It’s been a two-steps-forward-one-step back sort of summer. We relaunched the project at the National Eisteddfod in Abergavenny. This wasn’t a full formal launch – we aren’t quite ready for that yet – but we filled the Churches tent, all the emergency printing of leaflets went, the retiring Archdruid Prof. Christine James spoke on the importance of pilgrimage and the Cistercians in the Welsh historical and cultural tradition
my old colleague David Howell (now at the University of Gloucester) spoke very powerfully on the importance of heritage beyond the tourist honeypots and the need to experience heritage by walking through it rather than just visiting sites
(more on his blog at https://historyglos.com/2016/08/31/cultural-festivals-controversy-and-a-heritage-trail-launch/ ). And I managed to introduce the whole thing in more-or-less fluent Welsh.
We made good contacts with Cadw and the Ramblers which led to a meeting in the Ramblers’ office in Cardiff and an invitation to talk to the Glamorgan footpaths secretaries and the Glamorgan AGM. We have also been contacted by Lampeter Ramblers and we will be back to working in Ceredigion nest month.
On the other hand … our planned walk from Penrhys nearly drowned the participants: some amazing photos at https://pilgrimpace.wordpress.com/2016/09/18/cistercian-way-photos-1/ . And Andy Delmege, who had planned to walk the whole route as a sabbatical this autumn, has wrecked his knee and had to go home.
Mind you, it was just as well we gave up on that first day west from Penrhys before we reached the final off-road section. I looked at it again today and it really is impassable. It’s not so much the access from the lane past Gadlys at SS 85944 88007: someone has done a great job there bashing down the Himalayan balsam. The stile has finally collapsed but the gate next to it seems to be permanently open. But the track through the woods is so muddy and has been so badly ploughed up by stock that it really isn’t safe to walk. A pity – apart from that section it’s a very pleasant alternative to the road.
But there are other alternatives. The Bridgend footpaths secretary has sent me some of the Llynfi Valley walks leaflets. There’s a possible route through Maesteg and out along the Neath Road then south by footpaths and very minor roads along Cwm Cerwyn and Cwm Sychbant. This bypasses Llangynwyd, which is a pity, but it does go through Maesteg with its glorious nineteenth-century chapels. On the other hand, it goes very near to the high-level alternative route from Margam to Neath. Would walkers be tempted to cut across, missing out Margam entirely?
A shorter alternative goes down Cwm-du and through Pont Rhyd-y-cyff, over the railway bridge, turn right opposite the Railway Tavern and follow a waymarked path between the railway line and the houses. At SS 86892 89157 the path briefly rejoins the road. Turn right. After a couple of houses look out for a waymarked footpath to the right between the houses. Follow the path round to the right of the playing fields and up to the main road at a roundabout. Take the Maesteg road. In 0.15 km, after the first house of Cwmfelin, at SS 86375 89440, a footpath goes up to your left. Through the gate, bear left across the first field to a stile in the far left corner at SS 86285 89225. Walk along the hedge to your left and go through a kissing gate at SS 86180 89019 and down steps. Turn right on the metalled road and walk up to Llangynwyd. This avoids the busiest road around the new village of Llangynwyd and is only a little longer than the on-road route. I think this is the one to go for.
But can I translate the new route description into Welsh myself? With a bit of help, maybe …
We still have to decide what to do about the path through the farmyard at Cwmducanol. The dogs really are a problem, and the feeling at the Ramblers meeting was that we would be better recommending the alternative route via Fosse. On the one hand it really is a pity if the farm is allowed to effectively block the right of way; on the other hand, it seems unlikely that we can get anything permanent done about it. Rights of way diversions are simply too expensive. We will settle for what we can get and save our money for areas where there is no other way through.