Maen Ceti, Cefn Bryn, Park Woods

Length: 7.5 milesGrade: Moderate
Date: 10, 14 January — Weather: Clear, dry, chilly

screenshot-2017-02-16-14-48-06

Moderate 8 mile circular ramble, crossing moorland, encountering Maen Ceti / Arthur’s Stone, incorporating several miles of the Gower Way, along Cefn Bryn — “the spine of Gower” — with wonderful views to both the north and south of the Peninsula, before turning back and passing through Park Woods and returning across the open moorland. Continue reading “Maen Ceti, Cefn Bryn, Park Woods”

Cwm Clydach

Grade B. 11 miles


Route. 10.7 miles. OS Explorer. Encircled numbers, e.g. ②, refer to mile-interval markers, per maps / elevation
Date: Saturday, December 19, 2015. Weather: High winds, steady rain, waterlogged ground.

Elevation. Total climb 1040ft. Elapsed time 5:22 h:m. Moving time 3:50 h:m. Averages: pace 21:26/mi; speed 2.8mph.

Walk begins from RSPB Reserve, in Clydach, accessed via the B4063 (or A4067, B4291), from M4 Jn 45.

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.

  1. Fenced pasture uplands ①-③, ④-⑤
  2. Open moorland ③-④, ⑤-⑥
  3. Wooded river gorge ⑦-⑩

Looking across the river valley, as the route ascends

Uplands

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.

The route turns in a south-easterly direction, via 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

Moorland

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.


Gorge

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 river bank showing signs of recent flooding and landslip

Conclusion

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.



Walk completed with Daniel C.

Technology

Waterfall Country

Grade B. 10 miles.

Route. 9.7 miles. OS Explorer
Date: Saturday 11 December 2015. Weather: High winds, heavy rain.
Elevation. Total climb 1145ft. Elapsed time 5:22 h:m. Moving time 4:03 h:m. Average pace 24:52/mi.
Encircled numbers, e.g. ②, refer to mile-interval markers, per maps / elevation.

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.

Fairwell Rock

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!

Just after a mile,① the Afon Pyrddin joins the Afon Nedd as a tributary, forming the Pwll Du ar Byrddin (Black Pool of Byrddin). A wooden bridge crosses the tributary. Following the gorge in a north-westerly direction brought us to the Sgwd Gwladus. This dramatic waterfall “falls over a perpendicular face of rock in a broad and nearly unbroken sheet.”

Sgwd Gwladus

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.

Rapids. Kayakers. Scwd Ddwli.

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.

Sgŵd Isaf Clun-gwyn could only be glimpsed through the trees. Lunch. Conditions: great for waterfalls, atrocious for 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.

Crossing behind Sgŵd yr Eira.

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.

Conditions deteriorated as the walk drew towards its conclusion.

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.


Colophon

Mumbles

Grade C. 8 miles.

Route. 8.3 miles. 1:25k OS Explorer.
Date: Wednesday 9 December 2015. Weather: Gusty winds, mild, cloudy. 

Partial route. 1:10k OS Street
In descriptive text below, encircled numbers, e.g. ②, refer to mile-interval markers, as per maps (above) and elevation (below).

Elevation. Total climb 452ft. Elapsed time 4:41. Moving time 3:05. Average pace 22:17 /mi.

Mwmbwls (Mumbles) today refers to a district covering the electoral wards of Oystermouth, Newton, West Cross and Mayals. The headland is possibly named by French sailors, after the shape of the two anthropomorphic islands comprising the headland. Another possible origin is the Celtic word Mamucium, meaning breast-shaped hill.

Mwmbwls lighthouse was built during the 1790s and converted to solar powered operation in 1995. The pier was opened in 1898 at the terminus of the Mwmbwls Railway. At that time one of the oldest passenger railways in the world, it closed in 1960.


Rambles, at least those conducted by Llanelli Ramblers, are generally a steady, ordered affair. Albeit in an informal kind of a way. They normally begin in a car park. As did this one. Three cars become four, or five; eventually nine or ten, perhaps. As did this one. Ramblers emerge, unwinding like cats limbering up after being curled by a fireplace. Pleasantries are exchanged. Some are pre-prepped: jackets, gloves, boots and gators are on and finely clipped. They are “Ready-to-Ramble.”

Others, though not yet ensconced in full walking regalia, arrive no less prepared. Like bees buzzing around flowers, these individuals perambulate around the vehicles in which they have travelled, in unhurried fashion. Yet still maintaining a suitable air of urgency. They search for an appropriate perch from whence to comfortably attach their outstanding (sic) rambling footwear. And this is just how it was on this occasion.

