Back to Bedwas – the best route (probably?)

Nell and I have now had several goes at the tracks from the ridge above Bedwas down towards the church. The problems are –

  • The tracks aren’t rights of way and the rights of way often aren’t paths;
  • It’s a very steep hill and the paths tend to turn into streams;
  • Lots of the paths are blocked by fences and deep culverts draining the coal tips. Some of the fences are worn down and you can scramble over them and across the culverts, in dry weather – but it isn’t something we can recommend ;
  • This isn’t walking country, and it is motorbike scrambling country – which means fields are fenced off and gates are wired up.

We had great hopes of the paths that are marked on the map cutting across from the tip on Twyn yr Oerfel to the street above Bedwas church, but this started with a very steep scramble down a badly eroded dirt track through the coal tip. Then it was blocked in several places and even after a very hot and dry few days it was a real stream bed at the bottom. Nell thought this was great

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but it would probably be impassable in wet weather.

So the route to go for is the one over the Mynydd Machen ridge to Twyn yr Oerfel in https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2019/04/06/back-to-bedwas-again/ then the route down the hill from Twyn yr Oerfel in https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2019/04/10/back-to-bedwas-update/ .

Now all I have to do is write it up for the actual web site and translate it into Welsh. This will be very good for me.

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Back to Bedwas – update

Nell and I had another look at tracks down from Twyn yr Oerfel. Instead of heading over the coal tip, walk round or over the burial mound and head for the gate at ST 18068 90686.

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Walk down a stony track.

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This becomes a grassy lane

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lovely views

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and lambs

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When you reach Ty Canol farm, bear right on a tarmac lane

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this is surfaced but technically not a public road but a right of way.

At ST 18142 89373 turn right through some large stones. This isn’t technically a right of way and is marked on the OS map as a track, but it has clearly been a road and on Google Maps it’s marked as Colliery Road. Pass coal tips and the remains of Bedwas Navigation Colliery to your right and rejoin the path we walked earlier.

So – which one to go for? The path past Ty Canol starts well, but the section just above the farm has degenerated into a stream bed, and from the farm down it’s tarmac. There’s no traffic, though. The track past Bedwas Colliery isn’t a richt of way – but neither is much of the stony track we walked earlier. There are several public footpaths running between the two tracks, and it did look as though one of them might offer the best of both worlds, but unfortunately they are all blocked by a big concrete drainage channel running down from the tip above Twyn yr Oerfel.

There’s also the fact that the site of Bedwas Colliery has been suggested for a new housing estate, though there has been a lot of local opposition to this.

There are some tracks on the map cutting across from the tip towards Bedwas – we may need yet another look.

 

Back to Bedwas again

Our route over Mynydd Machen using the Raven Walk and the Machen Forge Trail didn’t really work – too many dodgy sections, plus it left out Bedwas Church. So we are back to thinking about a route from the Blackvein Road and over Twyn yr Oerfel to Bedwas but without so much road walking.

From Twmbarlwm, walk down the Darren road and along the canal to the bridge over the Ebbw at ST 22581 91434 (this is as on https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/as-the-raven-flies/ ). Cross the river, bear right with the road. The footpath to the left from ST 22369 91196 has been cleared but don’t take it. The modern road swings right and left but the old road is still there as a bridleway – bear left at ST 22309 91151, cross the road at ST 22286 91034 and continue on the bridleway. At ST 22206 90899 walk a few metres down the drive to a large house

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then bear left on a waymarked bridleway

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up into the trees.

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At ST 22071 90922 turn right on a stony forest road. There were lots of streams for Nell

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though we did wonder about this strange piece of industrial archaeology.

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Follow the road round the contour for about 1.8 km. At ST 20495 90928 turn sharp left and walk uphill.

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Don’t cross the stile at ST 20619 90899

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but bear right with the track and continue up hill. At ST 20457 90637 turn right on the metalled road. At ST 20232 90469 the road goes downhill to the right: take the track which bears to the left and follow it for just over 1.5 km.

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Wonderful views

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and you can just see fields of solar panels on the far ridge.

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At ST 18726 90687 the main track goes left then right. At ST 18569 90661 cross a cattle grid and continue across open mountain land.

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There are two Bronze Age burial mounds above to your left – Twyn yr Oerfel East and Twyn yr Oerfel West. You can take any of the tracks up to the left to explore them. Twyn yr Oerfel West

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has an unusual enclosed forecourt – for what the archaeologists call ‘possible ritual activity’.

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The main track bears round to the left at ST 18135 90728 and crosses towards the coal tip.

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Here we think we may have gone wrong – we should have gone further to the east and looked for the track heading downhill from ST 18079 90683 and past Ty Canol Farm. Instead, we took a very steep and stony track that skirted to the left of the coal tips above the old Bedwas Colliery. It worked, but it wasn’t what we planned. On the other hand … below Ty Canol it’s road walking, which is one thing we were trying to avoid and one reason why we diverted away from the mountain road past Pen-y-waun (this we think is the old Heol Bedwas – there was a farm called Pen-heol-bedwas near the top).

To follow what we did today, from ST 17946 90654 you can go over the tip (shorter, steeper) or take the gentler path round to the left. When the paths rejoin at ST 17767 90353, go through the gate ahead of you

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and down a steep stony path. (Be careful – the stone can be very slippery in wet weather.) Ignore paths to the right leading over the coal tips and keep going downhill.

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The path is fainter but still there.

