Sometimes the past comes back to bite you. Back in 2005 Liz and Gordon Hindess and I walked over the ridge from Penrhys to Llangynwyd, making our way down through the forest to pick up the path through Cwmducanol farm which Gordon had included in his book on Family Walks around Cardiff and the Valleys. When we got to the gate behind the farm we found some very vocal and aggressive dogs running free in the farmyard. We diverted down the road. Later on, the landlady of the pub in Pont Rhyd-y-cyff told us the farmer was in the habit of threatening walkers with a gun. So Gordon took a complaint to Bridgend CBC and the warning made its way to the Cistercian Way web site.
Earlier this summer, as I said in an earlier posting (https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2014/07/04/how-the-old-poet-got-to-penrhys/ ), I had another look at the track through the farm but found it completely blocked. It looked clear further down and I thought from the map that there might be a way of bypassing the farmyard. So having decided that the only way up Mynydd Machen was to follow the ravens, Cara and I went west for another look at the Llynfi Valley.
The track up the Nant Cwm Du started well and got even better, well waymarked and gated – then it led straight to the farmyard of Cwmducanol. Yes, there were dogs. Yes, they were Rottweilers. Cara told them off and the lady of the farm came out. Cara charmed the socks off her. Then it got a bit tricky because the lady of the farm told me she had been getting complaints that she had threatened walkers, that she’d been told it was now in a book that she had done so, that it wasn’t her but the farmer further up the valley at Bryn Defaid. I said rather cautiously that Gordon and I had been walking that way and it was the former landlady of the Tylers’ Arms who had mentioned guns …
I did say that I’d tried to walk the path from behind the farmyard and found it blocked. She assured me she didn’t bother to keep it clear because no-one walked that way (bit chicken and egg?), I suggested that might be because of the dogs in the farmyard looking a bit threatening, she said it was their home and they had never harmed anyone.
There is a path waymarked out of the farmyard and along the drive. We had a look at that – it isn’t waymarked from the road but there is a pedestrian gate alongside the main gates.
Once you get on the drive it’s well waymarked
and a pretty walk, past a pond
and up to the farmyard.
Here you follow the waymarks which take you south of the farm buildings
and on down the valley.
This really looks like the best way through – it’s 2½ sides of a square but a pleasant walk and avoids the scramble over the coal tip. I think we have to take her word for it that the dogs aren’t dangerous. But if they worry you, go further down the road and take the byway past Fosse farm.
Another thought. The farm lady at Cwmducanol also said they had tried providing a permissive path across the fields and bypassing their farmyard but that they had had complaints that it was difficult to walk so they had closed it off again. Was that the route I described on the Cistercian Way site at http://cistercian-way.newport.ac.uk/apath.asp?RouteID=route02a and did I muddle up the description? That collapsed bridge sounds awfully familiar – here it is again, I think, on the path down from Cwmducanol.
Mi sydd fenyw hen a ffôl
Yn byw yn ôl fy ffansi …
* * * * *
The walk down the Nant Cwm-du is lovely and a nice contrast to the bleak grandeur of the ridge route from Penrhys. Once at the bottom of Pont Rhyd-y-cyff you can walk up the side road past the Railway Inn and the shops of lower Llangynwyd, across the main road and up to the old village.
There is an alternative off-road route if you don’t need refreshments or supplies. Cross the bridge in Pont Rhyd-y-cyff and turn left along Greenfield Terrace. This becomes a footpath which crosses the railway line. Walk the length of the next field with the small housing estate to your right, go through the gap at the corner, walk diagonally across the next field to a kissing gate. Cross the main road.
The waymarked footpath on the other side follows a disused railway line – ooo more stone sleepers
At the minor road turn right.
When the road bends to the right, go straight on towards Gadlys Farm.
You are now on the route from Parc Slip to Llangynwyd that I explored earlier in the spring – https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/the-holy-rood-of-llangynwyd/ . The waymark where the path leaves the track past Gadlys Farm is even more obscure –
it is there, honest – and the beginning of the path is heavily overgrown with the dreaded Himalayan balsam,
but once you get under the trees it looks clear over the bridge and the battered stile and into the woods.
We didn’t go that way because I wanted to look at possible routes for a circular trail from Parc Slip. But all the options are blocked at some point, and I couldn’t find the footbridge that the OS map marks over the little stream south of Llangynwyd. That’s really another project so I’ll have to leave it for now. It would have offered a possible off-road route from Llangynwyd to the track over Rhyd Blaen-y-cwm and Ton-mawr to Margam, but at the price of doubling back on yourself out of Llangynwyd village and a lot of up and down. The road out of Llangynwyd is quiet and almost certainly along the line medieval pilgrims would have taken – my inclination is to go for that.
So – if we can get the Raven Walk problems sorted (and it’s not impassable, just difficult) – we have the route complete apart from the section up the ridge from Penrhys and down to Ton Pentre. I need to check that before too long. I seem to remember working out a way down that involved not too much road walking, then with Gordon Hindess keeping more closely to the footpaths, then trying it again with Richard Bingle in the late 2000s and finding the footpaths impassable. Time to dig out the old notes and see if I can make sense of them.