Apparel on and suitably adjusted, gradually, small groups of two, three or four ramblers begin to gather together, forming small, multi-coloured clusters, seemingly exhibiting innumerable limbs because of the effect of flailing walking poles.

To the accompaniment of audible “blips” and orange winks, cars are locked down. Greetings are exchanged. Final checks are made. After a suitably polite, just-so period of time, a Walk Leader calls firmly for order. Some with volume, others with a quiet air of confidence and expectation of hushed attention. An explanation of varying length follows, setting out how the ramble will proceed. All very gentle and ordered. All very Ramblers-like.


Not so this time!


On this occasion, our designated gathering point was the Bracelet Bay car park. Things initially proceeded quite typically. A few grumbles could be heard that car-parking was a bit pricey. Moreover, that the 50p winter season discount was paltry and hardly worthwhile. To add insult to injury, the ticketing machine serving the top-end of the car park, where we had been asked to gather, was not dispensing tickets.

Like worker bees duly dispatched, individuals representing each vehicle proceeded, in more of a straggle than a stream, towards the lower end of the car park, wherefore to obtain the necessary authorisation. With time ticking on, it was at this point that the normally genteel nature of the start of a Ramble gave way to something else. Even from a distance, it was clear that events were not proceeding in orderly fashion.

Two small groups were, by now, circling agitatedly around the two ticketing machines. Word reached my ears—as I put on my second walking boot—that car registrations were required for the ticket. Realising that my car-sharing colleague would not know the registration of my vehicle, I leapt in and drove the 200 yards or so, down to the ticketing machine.

Frustration was palpable. It was in the air. One machine required vehicle registration…the other did not. This one had eaten a pound coin without any recognition of the deposited funds. Mutterings and sighs abounded. Blood pressure was rising. The air was turning ever so slightly blue.

At the other machine discontent was equally evident. People were edging back and forth. Some got on their knees in desperation. No, not for prayer. To key in their vehicle registration! O’s were confused for 0’s. The ticketing dispenser was silent and unobliging. More ‘smug teenager’ than ‘well-oiled machine.’

A quietly growling Mini—like some sort of left-over from the Italian Job—hovered in the space between the two machines. Ticket finally dispensed, it roared off—almost as though escaping from a bullion robbery. Back to join the chunter of Ramblers, gathered expectantly, if not discernibly impatiently, for a proper start to proceedings.

All in all, a very un-Rambler like start to a Ramble!


Car park authorisations now in place, the planned walk was liberated to proceed apace. It began with a gentle ascent, up Mumbles Hill, now a designated Nature Reserve. From here, we were immediately rewarded with clear, expansive views of Bae Abertawe (Swansea Bay).

Swansea Bay, looking towards our destination of Black Pill

A viewpoint (golygfan) information board helpfully picks out distant sights from across the bay, including Clyne Common, Clyne Gardens and Clyne Valley Country Park, Singleton Hospital and Park, the Lower Swansea Valley, Meridian Tower, Swansea Marina and Docks. It also suggests that llamhidydd yr harbwr (harbour porpoise), common dolphin and basking shark may be spotted by keen-eyed observers.

Close by, along the ridge, we encountered the first piler triongli (trig point) of the walk. Here, the Walk Leader explained the methodology of triangulation and the significance of trigonometric Bench Marks (BMs; no longer maintained by Ordinance Survey, following adoption of GPS survey methods) and the less well-known Fundamental Bench Marks (FBMs; still maintained by OS).

Trig point. A fixed surveying station, used in geodetic surveying. Officially: triangulation or trigonometrical station / pillar / point. Frequently shortened to trig station / beacon / point, or informally, “trig.”

Shortly after this, the walk passes by the defunct Safle Rheoli’r 623edd Fagnelfa Wrthawyrennol Drom (623rd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Command Post) nestled into the hillside.① At its zenith, the 623rd Battery consisted of 76 men of the Royal Artillery, 33 Home Guard and 86 women of the Auxiliary Territorial Service. It operated four 4.5 inch guns, adapted to fire 3.7-inch shells, which could go as high as 45,000 feet. The guns were used significantly during Swansea’s single heaviest air raid on 17 January 1941, forcing enemy aircraft to fly much higher than they would have preferred.

Over the next mile, the route descends from Mumbles Hill, via a maze of streets and lanes formed by tightly-packed houses, before emerging at the site of Oystermouth Castle.② A break for coffee was taken in the shadow of the castle. Before moving on, walk leader David continued the trigonometrical theme, briefly explaining the principles of Pythagoras’s theorem of the hypotenuse and how it could be applied to a calculation of the height of the castle.

