Sometimes you have to admit defeat. I had come to Wales to run and walk in the Brecon Beacons and along the coast. Unfortunately I arrived at the same time as Storm Eleanor. This meant my day one run in the Brecon Beacons had to be aborted, as winds were getting too high and my day two planned coastal run would be too dangerous. So I jumped on a train and headed to Merthyr Tydfil.
A walk from Merthyr Tydfil
Having discovered a walk on the BBC website (link available at the bottom of the blog) I gathered my maps and Brew and I stepped out into the wild weather.
In the interests of honesty I have to say the first part of the walk was uninspiring. This was in part because it was raining horizontally. Leaving a large town to head into the countryside will usually take you through some less attractive suburbs. Joining the Taff Trail for the first part of my route I found myself constantly stopping Brew from standing on broken glass.
I should have stopped to admire the Pont y Cafnau bridge; the world’s oldest surviving iron bridge. Instead I just glanced at it in a weather induced grump. For the next few miles I continued along the Taff Trail, high above the River Taf Fechan. If you are following this walk you can also take the lower path, which runs beside the river here. The path I was on was paved and easy walking but the lower path is probably more attractive.
Things Start To Look Better
After crossing the Pontsarn Viaduct at 3.3 miles I followed a disused railway line for a little while. This was once the Brecon and Merthyr Railway. Its steep gradient earned it the nickname Breakneck Railway, due to the high numbers of accidents. Easy to see why it fell into disuse!
Shortly a path to the left took me down some steep steps towards the river. Here evidence of Storm Eleanor and previous storms was to be seen in the fallen trees everywhere – some which needed to be scrambled over and through.
Slipping and sliding up a field on the other side of the river I came to my favourite part of the walk; the ruins of Vaynor Church, built in 1295. The walk description talks about the current church (which is next to the ruined one) but barely mentions the captivating ruins and moss covered graveyard of the original church. I spent ten minutes wandering around the old church structure and the gravestones before Brew gave me his best bored look and we moved on.
“Come on in, don’t be shy.”
I had done some very important research about this walk and found that there was a dog friendly pub half way round. Spotting a sign I headed for the pub, then hesitated outside. Brew and I were soaking and pretty mud to boot. Quickly towelling Brew down outside I cautiously opened the door to be greeted by the landlord “Come on in, don’t be shy.”
Having ordered a half of Welsh Gold Bullmastiff and been told “pay when you leave” I felt thoroughly happy. For half an hour I enjoyed the atmosphere in the lovely Aberglais Inn before heading back into the wind and rain.
Facing The Storm
Back on the route we crossed the Pontsarn Bridge and peered into the river gorge. This part of the river is known as Blue Pool but today the water gushed and foamed in a rust coloured mass. We came now to an out and back arm of the route, leading up steep Morlais Hill to the ruins of Morlais Castle. I was keen to get some climbing in my legs and this certainly provided that! It also made me realise just why it was a good idea to stay away from the coast and higher hills today.
As we emerged onto the top the wind, which had been behind us, showed its full force. Turning to go back down I was almost knocked off my feet. Brew and I crouched low until we could walk safely and slide our way back down to the road.
This Footpath Is Closed
On the opposite side of the Taf Fechan now, we were on the final leg of our walk. Approaching a gate I made the mistake of reading a council notice attached. The path back to Merthyr Tydfil was deemed dangerous and was closed.
Obviously I would never be so foolhardy as to pretend I hadn’t read this notice. I certainly wouldn’t set out along a dangerous, closed path…
But I imagine that if I had it would have been one of the most beautiful parts of the walk. I imagine the stroll through the wooded limestone gorge with the river crashing and tumbling beside me would have bought a smile to my face. I even imagine it would have evoked memories of canyoning in France and Scotland. Below you can see a video of my imagination.
Sadly I can’t for the life of me remember how I did get back to Merthyr Tydfil whilst avoiding that dangerous path. Maybe I imagined myself there.
Back To The Train
Before heading for home I visited the grounds of Cyfarthfa Castle. This is where the walk officially starts and there is free parking here.
Despite the less than promising start and the interesting weather I really enjoyed this walk. Being away on your own (doggy company excluded) means you need a little extra reserve when things aren’t going well. Not having someone to turn to and ask ‘what do you think we should do?’ or joke about the situation with can be tough. But ultimately whether you enjoy a day out is up to you and sometimes it means turning your mindset around.
If you fancy doing this walk you can download the full information sheet here. Enjoy your day out.
Never Miss An Adventure!