Tarquin's cycling pages

01 July 2006 - East Fforest Fawr

WhereEast Fforest Fawr
(Brecon Beacons and South Wales)
Date01 July 2006
Duration1 hours 45 minutes
Distance8.5 miles (~14 km)
WeatherSunny and hot
Trail conditionsTarmac and a lot of dirt track
Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones 26 GT LTS 2000 (TWJ)

Trip report

Description by Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones

See pictureSee pictureThe target was the East side of Bwlch-y-cwm in Fforest Fawr (that's the one by Tongwynlais). After a reconnaissance ride a few days earlier (trying to see how fast I could fly down Bwlch-y-Cwm), I had seen several places worth a look. The trip starts with a ride up the steep hill from Rhiwbina, to the fields of Rhiwbina Farm.

See pictureSee pictureA quick view over to Castell Coch on the other side of Bwlch-y-Cwm, then it was time to head for the quarry at the top of it. The quarry has all the obligatory signs; "Danger, quarry workings", "Danger of falling rock", "Danger, deep water", but I grew up literally on the top of a quarry. They are my playground. And yes, I have also fallen down one at one point. If you choose to follow this route, you do so at your own risk; you have been warned.

See pictureSee pictureGoing past the "deep" puddle, the dirt track climbs up from bench to bench, with remnants of buildings. Since it is a limestone quarry, it also manages to intersect a couple of very small caves.

See pictureSee pictureThey do not look as grand as those on Garth across the other side of the Taff, but one of them does drop down into a rift (and I had no torch or other equipment to check if it was going anywhere). I remind you that this quarry has still not had a chance to settle completely, and these caves are potentially dangerous as a result. Only very experienced cavers, who know the warning signs to look for in quarry caves, should attempt to explore them.

See pictureSee pictureThe top of the path reaches a field overlooking the Bwlch-y-Cwm valley, and the top part of Cardiff. The ground in many parts of the quarry is covered in wild strawberries, so I stopped for a brief snack.

See pictureSee pictureThe route now follows the rim of the uppermost bench of the quarry. The ground in some parts is not really suitable for cycling (as if that ever stopped me), as it continually ramps up and down over small piles of stones. Early on, the path drops into a field behind the quarry, before returning to the cliff edge. At one point, the path is so narrow, I had to hold my bike over the 45 metre drop, while holding onto a tree to balance. The grass then makes the path unridable, as the cliff reaches its peak at just over 60 metres.

See pictureSee pictureA brief look over to the Garth and Craig yr Allt in one direction, and over Cardiff to the Severn Estuary and Devon in the other, then it was time to follow the ramps down to the bottom. Apparently there is a path that enters the quarry at the top, if you wanted to. In any case, the ramps down are excellent. Just watch out for the corners, which are fairly abrupt, with a cliff to fall off if you do not turn fast enough. Front suspension is needed for the amount of rocks on the path (some of which are deliberately placed to prevent cars using it). A brief tarmacked ramp, then down to the bottom, watch out for the broken glass, and back to the road.

See pictureBack towards the farm, a bridleway heads into the forest (just as the road breaks out of the forest, not any of the earlier bridleways), which is floored with wild garlic, and certainly smells like it. Early on, the path forks, with the right branch staying generally level-ish, to reach the Bwlch-y-Cwm road just by the car park. Returning to the fork, the left branch heads downhill with a few curves, ending at a gate with a very abrupt turn in the path. Head left, and follow the path until you are forced to join the road

The road passes through Tongwynlais, with several choices of route back home.

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