attention when it comes to both opening and closure. Clearly, the gates are clearly not intended to facilitate access for walkers, in spite of the right-of-way. The net result is that this part of the route may be intimidating to anyone other than a knowledgeable and determined walker. (Well done, Gill!)
Once through Sarnau Farm, light drizzle turned to heavy rain. We took advantage of shelter offered by a clump of trees, adjacent to a stream and bridge, and enjoyed a break for mid-morning drinks and snacks. From our perspective, we saw no sign of the fortified settlement reported by the OS map to be adjacent to our route .
For the next couple of miles we descended gradually, leading to our first crossing of the Afon Dewi Fawr . The route now turned uphill again, with a steady rise of about 150m (45oft), over the course of a mile and half, with gradients varying between 8–13%. This brought us to the highest geographical point of our walk and a suitable location to break for lunch. We briefly exchanged attentions with a red kite. After our lunch stop, we continued along a lane. Passing through Waun-oleu-fach (translation: “small, light, moorland”), we noticed shy calves observing our progress from a barn .
Our route now began a gradual descent (150m / 450ft, over 3 miles), continuing all the way back towards Meidrim. Even so, progress required traversing a number of fields in which conditions were exceptionally cruddy! Fortunately, rainfall remained light and transitory.
Over the course of these final three miles of our walk, the landscape varied considerably. One of the tracks we were following appeared to have been hewn directly out of a hard, slate-grey, laminated rock, the appearance of which was pleasantly enhanced by streaks of deep-orange staining.
Another part of our route took us right through the middle of a (harvested) field of corn. Under clear skies, we then passed through open meadows and the partially-coppiced woodland of Coed Pantyrhedyn, before crossing a narrow stream, from nearby which we glimpsed a small waterfall.
Our nine-mile ramble drew to an end as we re-approached Meidrim. Rather than returning to the car-park by the most direct route, we took a circular route to the north, east and south of the village. This allowed us to appreciate a rarely seen view of the village and to cross the Afon Dewi Fawr for the second time.
Finally, this diversion took us past a large, handsome white house. The right-of-way passed right through its back garden, decorated with intriguingly placed glass fairies and other garden ornaments.
Back at the car-park, we felt the weather had positively exceeded our expectations. We were glad to change into dry footwear, use the conveniences and think about heading home in the light. The village pub was closed, so with an informal vote of thanks to walk leaders, Liz and Gill, we departed directly.
A point of interest
This ramble was labelled on Llanelli Ramblersprogramme as “Brisk.” For those who like to stretch their legs, it provided a good walk, demanding, but not overly so. There was ample time for stops, including photographing points of interest.
Across the whole walk, the average pace-per-mile was 22 minutes. As a point of interest, this is compared, below, to the average pace of other recent “LR” rambles. The first five are weekend walks; the last four mid-week rambles. All are measured using the same method of GPS tracking.
The first figure is the total length (miles). The second figure is the average pace (mins/mile). Links are provided to the source of my statistics.
Date: Wednesday, 25 November 2015. Weather: Squally winds, light rain.
N.b. In descriptive text below, square-bracketed numbers , e.g. , refer to mile-interval markers, as per maps (above) and elevation (below).
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.