Whilst acknowledging the superiority of Pythagoras’s method, a couple of us chose instead to use the well-known Construction Workers’ “rule of thumb”—i.e. “measuring” the walls against a thumb held up in the air, at arms length, first vertically, then horizontally, with one eye shut and the other squinting carefully, in the direction of the raised thumb, aided by a suitable degree of muttering. Using this tried and true method, we felt able to confidently estimate the height of the walls at 35-40 metres. Pythagoras was unavailable for comment.


Oystermouth Castle. Site of a recent ad hoc trigonometry lecture.

For the next two or so miles the walk drops onto the sea-front promenade. A blue plaque, placed besides the pavement, pays homage to one Amy Dillwyn. Considered to be the world’s first female industrialist, she saved her family’s Zinc Spelter Works from massive bankcrupcy and returned it to prosperity. She was also an author, Town Councillor, President of Swansea Hospital, principal fund raiser for Cwmdonkin Convalescent Home, female emancipator, water-polo player and cigar smoker.

Shortly afterwards, the walk arrives at the second trig point of the walk, at Black Pill.④ Here several playground ramps provided our group with a suitable lunchtime perch. The beach and the stream that flows out of the Black Pill area is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, with large numbers of wading birds and a variety of gulls gathering regularly, according to the tide.


Swansea Bay, looking back towards Mumbles Head. Prince’s Fountain, Mumbles Road.

The walk returns along the promenade, with Mumbles Head beckoning tired walkers, from across the bay. The route then turns off to follow the Mumbles Road into the town centre. This brings it to site of a Grade II listed monument, the Prince’s Fountain.⑥ The fountain was originally erected in 1863 to commemorate the marriage of the Prince of Wales, Albert Edward (later Edward VII) and Princess Alexandra. The monument was restored in 1977 by the Mumbles and District Conservation Society.


Our walk then proceeded to encompass two other points of historical interest. Firstly, another Grade II listed “building” quite likely to be overlooked by anyone other than the keenest of observers.

On the junction of 704 Mumbles Road and Clifton Terrace, to the rear of the pavement, set against the wall of the house is a low, triangular boundary stone with a chamfered edge into the spine of which ‘Boundary’ is engraved. The faces are partly legible and read ‘Turnpike Road 1836’. It is a rare surviving Turnpike Trust boundary stone. Turnpike trusts were established to extract tolls from travellers, using the funds for road maintenance and improvement.

After this, we doubled-back for a few hundred metres in order to ascend up some steps and enter the church of All Saints Oystermouth, which in 2011 celebrated its 870th year of Christian worship.⑦ Even so, it is considered probable that a church existed there before the first recorded date of 1141. When the church building was being extended in 1860, workmen excavating the south side of the grounds found a tesselated Roman pavement (mosaic flooring), a sample of which is displayed inside the church.

All Saints is home to a number of beautiful stained glass windows. Perhaps most famous amongst them is the modern Lifeboat Window. Installed in 1977, the window commemorates the lost lives of the eight lifeboat crew who drowned attempting to rescue the stricken ship Samtampa, stranded on the rocks off Sker Point, Porthcawl in 1947 during a hurricane-force gale.



Stained glass windows, including the Lifeboat Window. All Saints Oystermouth.

Another modern stained glass, St Christopher’s window, dedicated in 1982, celebrates the locality’s connection with the Mumbles Railway. It depicts St. Christopher and three different Mumbles trains — horse-powered, steam-driven and electric, as well as Oystermouth Castle and the Lighthouse.

After leaving the Church, the final mile of the walk is completed largely along the promenade, passing the Lifeboat Station and Pier, before ascending a set of steps to the car park where our walk began.


Attributions

Brechfa

Grade C+. 4 miles.

GPX route overlain on 1:25k OS map
Date: Wednesday, 25 November 2015. 
Weather: Squally winds, light rain.


GPX route overlain on 1:10 and 1:50k OS maps. Click to enlarge.

N.b. In descriptive text below, square-bracketed numbers , e.g. [2], refer to mile-interval markers, as per maps (above) and elevation (below).

Route elevation. Total climb: 842 ft.

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.[1] 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.



Descending and emerging out of light woodland, the landscape opens up quite suddenly, providing a stunning vista — especially as 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.


Ty-Ilwyd.

Our route followed the contours of the valley, before descending slightly again to encounter the swollen Afon Cothi (Cothi River).[2] 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.


