If we are going to map the high-level route from Margam to Neath, we need the grid points through Gnoll Park. This is proving surprisingly difficult – the park is full of paths, it isn’t always easy to identify them on the Ordnance Survey map, and there has been a lot of tree felling, the result of the dreaded Phytophthora Ramorum. (More on this at http://www.gnollestatecountrypark.co.uk/default.aspx?page=10621 .) On the one hand, it has mainly resulted in the loss of larch, Western hemlock and Rhododendron ponticum, and has opened out some spendid vistas. On the other hand, it means that the aerial photos on the Ordnance Survey web site are no longer accurate! Google Earth is a bit better but still doesn’t show the path as it is now and Google Street View is pre-felling. So the grid points below are mostly approximations to help with mapping and won’t make it to the final web site.
At first I missed the turning off the minor road down from Blaen-cwm-bach. After much plodding up and down I got back to it. It has changed since 2005: no stile, and the path no longer goes along the edge of the woods. You turn left off the road at SS 78064 98289
but instead of turning at right angles to the road the path now bears to the left, through scrub and rough grass,
going below rather than above the park boundary. Follow the path down into the trees,
past the Gazebo (a rough shelter at about SS 78031 98080) and the Grotto below it, and down flights of wooden steps to the stream. This was landscaped in the eighteenth century into a series of cascades.
Walk down the right (north) side of the stream until you are above the Mosshouse Pond. At about SS 77828 98099
cross to the left (south) side and walk past the pond. Go through the gates at the end of the dam (SS 77656 97999)
and take the path straight ahead of you. This climbs above the Llantwit Brook and bears round to the south-west.
When you reach the ‘Halfway House’, another folly originally built as a ‘temple’ at SS 76984 97624,
take the path to the right. The path bears round to the left at about SS 76904 97641 to pass to the left of the Guinea Pond.
Follow it to SS 76754 97443, turn right and walk down to the car park and children’s playground.
At SS 76619 97463 you can turn right for the Visitor Centre (café! Toilets!!) or keep to the left of the Fish Pond (a quieter walk). The remains of Gnoll House and its arboretum are west of the visitor centre. When you reach the dam at the end of the pond (SS 76360 97217)
take the surfaced road which continues down the north (right) side of the stream. You can cut down steps to your left
or continue on the road to the dam at the end of the Great Pond, SS 76081 97142. Cross the dam and turn right at SS 76096 97067. Continue down the valley to the Memorial Gates at SS 75895 97093
and along Gnoll Drive, through the outer gate at SS 75638 97319,
to the B4434 at SS 75523 97402. Cross the road and walk to the right of Victoria Gardens, past the massive clock tower of St David’s Church and into the middle of Neath.
To visit the castle, turn right at SS 75304 97608 along Wind Street and left at SS 75389 97658 along Old Market Street. At SS 75346 97739 this turns to the right and becomes Castle Street. The remains of the castle are ahead of you, across a paved area. You should be able to walk to the left of the castle and through the supermarket car park to the bridge over the canal at SS 75262 97850.