Rewalking Wentwood

We have been having a drought, which is something we are not used to in Wales. Desperate measures were called for – so Rachel and I planned a long walk. Result! – it rained in Cardiff for about 3 hours, but we went east and had just a bit of mizzle.

Back in 2016 I walked the eastern slope of Wentwood with Andy Delmege on his great trek round Wales but I had to go back to the car from Five Paths. We got a bit confused about paths at the top of the first slope. The route Andy took was OK but missed the burial mounds and was technically not a right of way.The problem is that even recent OS 1:25,000 maps show a cleared area at Five Paths which doesn’t correspond with what is there now. The online map has been updated. Whe you get to the cleared area at ST 43281 95027 you need to keep straight on, roughly due west, to the right of the cleared area (my map marked the RoW to the left of the cleared area, which was where we went wrong last time). This is a well-surfaced forest road. At ST 42216 94830, just past the car park, cross a minor road and take the forest road ahead of you and slightly to the right. The burial mounds are just north of the track at around ST 41690 94556.  (Here they are in rather different weather.)

At ST 41428 94552 cross another minor road and keep going straight on. In about 80m. the paths divide.

Follow the waymark

and take the left fork,

passing just to the north of the mast. The track becomes fainter but continues bearing just south of west and mostly downhill. At about ST 40036 94168 the track rising to meet you from the right is the line of the London to St David’s route mapped by John Ogilby in 1675. You are probably now on the medieval pilgrimage route to St David’s. The modern path sometimes follows a marked hollow way and sometimes climbs above it.

There has been a lot of off-roading damage on this section of the path – last time I walked it, in slushy and wet weather, there were deep water-filled ruts,

and it would still be difficult under foot in wet weather. Part of Wentwood now belongs to the Woodland Trust and the rest is managed by Natural Resources Wales. Both have been trying to discourage off-roading but it’s a large area to control and there’s the perennial problem that it’s difficult to exclude motorbikes while still allowing access for horses and push-bikes.  Forest roads can also be accessible for wheelchair users and again it’s difficult to block motorbikes but allow wheelchairs. There was a scheme in north Wales to fit lockable barriers that could be opened by radar keys but I don’t know how that worked. The line of the London-St Davids road was at one time a byway for all vehicles so off-roaders had a legal right to use it, but its status may have been changed.

At ST 39576 93699, emerge from the trees and turn right on a well-surfaced forest road.

At ST 39445 93571 the forest road ends at a line of large stones.

Continue on the same line along a path. This becomes a well-marked track, sometimes a hollow lane or just to one side of the hollow. At ST 38965 92859 you pass the ‘motte and bailey castle’ of Caer Licyn – not a motte and bailey at all according to my old student Neil Phillips and most probably a garden viewpoint constructed as a folly.

At ST 38648 92438 you rejoin the metalled road.

The Ogilby route continues straight on and gradually down hill. When you get out of the trees, the faint earthworks in the field to your right are all that is left of a puzzling series of enclosures. Could be Iron Age … one at least could be a preliminary Roman camp before the fortress at Caerleon was built … some evidence of early medieval occupation … the road you are on could be even older than that. At ST 37465 91043, when the road bends left, take the hollow lane to your right: this is still the line of the Ogilby road, overgrown but just about passable. Turn left on Abernant Road and walk down to the B road past Cat’s Ash Farm. (The converted farm barn is a medieval chapel on the site of an even earlier church, mentioned in the Book of Llan Daf – you can still see the otline of the east window)

If you want to avoid the tarmac, at ST 38648 92438, look for the bridleway waymarked to your right. This goes down a VERY steep and rough slope to join the Usk Valley Walk. It’s a pretty walk but goes down a long way to climb back up again.  On balance I’d recommend sticking with the road.

Advertisements

Cwm Bodringallt

From Penrhys up the ridge and down the old Maerdy road to Pentre (https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/penrhys-the-meadow-on-the-nose-of-the-forest/) was a wonderful walk but a long way up the ridge, and a long plod up hill to scramble a long way down again. Also the track is badly damaged by motorbikes and off-road vehicles. Measuring out the route along Cwm Bodringallt, it’s about 2 km shorter and should be an easier walk. Time to try it out.

Start as for the route up the ridge: from the statue, take the road round the west of the estate, and turn left on a roughly metalled road at the top, between the sub-station and what remains of the sports centre, at grid reference ST 00027 95074. Walk up the metalled road and bear left along the forest edge. The road becomes a  rough track along the ridge. Follow it bearing slightly west of north with the fence and the wind farm to your left. You get the best of the views but without the last climb. At about SS 99221 96229 you cross the road to the wind farm. At SS 98589 96828 go through a gate in the fence to your left,

2016-05-04 10.28.39

2016-04-19 11.24.20

cross the road through the wind farm and take the track downhill just before the seventh of the eight turbines.