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From about ST 17913 89543 the track is surfaced. The site of the old Bedwas Navigation Colliery is to your left (more on this at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedwas_Navigation_Colliery ).Turn left on the surfaced road which then bears round to the right and under a line of  pylons. At ST 17827 89410 the track we were originally aiming for joins us to the left. We bore to the right

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and continued on that line

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just below the line of pylons. At ST 17637 89430 the track divides.

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Take the left fork. This becomes a metalled road through housing. Continue on the same line until you see the church below you to your left, through the trees.

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Past the church, turn left on Church Street: this gets you to the main churchyard gate. You can then continue down hill to the centre of Bedwas, cross the dual carriageway at the traffic lights, go over the old bridge ahead of you and pick up the route described in https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2018/12/10/back-to-bedwas/ .

So do we go with what we did today (it was a brilliant day’s walk) or try to find the lane past Ty-canol – or maybe look for the footpath that cuts across between the two? The road goes ever on …

 

Back to Bedwas

As far as we could make out, the medieval pilgrimage route from Llantarnam to Penrhys probably crossed the Ebbw by the old bridge near the monks’ Maes-tir grange farm (the ‘Pont’ of Pontymister) then went up through Ochrwith and along the north side of Mynydd Machen. There are faint traces of hollow ways under the bracken skirting the summit to the north, and house platforms west of the summit, but we were a bit doubtful about the age of the trackway along the ridge. we thought it perhaps more likely that medieval travellers would have avoided the summits, using the very minor road which contours above the Blackvein then becomes a track crossing the ridge at Twyn yr Oerfel and down the old Bedwas road past Bedwas church. From the old bridge in Bedwas, John Leland’s description of the route ‘through the middle of the county [of Glamorgan]’ to ‘Penrise village where the pilgrimage was’ went along the banks of the Nant yr Aber. We couldn’t follow the stream all the way but we worked out a route along side roads, through a trading estate, along the river bak for a little, then through the Asda car park, under the railway line, along a cycle track paralleling the main road and so up through Hendredenny to Groes-wen.

For many years we tried to walk as near as we could to the old route. This meant a lot of walking through housing, including the Ty-Sign estate in Risca and a long plod through the outskirts of Caerphilly. I like paths that go along alleyways, round the back of industrial estates and between gardens. They belong to an earlier palimpsest of the landscape, before the factories and the railways were built. But they aren’t to everyone’s taste. Also, our original route skirted round Caerphilly. Local authority support tends to require routes that go through town centres, to help with regeneration. And it would be a pity to miss Caerphilly Castle – the in-your-face brutalism of de Clare’s original plan softened by age and the geese and swans in the moat.

So back to the maps. We could leave the medieval route to walk over the summit of Twmbarlwm and down the Darren Road then follow the Raven Walk over the shoulder of Mynydd Machen. And we could avoid the outskirts of Caerphilly by crossing the Rhymney in Machen and following the Machen Forge Trail then cutting across to the Van (details of all this at https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/twmbarlwm-machen-or-not/ , https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/wits-forge-and-fireblast/ , https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/cistercian-way-machen-to-caerphilly/ ).

Lovely walk – but it misses out Bedwas Church. This is a building very dear to our hearts and has recently had a lot of conservation work. Also the route isn’t problem-free. The line of the Raven Walk above the Blackvein is in very poor shape – worrying for a promoted path – and the tracks over the shoulder of Mynydd Machen can be so overgrown as to be impassable in summer. Then on the route from the Machen Forge Trail to Caerphilly there are some dreadfully wet and boggy sections.

Rewalking that route recently (and having to swing on a tree to get over one stream) I realised how near it gets to Bedwas bridge. Can we reconcile the two routes, keep to the tracks along the Mynydd Machen ridge, take in Bedwas then cut round through the fields to the Van? That would then leave a very short road section into the middle of Caerphilly.

First job was to check the footpaths from Bedwas. Go over the old bridge, then turn left through some bollards.

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This lane leads to a new housing estate and Llanfedw Close. Walk up the close, turn left into Rhyd-y-gwern Close, right almost immediately into Rudry Close (all these streets named after old villages round Caerphilly) and after the first house take the waymarked footpath to the left.

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This winds between gardens and woods to emerge on a side road at ST 17207 88151. Turn left, and in 0.5 km at ST 17636 87930 turn right on a roughly-metalled lane over a disused railway line and up to Gwern-y-domen Farm. (The actual Gwern y Domen is an earthwork motte-and-bailey castle just south of the railway line and round about here DSC_2894

 

a bit about it at http://www.castleuk.net/castle_lists_wales/171/vancastle.htm . The railway line is overgrown but passable and seems to be walked occasionally. ON the other hand – there are plans to build a housing estate on the fields round here.)

Walk between the farm buildings at Gwern-y-domen

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and continue on the same line on a waymarked footpath through bracken and scrub. At ST 17076 87241 and ST 17022 87121 keep to the right (north) side of the hedge. From ST 17022 87121 you will be able to see a double line of hedge to your left – a sure indication that this is an old road. At ST 16757 86939, turn left through some rather complicated gates and walk down the lane past the Van, now restored and made into several substantial houses. At the bottom of the lane, turn right on Cwrt Ty Mawr and right again on Van Road. From here it’s a short walk along the road to Caerphilly and the castle.

We now need to look again at tracks and side roads from Risca over Mynydd Machen and down to Bedwas.