|Where||Taff Trail in Merthyr|
(Brecon Beacons and South Wales)
|Date||04 June 2006|
|Duration||2 hours 15 minutes|
|Distance||7.5 miles (~12 km)|
|Trail conditions||Dry, mostly dirt track|
|Josie Wilton-Jones||4||Spokey Joe Topp Trailer (baby trailer)|
|Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones||26||GT LTS 2000 (TWJ)|
Description by Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones
It was time to learn another part of the Taff Trail. It began at Cyfarthfa Castle. This is really a mansion owned by the ironmaster Crawshay during the industrial revolution, in which Merthyr Tydfil played its important part. The nearby sign pointed us down to the river, where we met the Taff Trail. A brief stint on pavement brought us to the dominating remnants of the Cyfarthfa iron works (see the person in yellow for scale - seriously).
The iron works were the heart and soul of the town, and the workers, as with many other similar towns, were overworked, and tied into the system by carefully arranged debt by their employers. Merthyr itself saw more than its share of uprisings as the Welsh people struggled to be treated fairly by these opressive English occupiers.
These iron works survive as a testament to their labours. Take a torch with you, there are plenty of tunnels to explore (and bring something to lock your bike up while you do so - this is not the sort of place where you leave it unguarded).
After passing a few houses, and a ramp up onto the railway track again, we met a bike hurdle. These are much, much better than those in Cardiff; the trailer had no problem at all getting through. The gap at the top is supposed to be wide enough for bike handlebars but not for motorbikes. My handlebars are a little wider than most, so they needed a careful maneuver to get through, but I could actually stay on the bike without having to lift the trailer. I could actually get past this on my own! Cardiff council, please take note.
The railway line continued as a dirt track, with a view across the Taff Fechan gorge to the Gurnos housing estate. Gurnos has a violent reputation that is well known across South Wales. Look but do not touch. On second thoughts, do not look, just keep your eyes on the ground in front of you, and keep going.
We stopped at a railway tunnel on the side of the path, enjoying the cool breeze that flowed out. A little further along the path was the road. We decided to take the car up the valley a little, so here we turned around and took a shortcut back through Merthyr, bypassing the Cefn Coed viaduct.
Continuing up the valley is worth while, reaching the Ponstsicill Reservoir, complete with a deep outlet funnel. Swimmers were ignoring the (stupid) signs that warn against swimming, and having a good time jumping in. To the water, not the funnel. Of course.
The east side of the reservoir has a rewarding view of the tallest mountains in the Brecon Beacons, including Pen y Fan, the tallest mountain in South Wales at 886 metres. There is also the Brecon Mountain railway station, complete with working steam engine.