When you reach the gate at SS 98390 96289,

2016-05-04 10.41.28

don’t take the track ahead of you but turn left

2016-05-04 10.42.26

and walk across the fields down Cwm Bodringallt. At SS 98508 95830 you meet a stony track

2016-05-04 10.50.10

which continues down the valley. The current online OS map marks the bridleway on down the track and through the farmyard but the farm gate has a No Access sign. Instead, at SS 98457 95543 follow the waymark through the gate to your right

2016-05-04 10.56.12

but do not continue along the track to your right (this eventually leads to the tumbled ground of the land slip). Instead, turn left and follow the fence to your left. When the fence goes left, continue on the same line along the edge of the steep slope.

2016-05-04 12.03.35

Don’t be distracted by paths to the right but keep on the same line, going steeply downhill,

2016-05-04 12.07.32

through a gate and out to the lane behind the playground at SS 98285 95304.

Turn right on the lane. Cross the road at SS 98045 95328 and continue along the lane behind the houses and out onto the open hillside. Past the quarry, the lane goes steeply downhill through the heather, through a gate and into the trees, and emerges at the south end of Pleasant View (SS 97339 95436). Walk along the street for a few yards then down the steps to your left. Cross the road and railway bridge and walk into Ton Pentre.

West from Tintern

This started well, then tailed off – paths I found easily in 2005 simply aren’t there any more. A bit of rethinking needed – but it was a lovely day’s walking.

Cross the main road past the abbey and walk up past St Anne’s (once the outer gatehouse chapel). Turn left and walk along the back lane past the Beaufort Arms. Once past the hotel car park, the track bears right. The OS web site marks the Wye Valley Walk up the stony track ahead of you but it’s waymarked to the left, past the limekilns and up to Rudding Farm. This is a long way up to go down again. Better to stick to the track up hill ahead of you. This is the Stony Way, built for the monks to provide access to their grange farms up the hill. It has been very eroded and overgrown, though it seems to be recovering.

tinternstonywaycompressed

When you get out of the woods, the climb becomes less steep. At ST 524 988, there are stiles to left and right. Go right, walk up the field and cross another stile to a metalled road.

In wet weather the alternative is to follow the Wye Valley Walk waymark then turn right at the top and walk along the edge of the woods. Rejoin the Stony Way by a stile at the end of the woods, cross the track and take the stile up into the fields.

Cross the metalled road, walk up the hedge to your right, and bear left across the next field to the stile into Penterry churchyard.

tinternpenterrygraveyardcompressed

Leave the church by the footpath going south-west across the fields. Cross the metalled road and take a stony track ahead. When the main track goes right to a cottage, keep straight on and into the forest. When the forest road divides, take the left fork, then bear left again up a waymarked hollow lane between massive stone walls. In 2005 it was possible to turn right at the top of the hill and walk on through the woods but this path seems to have vanished. Instead, go over the waymarked stile, walk to the middle of the field then turn right and walk to a gate in the far hedge, then walk along the hedge to your left. You are now on the St Tewdrig Trail (http://www.thecircleoflegends.co.uk/tewdrigtrail.htm ).

Turn left on the metalled road then right along a stony track. Bear left with the track and walk round the slope. There are wonderful views to your left.

tinternrogerstoneviews

The big farm below you is on the site of Tintern’s Rogerstone Grange, and the reservoir was once a holy well. The St Tewdrig Trail goes downhill to the grange. When the stony track goes left into the field, keep straight on.

After some sadly decaying memorial benches

tinternbench1compressed

the track bears right into the forest. The route through the forest is difficult to follow – we really need some waymarks here. There is a network of forest roads, forest roads which are rights of way, forest roads which aren’t rights of way, rights of way which aren’t forest roads … Take the second track to the left. When the tracks divide, take the left fork (effectively straight on). At ST 494 977 the track bends to the left and you cross a small stream. It’s worth walking up the bank ahead of you to look down over the reservoir, now a very pretty pond

tinternreservoircompressed

with another memorial bench.

tinternreservoirbenchcompressed

In about a mile at 486 975 you reach a crossroads where seven tracks used to meet. Unfortunately, the one we want has completely vanished. I thought I had worked my way back to it but it turned out to be another one, very overgrown, which got to the main road some way to the south. It’s possible to cut back from this to a track which emerges from the trees behind Yewtree Cottage, but it’s very difficult to find the paths on the ground. There are also problems with the footpath as it climbs the fields to join the road to Newchurch – new houses have made the path difficult to follow.

