Mynydd y Betws

Grade C+. 9 miles

Route : 9.2mi. OS Explorer
Date: Sunday, December 27, 2015. Weather: Wind, rain, fog.

Context : OS Landrager

Elevation: 990 ft. 3h 33m moving time. 4h 52m elapsed time. Av. pace 23 mins/mi.

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.

Impressively reconditioned barn, with long, vertical air vents

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…

A outbuilding that has seen better days!

And observed unseasonably flowering gardens…

I’ve heard of hardy annuals, but flowering in December?

All-in-all a very satisfactory ramble, eked out from amongst a busy Christmas season, amidst some very wet autumnal weather.

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

Meidrim

Grade B. 9 miles.

GPX route overlain on 1:25k OS map
Date: Saturday 28 November 2015. Weather: Strong winds; showery.


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

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 930ft. Elapsed time 4:24. Moving time 3:19. Average pace 21:55 mins / mile.

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.

Information board, Meidrim village.

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!


The day’s forecast … not exactly encouraging!

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,[2] the other at about four miles [4].

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 [1]. We immediately enjoyed a fine view of the village, as well as the attention of a group of frisky ponies.


View of Meidrim and the ponies that took a close interest in our intrusion into their territory.

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.


Overlooking Meidrim … with rain … without rain … within minutes.

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 [2].

Farmyard cistern, fed by a spring, containing ornamental carp

Sarnau Farm

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!)

Fortunately, the Sarnau Farm cattle were less imposing than they appear here.

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 [3].

For the next couple of miles we descended gradually, leading to our first crossing of the Afon Dewi Fawr [4]. 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 [6].


Watching red kite and calves… watching us… watching them…

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.



At times, conditions were exceptionally cruddy

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.





Towards the end, the walk presented a variety of landscapes, including: rocky track, cropped field, woodland stream, coppiced woodland, open meadow.

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.



The final approach to Meidrim.

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 Ramblers programme 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.

On this basis:

  • 23 mins/mi. appears to represent a “typical” speed.
  • At 22 mins/mi., a “brisk” walk is perhaps 4–5% faster than typical.
  • Brisk walks sometimes occur without being labelled as such, e.g. Llyn Brianne, Llangennech.

Attributions