When the 15th century poet Gwilym Tew was writing about his pilgrimage to Penrhys, he talked about making an offering at the shrine ‘un rhif o eirw rhyd graean’ (as great as the foaming water of the stony ford). I’ve always assumed this was a ford he had crossed on his way to the shrine, and that it was one that other pilgrims would have known – but where was it? Gwilym Tew came from Tir Iarll, the area around Llangynwyd and modern Maesteg. There are old roads and hollow ways linking Llangynwyd, Bettws, Llangeinor and Llandyfodwg (modern Glyn Ogwr), and from Llandyfodwg a well-evidenced medieval trackway leads over Mynydd William Meyrick to Ystrad Rhondda. This is probably the way Gwilym Tew travelled, and I will walk it one day. But there is a more exciting route along the ridge between the Afan and the Ogwr. I’m happy about the route from Ton Pentre westwards, but we need a way from Penrhys to Ton Pentre that avoids the main roads. In 2005 we walked up the ridge then cut down through the old mine workings to emerge a bit above Ton Pentre. The track up the ridge is now an unmetalled road servicing the wind farm but it still looks walkable. Just before the seventh of the eight wind turbines a rough track goes down to the left.
Follow it through reeds and bracken.
When you go through the gate to the farmland,
you can turn left and walk down Cwm Bodringallt (I haven’t explored this yet) or continue round the contour, past the remains of an aerial ropeway. Eventually the track becomes a stony lane. Just before the gate at OS 974 957,
when you see Ton Pentre’s main street below you, you can cut down a VERY steep path through the bracken
to the next field. Turn left and walk along the top edge of the field, over a little stream, then look out for another track bearing downhill to the right. Follow this downhill. (You can also get here by staying on the stony track until it bends to the left then going through the gate to your left
and walking along the top edge of the field. I think in 2005 we stayed on the track and cut left much further down.)
When the track divides, bear right
and follow it down to the left, going downhill until you reach the bridleway and fence. Turn right here and walk below the quarry, down a very steep path through the heather
and down into the trees. This path is overgrown at the bottom but passable, and emerges at the end of a street called Pleasant View (it really is, too – the mountain ranges ahead of you include both the possible medieval routes). Walk along the street for a few yards then turn left down steps, cross the main road and the river (this could be where the ford was, before the monks had a bridge built) and walk down Ton Pentre’s High Street (called Church Road). Turn right along Maindy road and walk up the hill past the police station: this becomes the bridleway leading to the ridge.This may be the best way down the ridge – it’s certainly better than what we did in 2005 and what I tried with our old friend Richard Bingle in 2007, when we got tied up in brambles and barbed wire. It may not be what Gwilym Tew did, but it works.