The alternative is to stick with the forest road from 486 975 and follow it as it bends north and downhill, then turn left at the T junction and walk down to the road. Cross and take the minor road ahead of you. Go straight over a crossroads, down hill and up a steep slope past a farm called Ty Bettws. It looks like an extended long house and the name ‘Bettws’ means a place of prayer or a hermitage. At the top of the slope, where the metalled road turns right, take the lane to the left. You are now on the line of the old pilgrimage route from London to St David’s. When the track divides, take the very muddy fork to the right and walk on to the metalled road.

In 2005 I walked along the road to Newchurch. There are off-road alternatives, but the road runs along a ridge with magnificent views to either side.

Heritage trails (again)

We had another go at the last part of Pilgrimage Day 2 (having given up at Groeswen because we were wet to our underthings last Sunday). Here we are setting off

Image

And here is a contender for World’s Most Useless Stile.

Image

Cute ponies on the ridge

Image

and Rachel and Cara contemplate the trig point.

Image

It was a splendid walk – but the problem is, it isn’t the original pilgrim way. That, as far as we can make out, followed the line of the minor road round the contour east from Groeswen, then turned north and went past a farm which is actually called Penygroes (head of the cross). A local folklorist had a story about a medieval cross on the corner, but I’ve never seen a reference to it anywhere else.

The route we took has a lot of up but a splendid view, taking in Steep and Flat Holm, the Quantocks, the Carmarthenshire Fan and Brecon Beacons, the Twmbarlwm and Mynydd Machen ridges and the tips of the towers of the Second Severn Crossing. The original route is flatter, goes along the spring line (handy for medieval pilgrims with horses or mules) and has good views of the Glamorgan hills – but it’s a road, and there is a lot of rubbish. What to do? Suggest both, make it clear the upper route isn’t the original one, and leave it up to the individual pilgrim?

We had lunch in Eglwysilan and contemplated the tombstones. There’s a nice balance of Welsh and English, including this one in cast iron

Image

and this one where the early part is in Welsh and the last entry in English.

Image

Also these cute back-to-back cherubs

Image

and a rather more modern cherub who looks as if he is asking ‘Please, sir, can I have some more?’

Image

From Eglwysilan you can continue along the road (the original route) or cut across the fields – we went for the fields, got lost once but scrambled back on track and got down to the White Bridge in commendable time.

Saturday we will set off from the green just below the White Bridge at 10 am and head for Mynachdy, Llanwynno and Penrhys – and Derek the Weather promises a good day.

Who would true valour see?

On Saturday a small but happy band of pilgrims set off from Llantarnam – with me were my daughter and her long-suffering boyfriend, one of my MA students, three women from the Ancient Cwmbran Society and of course Cara the pilgrim dog. We had a good send-off from Sister Ann Larkins of the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy including a blessing with holy water from a medieval stoup found in the abbey ruins.

Over the years our route has diverged from the medieval trackway. The old maps suggest this went across the fields, down the lane behind the church, and along the main Llantarnam Road towards Cwmbran. You can’t now walk across the fields (there’s a dual carriageway across the route) and the road  makes pretty boring walking. So we go down the Abbey drive, along Ty Coch Lane, and head for the canal towpath. Less authentic but a better walk.

We reclaim the old road in Old Cwmbran and plod over St Dial’s Hill. The women from the Ancient Cwmbran society remembered playing there as children and might even have seen the ruins of St Dial’s farmhouse before it was demolished to build the police college. It could have been on the site of the medieval shrine chapel, but unless we could get in to look at the ruins we could never know.

Image

Here we are on top of the hill. Down the other side and past Greenmeadow Community Farm, a classic hollow way with outgrown beech hedges takes us across the modern roads and up to Thornhill. The Ancient Cwmbran Society gave us tea and we debated whether to try the top route up Mynydd Maen (virtually a stream in places  but the original route the monks would have taken to their granges at the Rhyswg and Cil-lonydd) or to cut through Greenmeadow Woods. The top route has the better views, and we all had good boots, so up we went.

Image

The waymark actually says ‘Pilgrims’ Way’. The blackberries were at their best, we had lunch above the ruins, and Dave Standing found some grange boundaries. There is still so much archaeology to explore up there.

I have always felt that the medieval pilgrims wouldn’t have gone over the top of Twmbarlwm – why go all that way up just to come down again?? The track through the woods towards Pant-yr-yrfa is now pretty clear but the farmyard is well blocked so we had to go up the ridge in the end.But there were some magnificent bank and ditch features under the trees – this is all part of the Dorallt grange and has evidence of early mining.

