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 …

 

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Cistercian Way – back to it!

It’s been a dreadful winter for walking. Not that I mind walking in the rain – as the great Alfred Wainwright said, ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing’. But the persistent rain this winter has turned paths to slurry and fields to quicksand. We needed a couple of dry days in a row – and when did we last have that?

Until this week. Going walking on Wednesday involved bunking off 2 meetings and some very peeved colleagues. Thursday was easier. Friday was impossible. But it was worth it. Two glorious days and the route to Pontardawe finalised.

Neath to Pontardawe should have been easy. There was nothing wrong with the way I walked with the late great Derek Thomas in 1998 (apart from the fact that we started in a thunderstorm and Derek wouldn’t stop for prayers). But the sun eventually came out and there were lots of concrete pipes for us to explore. (Derek was justifiably famous for being able to talk interestingly about concrete pipes, different designs, different manufacturing techniques – you wouldn’t think it could be fascinating but it really was. Wish I could remember even half of it.)

But since then new housing has been built, quiet roads have got busy, old paths have been blocked, new permissive paths have been opened, churches have been restored – and I have acquired a GPS unit but not the ability to do route-finding, photograph and take GPS waypoints at the same time. So a simple task actually took 2 days.

Neath Abbey became an industrial site after the Dissolution. There was a copper works on the actual site and the famous Neath abbey Iron works just to the north. The whole area round the abbey site is now an industrial estate, with the canal as a nature reserve running through it.

For the route to Pontardawe: leaving the abbey turn right and walk under the railway bridge. Turn right on the main road then left up Taillwyd Road. Immediately after the next railway bridge take the track bearing down to the left. Cross the bridge over the Clydach. The weir under the bridge provided a head of water for the iron works. The rough track to your left will take you downstream under the railway to the ruins of the ironworks. The most striking of these are the late eighteenth-century furnaces, two of the highest masonry blast furnaces ever constructed.

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The casting houses which would have stood in front of them have gone, but you can still the line of the railway which would have taken materials to the charging houses at the top of the furnaces.

A little further on, the roofless building to the right of the entrance, behind the ironmasters’ house, is the shell of the engine manufactory.

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A projecting wing of this building extended towards the Clydach river and a water wheel powered by a leat from higher up the stream drove a series of machines. Much of the machinery for the works was made on site. There were two cylinder-boring workshops on the ground floor of this building, a fitting shop and smithy. Upstairs was the pattern-makers’ workshop.

Opposite the furnaces and almost completely overgrown (I did once manage to spot them in winter) are the ruins of the forge with its water-wheel housing. Here there was a wrought iron bar and tinplating mill.

The path up the west bank of the Clydach looks like a pretty rural scene with waterfalls but it’s full of industrial archaeology.

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The waterfall under the bridge actually powered the rolling mill and forge.

At SS 73798 98384 cross back over a footbridge and walk up to turn left on the Taillwyd road. The road is blocked to vehicles just north of here. At SS 74028 98751 walk through the bollards and take the footpath ahead of you, up the east bank of the river. At SS 74405 99750 cross a side road and continue along the path. At SS 74316 99531 take the steps up to your right and back to the road. At SS 74328 99849 turn left on Woodview Terrace (signposted Bryncoch RFC).

At SS 74168 99944 the footpath over the bridge to your left takes you up hill and across the fields to the church of St Matthew’s Dyffryn. A pretty churchyard surrounding the nineteenth-century estate church which John Newman describes as a ‘period piece’ with its stencilled texts. Recently restored, the inside glows with colour.

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(photos © Sarah Perons)

It’s not always open, though, so may not be worth the detour.

The road on past the footbridge is busier than it used to be, but you can soon turn off it. At SN 73826 00096 (when the road from St Matthew’s Dyffryn rejoins) turn right along Primrose Bank. This is a bridleway with a rather discreet waymark.

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(not the blue post but the wooden one in the trees). We failed to see it on the Wednesday, pushed on up the road and were attracted by the paths through the Dyffryn Woods, now part of the Woodland Trust. But there seemed to be no way out of the wood to the north. On Thursday we walked along Primrose Bank – and yes, there were primroses –

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round to the right of the rugby club and along a lane though the trees. At SN 73813 00669 the main track turns right and goes steeply down to the river. Turn left here, walk up the footpath to the left of Ty-llwyd Farm and turn right on the road.

