Tarquin's cycling pages

04 June 2006 - Taff Trail in Merthyr

WhereTaff Trail in Merthyr
(Brecon Beacons and South Wales)
Date04 June 2006
Duration2 hours 15 minutes
Distance7.5 miles (~12 km)
Trail conditionsDry, mostly dirt track
Anonymous Unknown Apollo Heat
Josie Wilton-Jones 4 Spokey Joe Topp Trailer (baby trailer)
Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones 26 GT LTS 2000 (TWJ)

Trip report

Description by Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones

See pictureSee pictureIt 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).

See pictureThe 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.

See pictureSee pictureThese 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).

See pictureSee pictureA gentle climb then brought us up to the Cefn Coed Viaduct. At 35 metres high, and three lanes wide, the viaduct is quite impressive.

See pictureSee pictureThe viaduct curves to avoid the land owned by the Crawshays, and offers some admirable views over Merthyr, the lower Taff valley, and Cyfarthfa castle.

See pictureAfter 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.

See pictureSee pictureThe 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.

See pictureSee pictureThe Morlais quarries loomed over us. Generally very easy going with the gradient barely noticeable.

See pictureSee pictureNow completely out of sight of gurnos, and finally inside the Brecon Beacons national park, the track passed over another small viaduct.

See pictureWe 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.

See pictureContinuing 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.

See pictureSee pictureThe 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.

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