A fast-moving, swollen Afon Cothi and a waterlogged footpath.

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.[3] 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!



A rainbow encompassing the bog.

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.[4] 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…


Sunlight kissed the top of the hills and danced amongst light mists…

The orange light on the horizon of the road is the base of a rainbow that is just discernible, rising through the trees to the left.

Our day ended, in the charmingly-refurbished Forest Arms, with welcome drinks and a vote of thanks to walk leaders, Rob and Sue.


Attributions

  • Walk led by Rob and Sue, on behalf of Llanelli Ramblers.
  • Online map and GPX available for download here.

Myndd Drumau

Grade C+. 7 miles.

GPX route overlain on 1:25k OS map. (Click to zoom).
Date: Wednesday 18 November 2015. Weather: Heavy rain, high winds.


GPX route overlain on 1:10k and 1:50k OS maps. (Click to zoom).

N.b. In the text below, square bracketed numbers — e.g. [2] — refer to mile-interval markers, as per maps (above) and elevation (below).

Route elevation

Under normal conditions, this medium-level walk could be expected to exercise but not enervate keen walkers. It could also be expected to provide a stunning view over the Cwm Nedd (Neath Valley), Afon Nedd (River Neath), Sgiwen (Skewen) and Neath Abbey.

In the event, this wasn’t quite our experience! Abigail, the fierce storm blustering its way across the Northern Britain, during recent days, dictated otherwise. Atop the Myndd Drumau (Drummau Mountain) rain and wind combined to form a stinging, lashing force, propelling us forward in the hope of relief!

Our venture began with what, to the quiet, residential estate of Brookfield, must have felt like an invasion by a flock of “suited-and-booted” walkers—with more Gore-Tex and gaters on display than a typical Go-Outdoors store!

Cwm-Clydach Pond

Yet within two minutes of setting out, we had left residential streets behind, entered the Cwmfelin Valley and began exploring the Cwm-Clydach Pond. This reservoir was constructed in 1840 to produce a steady supply for the water-wheels of Neath Abbey Iron Works.

Leaving the pond behind, a gradual climb ensued, past Swiss Cottage and along a woodland path with Stanley Wood on our left[1]. Through Dyffren Woods, the path became rocky, muddy and root-strewn, producing a short but demanding ascent, as we turned right and began to climb more steeply. After levelling out, the walk crossed the forestry road and up some steps that were rather steep and in poor condition.

Bater’s Quarry

By the time we reached the two-mile mark, break for coffee was taken in Bater’s Quarry [2]. At the time it seemed to offer us scant shelter from the rain which had become more serious, signalling its intent to accompany us across the summit of the Myndd. Yet, in comparison to what was about to come, we discovered, it represented the quiet before the storm!

Turning right and passing through a farm gate, we ascended onto the top of the Myndd Drumau (“Mountain of the Ridges,” 272m / 892ft high) and began following the ridge line. At this point, the full impact of a tumultuous wind combined to produce a driving rain. With hoods raised and tightened, the route drew us on to the Careg Bica (a 13′ tall maen bredwan, or hoat stone), around which we futilely sought some relief from the wind[3].



Ascending onto and then traversing the ridge-line of the Myndd Drumau. At this point, the full impact of the wind combined to produce a driving rain. With hoods raised and tightened, the route drew us on to the Carreg Bica (a maen bredwan, or hoat stone).

The stone is apparently referenced in a charter to King John, dated 1203, making the boundary between Gower and Neath. According to legend, it bathes in the River Neath on Easter Monday. For some years, also around Easter time, it shared the limelight with a large cross, raised each year by a local branch of the Apostolic Church. This celebration apparently ended after a confrontation with the landowner, who locked the celebrants on the mountain, until forced to reopen the gate by an off-duty policeman!

As we continued across the ridge, the wind rocked us and the rain became stinging. Reaching the trig point, we were rewarded with a brooding, panoramic view of the river valley below us.



Trig point. Overlooking Cwm Nedd (Neath Valley), towards Cefn Morfudd

From the trig point, we passed by the derelict remains of Coed Maesmelin (Farm), once run by the Kirkhouse family, who were also civil and mining engineers[4]. Shortly afterwards, once off the ridge and sheltered by woodland, there was opportunity to recuperate and enjoy lunch. We then descended via a rocky path to Penshannel, following Dram Road and taking in a visit to the thatched Glynfelin Lodge, apparently dated to the 17th century.

The walk then continued on to Coed Bach, descending into a steep wooded gorge,[6] revealing a narrow, dramatic waterfall, swollen in its power by recent rainfall. Following the River Clydach brought us to another powerful, broader waterfall, which once fed a derelict woollen mill.