Then we diverted again from the original route, which would have gone down the road through Ty-Sign and across the Stony Bridge in Pontymister. But that makes for a long road walk through the houses – so we headed across Twmbarlwm to Pegwn-y-bwlch, down the Darran road, along the canal and down to the Blackvein bridge.

Dave Standing’s photos of the day are at https://picasaweb.google.com/108133310404705177233/LlantarnamAbbeyToPenrhysPilgrimage2013DayOne

Sunday started well but by the time we crossed the ridge above Pen-heol-bedwas the rain was setting in. Cara did some very pathetic shivering over lunch, though we think this may have been a ploy to get extra cake. The afternoon was just the two of us, my daughter Rachel and myself – even Cara had gone home in the minibus. We had a wonderful welcome from the ladies at Groeswen, but once we stopped we couldn’t get going again.

So we propose doing the final section – Groeswen to Eglwysilan and on  to Pontypridd – on Wednesday, when the weather looks a little more promising. Saturday is also looking good so far. We set off from the green by the White Bridge, on the Ynysybwl road out of Pontypridd, at 10 am on Saturday and aim to be in Penrhys in time for tea. There will be transport back to the start.

Penrhys Pilgrimage 2013

Final arrangements for day 1, Saturday 14 Sept. ( more details for days 2 and 3 to follow)

Sister Anna Larkins is organising a short service in the Abbey chapel to set us on our way. We can park in the visitors’ car park at the Abbey. The service will be at 10 am and we aim to be on our way by 10.20. We will walk down the Abbey drive, along Ty Coch Lane and the canal to Old Cwmbran and over the hill. Comfort stop and refreshments at Thornhill Community Centre, Leadon Court, courtesy of the Ancient Cwmbran Society. Up the hollow way to Mynydd Maen (more about this at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGdZo6JfM1o&list=PLAs8r8fTKmGa67HZNNLoYogPFeYLJVBMM) and Llandderfel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OB4ZoEqzos&list=PLAs8r8fTKmGa67HZNNLoYogPFeYLJVBMM and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGx4EP2TTqE&list=PLAs8r8fTKmGa67HZNNLoYogPFeYLJVBMM). Late lunch at Llandderfel – bring sandwiches.

Dave Standing and Maddy think that the medieval route went through what is now forest and past Pant-yr-yrfa farm so we plan to walk that way. There may be some grange boundaries to discover. We can then climb Twmbarlwm, weather permitting, or continue on the same line through the woods.

The medieval road probably went down the line of the metalled road from Twmbarlwm, heading for the grange farm at Pontymister, but this involves a lot of road walking and a long plod through the Ty-sign estate. This year we are trialling a new route, down the Darran road from Pegwn-y-bwlch, along the canal and down to the river at the bridge on the Blackvein road (OS ST 225 914). It may not be THE old road but it is AN old road – hollowed into the hillside by centuries of use.

More details on days 2 and 3 to follow – briefly, day 2, Sunday 15 Sept., starts at 10 am at the Blackvein rige. We walk over the ridge to Bedwas. We aim to get there at about 1 pm. There is a pub, or you can bring a packed lunch. We walk through the back lanes round Caerphilly to Groeswen, where we hope to have a short break at the chapel, then over the mountain to Eglwysilan. Depending on timings, the day may finish there, or we may walk on to Pontypridd.

Day 3, Saturday 21 Sept, starts on the green near the White Bridge just north of Pontypridd, OS ST 077 910 (this is what Eddie Butler and Maddy looked at in the Towns of Wales episode on Pontypridd). Walk over the ridge to Ynysybwl then through the woods and fields to lunch at Llanwynno – medieval church, Brynffynnon pub and St Gwynno’s Well. We aim to reach Penrhys at about 4.00 pm, look at the statue, visit the well, have tea in the Llanfair cafe and a short service in the church.

Logistics – we have the USW minibus as back-up so we can get drivers back to wherever you joined us.

Please note:

· Starting times are punctual, but all later times are approximate.

· Welsh weather can be bad, so stout shoes and waterproof, warm, wind-resistant clothing are essential.

· Every walker must carry food, and some liquid refreshment, for personal use

· Personal comfort, safety, transport, and accommodation arrangements (at the end of each day) are the concern of each person or group of persons.

· The Organisers provide only the route and arrangements for the stops. They are unable to take legal responsibility for any other matters  .

· You can join the walk at any time – just refer to the timetable and come.

any enquiries contact madeleine.gray@southwales.ac.uk