The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Three Mynydds (Mynyddau?) and a Foel

Sunday 22 March

Mynydd Drumau


Pulling up outside of the church in Bryn Coch at the same time as the congregation for the early morning Sunday service, I realised that when I’d researched where we could park for this hill, I’d not considered that we might find ourselves there on a Sunday morning. The congregation was small; I don’t think we put anyone out.

Having made our way up a lane and through some woodland, a small amount of trespass was required to reach the top of the hill (probably no more than five minutes worth) and it was nice and early on a Sunday morning, so what were the chances of the farmer seeing us?

There’s a clue to the answer to that question in this snap of me at the trig point on this unremarkable hill:


Lambing sheep = early morning farmer visits. As it went, he was too busy wrestling a sheep to the ground to pay us any attention as we hopped over one of his gates and made our way back to the public footpath. Arriving back at the church the early congregation had departed, and so did we, towards another Mynydd.

(3.3 miles; 600’)

Mynydd Marchwyel


It would have been perfectly possible to visit the top of this, our second hill of the day, without a single step of trespass. However, I had decided that the preferable approach was from the village of Cilfrew, which required us to trespass for a total of around 3.9 miles. But, it was Sunday morning, so what were the chances of meeting a farmer?

To reduce our chances further, a blistering pace was set as we sweated our way uphill in the sunshine and I was pleased when we finally crossed a fence into the forestry, 250m before the trig point, which put us onto access land.

It certainly isn’t a hill that boasts views from the summit:


But the return journey made up for that:


We made it back to Cilfrew without (to the best of our knowledge) anyone having witnessed us sneaking across the private land (except for the two dog walkers, who were also trespassing).

(5 miles; 1000’)

Mynydd Dinas


The inland alternative to the Wales Coast Path, around Port Talbot, goes very close to the top of this hill, but I had opted to stick with the coast on that walk and return to visit the hill afterwards, so that’s what we did for our third summit of the day.

A very pleasant walk up was had, with extensive coastal views. The steel works of Port Talbot did, of course, draw the eye, and being so vast with so many smoking chimneys it looked like something out of a previous, more industrial, age. I did take a snap, but you can’t really see what I mean about the steel works. Did I mention that I really do need to get a new camera?


Easily locating the path which leads to the trig point (prior research had paid off again), I had expected to find another trodden path from there to the “ground 2m NE of flat rock 65m E of trig” (i.e. the highest point). Not only was there no such trodden line, but the depth of heather, mini trees and spikey things made me think that there was no way we were going to locate that rock.


Striding along the path towards the trig

Thrashing around, I was just about to give it up as a bad job when I stumbled across that elusive rock, completely surrounded by heather (I’m standing as I am to hold back some of the heather so you can see the rock):


Sure enough, 2m away a small patch of heather proved not to be as deep as that surrounding it, and I found myself standing on the highest ground.

Whilst we hadn’t had the hill to ourselves (four walkers, one runner), it had been pretty quiet for a sunny Sunday afternoon. We were nearly back down in Baglan when we rounded a bend and were met with this view:


That was a big group! But they were well grouped together, so we got away with just half a dozen greetings without leaving anyone out.

Consideration was given to continuing, on foot, straight from this hill to our next one, but for various reasons we stuck to Plan A, which was to drive around to Pontrhydyfen, as we intended to stay there the night anyway.

Foel Fynyddau


Arguably, with hindsight, we might have been better approaching this hill from Baglan after all, but if we had done that I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a memorable outing (I’m having enough trouble remembering which hill was which, making memorable snippets a bonus), and there’s nothing like encountering a hundred blow-downs in your path to make a walk memorable:


The clambering that ensued was made even more ‘interesting’ by the quantity of brambles, and there were thoughts that we should have stuck to the modern, maintained (but very meandering) forest track rather than trying out this old, abandoned (direct) one. Of course, by the time we got to the worst mess of fallen trees we had put enough effort into this route as to make us reluctant to back-track, and our persistence (and clambering) did eventually pay off.

We spilled back out onto the modern track (by which I mean we climbed over the last tree and jumped down onto the track, from which vantage point the old track was invisible) just as four mountain bikers passed by. I’m sure they must have wondered where we’d been and why.

A better line was found to shortcut the final switch-back, leading us directly to the top, which I concede was a little cluttered from some angles…


… but gave good views:


A much better (and more direct, but far less memorable) route was taken to get us back down.

(4.75 miles; 1400’; total for day: 16 miles; 3600’)


It had been a lovely warm spring day, although that evening the forecast told us that it was to be the last fine day of this long run of high pressure.

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