Waterfalls. River Clydach.

In 1929 the dam forming the Cwm-Clydach Pond (start of the walk) collapsed after heavy rain, pouring into the valley and completely flooding the mill and 15 occupied houses. Iron workers and their families needed to be rescued, from the steep-sided valley, using ropes and planks.

From here, we walked beneath a ~15m high railway viaduct, dating from c.1850 and built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The five arches of the viaduct were formed by four skewed piers, uniquely and skilfully constructed in sympathy with the obscure angles formed by the courses of the river below and railway above.



From the viaduct, it was a short walk to the remains of the Neath Abbey Iron Co. blast furnaces, dating from 1785, which once produced engines, cylinders and parts for Cornish steam engines and locomotives. At its zenith, two 60′ high blast furnaces once produced 75–80 tons of iron each week.



Remains of Neath Abbey Iron Co. works. Note the recently-built, black-brick flying buttresses, supporting the stone remains.

The works were the initiative of the Quaker families, Fox and Price. Sir Benjamin Baker, the architect of the Forth Bridge, served his time as a mechanical engineering apprentice. In 1854, the first iron vessel, the Ellen Bates was built here. In 1876 a clipper built iron steamer was launched from the building yard. Closure of the works came just nine years later.


Attributions

  • Based on notes provided by Gary Williams, incorporating information from a Dyffryn Clydach Council guide.
  • Walk led by Gary, on behalf of Llanelli Ramblers.
  • Online map and GPX available for download here.

Reynoldston

Grade B. 9 miles.

GPX route overlain on 1:25k OS map. Click to zoom.
Date: Sunday 15 November 2015. Weather: Cloudy, light rain, high winds. 

GPX route overlain on 1:25k OS map. Click to zoom.
N.b. In the text below, square bracketed numbers—e.g. [2]—refer to mile-interval markers, as per map (above) and elevation (below).

Route elevation

Taking into account the autumnal weather, our company of 12 people (7 men, 5 women) seemed to represent a fair turnout, since both 45+ mph winds and rain towards the end of the day were keenly anticipated at the onset.

In the event, much of our walk was spent significantly sheltered from the high winds by woodland and trackside hedges. The temperature continued to be unseasonably mild and the rain pretty-much held off altogether.

The ramble began in Reynoldston village, on the green above the King Arthur hotel. It proceeded along the edge of Cefn Bryn common land, through Little Reynoldston and across the main road, towards Mill Wood.[1]



Pence Castle, the Georgian manor house and Mill Wood

Emerging at one edge of Mill Wood, we enjoyed views of derelict Penrice Castle and glimpsed the genteel Georgian manor house now standing in its shadow. Some of us were intrigued by the disused, but intact trout pond,[2] originally used to keep freshly-caught fish for use in the kitchens of the castle.

Shortly afterwards, we had our mid-morning “coffee break” in the lee of the graveyard wall of Penrice Church. A notice-board pointed out the unusually large porch of the church, as well as an intriguing reference to a “murder grave.” We lamented a once-vibrant Gower village, now almost wholly given over to holiday rentals.


Pence Church and Oxwich Bay

Walking alongside Oxwich Marsh,[3] we could occasionally view a very misty Oxwich Bay, as well as Oxwich Castle, on the horizon. After the steepest climb of the day, [4], our walk emerged at Hangman’s Cross [5]—a placename that evoked more questions than answers! Lunch was taken shortly afterwards.[6]

The final segment of the journey required some considerable concentration in order to avoid deep puddles and the boggiest sections of traversed fields and green lanes, such as at Puck’s Hollow.[8]




Our final mile coincided with the Gower Way, as we returned, gratefully to ease ourselves out of muddy footwear and into the mirth and warmth of the King Arthur Hotel. A space that we happily shared with a large wedding party, a roaring fire and two young ladies partaking of a Sunday roast, who all of a sudden, found themselves surrounded by a group of noisy ramblers. Not that it appeared to effect their appetite, as it happens.

King Arthur Hotel—the start and end of the ramble.

A satisfactory conclusion to events was brought by a vote of thanks, proposed by Arnold, for the efforts of Huw and Adrienne. (With respect to whom, we can happily report, following drinks, no permanent relational damage was evident, in the wake of the minor difference of opinion about the optimal route, somewhere around the 6 ¼ mile mark.)


Attributions

  • Led by Huw, Adrienne. On behalf of Llanelli Ramblers.
  • Print /view route / elevation, download GPX, here.