At SN 73236 01784 (Tyle-coch Farm) we had another go at finding the path north from Dyffryn Woods. The online OS map shows a bridleway going north along Mynydd Drumau, joining the permissive track through the woods and emerging on a lane at SN 72593 01689. We walked up the hill towards Tir Abbey Farm but there seemed to be no right of way across the fields to join the bridleway. In any case, it’s a long way up to go down again. By the time you rejoin the road at Ty-llwyd it’s a quiet country lane and a pleasant walk.

After 2.4 km from Ty-llwyd, at SN 72901 02601, take the footpath to the right (signposted Alltwen) and walk down the fields through a series of kissing gates and across a little bridge. When you rejoin the metalled road at SN 72753 03109 turn left. This side road becomes a lane then a footpath crossing two roads and a footbridge to emerge in the car park of Tesco’s. Turn right, cross the bridge over the Tawe and walk into Pontardawe.

 

Wit’s forge and fireblast

I probably spoke too soon about the chest infection, and it has been a horrific few weeks in work (undergraduate programme closed, no forward planning but a tidal wave of daft paperwork) – but walking is therapy so we are back to it. Rachel and I have walked the Rhymney Valley Ridgeway from Machen to Rudry so yesterday’s task was to check out the link along the Machen Forge Trail (more on this at http://your.caerphilly.gov.uk/countryside/sites/your.caerphilly.gov.uk.countryside/files/pdf/walking/2012%20Stroll%20On%20Machen%20Forge.pdf). It works very well as far as Caerphilly but then the problems start. Machen has two pubs (the Ffwrrwm Ishta is closed at the moment for renovation but is reopening) and local shops.

Follow the line of the Ridgeway down to the main road, turn right, then left down Forge Road. A new footbridge crosses the river  alongside the narrow road bridge – good views back, and down the river.

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Turn right along a very minor road and walk upstream, passing Green Row, originally the barracks built for the pit sinkers. When the road bears left and away from the river, take the track straight on.

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You are out in the countryside but it is dotted with hulks of its industrial past – this spectacular viaduct

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and the stables for the pack ponies who carried iron and coal before the railway was built.

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(You can get to this point by walking through Machen and along the cycle path then crossing a new footbridge.)

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The path climbs up to the railway embankment and down again where bridges are missing. The stonework of these bridges is magnificent – huge quoins carved to exactly the angle of the  line.

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Victorian public infrastructure has such confidence in its permanence – none of that nonsense about the cheapest quote.

Eventually you cross back over the line and walk up the field edge to a path between houses

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and emerge in Waterloo village.

From here we took the drier road route to Garth Place (https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/cistercian-way-machen-to-caerphilly/) to check out the pub. Pub icons on OS maps are no longer reliable as so many rural pubs are closing. It’s ironical that we have a drink problem but we are losing pubs that were the centres of community life. They have almost become part of our past – so much so that the Folk Museum in St Fagan’s has abandoned its Welsh nonconformist temperance identity and is rebuilding a Cardiff pub as part of the industrial area of the museum.

The good news is that the Rudry Arms in Garth Place is still open – the bad news is that it’s only open during the day on Saturdays and Sundays. So weekday walkers will need sandwiches. Oh, and it’s in a street called Starbuck Street but I couldn’t see any sign of that either.

Garth Place to Caerphilly is a lovely walk over Rudry Common with glorious views north to Mynydd Machen and Mynydd Eglwysilan. From the Van, walk down hill then turn right along Cwrt Ty Mawr and right again on the Van Road, straight over the roundabout and into Caerphilly.

We walked from Caerphilly to Groeswen as part of the Cultural Olympiad ‘Cauldrons and Furnaces’ pilgrimage on 2012 – but we did it in torrential rain and I have no idea where we went! The Sustrans cycle route 4 goes through the castle park. It starts well – a path around the castle moat with geese and ducklings –

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crosses Crescent Road, through the car park, up a ramp

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and under the railway line.

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There’s a rather awkward wiggle through the housing estates

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and across a main road, then round the backs of more houses, through the park and more back streets to the road up Caerphilly Mountain. Cross the road and keep on the cycle path but where it turns left, go striaght on the the big roundabout. Here you have a VERY difficult road crossing and you are back on the line of the Ridgeway, across the fields to Groeswen.

Cara and I got bored with this and tried to find an alternative but there really isn’t one. The other side streets in Caerphilly just get you back to the main road. There are footpaths through the park but they too lead to main roads. If the route is going into Caerphilly we’ll just have to stick with the cycle route out. The alternative is to stay on the Ridgeway – it’s a lovely walk along the ridge between Cardiff and Caerphilly but goes some way to the south and makes for a very long day’s walk. We can put both on the web site and give people the choice.