Tarquin's cycling pages

05 November 2006 - Pontsticill Loop

WherePontsticill Loop
(Brecon Beacons and South Wales)
Date05 November 2006
Duration3 hours 30 minutes
Distance11 miles (~18 km)
WeatherClouds with some sun, but only just above freezing
Trail conditionsMostly dry dirt track
Anonymous Unknown Silverfox SFX01
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

Another preparation for the Taff Trail ride. It is mostly made up of a part of the Taff Trail - one of the few missing pieces that I had not yet done. So far, I have covered most of the trail itself:

  1. Cardiff to Treharris
  2. Treharris to Merthyr
  3. Merthyr to Ponsticill
  4. This trip
  5. (A tiny fragment of the Pen y Fan Loop)
  6. The second half of the Talybont Reservoir forestry circuit

This actually turned out to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the trail, with very few road sections, and a far less monotonous route. It is also the steepest part of the whole trail with several climbs and good descents. However, I wish to add that I did the whole thing, without getting off to push even once, with the trailer, its passenger, their toys, the food, drink, camera, warm clothes, bike repair tools, and a partridge in a pear tree, attached to my bike. After all, this ride is just one tenth of the full ride that I plan to do.

See pictureSee pictureWe started in Pontsticill, just along the road from the dam. The trail at that point follows the 'main' road, around the edge of the reservoir. Since the route spends most of its time circling the reservoirs, you can guess what most of the sights were; yep, that's right - trees, obviously. After just a couple of hundred metres, the trail turns left onto forestry track.

See pictureThe track rises gently at first, followed by a short descent with some obstructed views over the reservoir, before climbing again. It gets steeper before the second descent.

See pictureSee pictureThe second descent ends at an abrupt right turn. The path then drops very steeply, and turns sharply onto a narrow wooden bridge. On the other side is a brief view of some open country, but the path climbs at its steepest, back up into the forest. Then after a short descent, the trail turns left at a junction and climbs to the head of the final forest descent.

See pictureSee pictureThe descent runs all the way down to the road, at the end of the Pontsticill reservoir. A path ahead leads to the water, but it's overgrown with nettles, take it from me.

See pictureSee pictureThis is the start of the main road section, heading to the left. Almost immediately there is a juntion where the trail continues to the left, and ahead is the way to Dolygaer. Remember this junction, we will be back later. The trail skirts the edge of the next reservoir, the Pentwyn reservoir (often mistakenly thought to be part of Pontsticill reservoir). At the end of the reservoir, the main road branches off to the right down a steep slope, but the trail continues ahead, then passes a lovely secluded camping spot complete with its own small river and waterfall.

See pictureSee pictureFinally it breaks out into the open, and the main climb begins. This is a little over a kilomtere long, and is quite gentle as a result. The rewards are the views along the Taf Fechan valley, dominated by Craig Fan Ddu on the left, and Pen y Fan, the tallest mountain in South Wales, ahead. The cloud base was low enough that the main summit was hidden.

See pictureSee pictureAhead in the valley is the main part of the Pen y Fan Loop, one of the best cycle routes in the Beacons. Sadly we were doing an easy route (I cannot imagine taking the trailer down Pen y Fan), so we took the hairpin bend to the right, and continued along the Taff Trail. It now runs gently downhill, with the Pen y Fan Loop route leaving off to the left after about a kilometre (what do you mean 'you keep changing length units' - I can think just as easily in any of them, a useful ability in UK - I am just helping you learn, honest).

See pictureSee pictureAt the end, it rejoins the road at a car park, where we stopped to have lunch, enjoying the view of Craig y Fan Ddu (not to be confused with Craig Fan Ddu just 2 miles away). This is where we leave the Taff Trail, which continues up the road to the left, up a short steep section to its highest point.

See pictureThe car park area used to be the Torpantau train station, on the Brecon and Merthyr Railway, but is now home to Welsh mountain ponies instead.

See pictureSee pictureThe railway used to run through a tunnel here - the highest railway tunnel in Britain. It was 666 yards (or whatever that would be in metres) long, and the evil shows. The tunnel cannot be reached without waders, a canoe, or an absail. Pity.

See pictureOn the other side of the road, and a little higher, is a new track through the forest. It is not currently on most OS maps. It seems to be made to replace the footpath that is shown running down the railway lines, which is neither suitable for cyclists, nor safe, as it seems to be in occasional use. We took the track instead, checking with some other cyclists that it would get us somewhere useful.

See pictureSee pictureThe track is quite fast, gently falling and rising. It is possible to coast most of the way. After 1.5 miles (just over 2 KM), some stone table and chairs, on a bend to the left, mark a turning onto a narrow grassy path down to the right. Not entirely suitable for a trailer, but it coped without any problems. The path drops steeply between some houses down to a road.

See pictureSee pictureHeading right, underneath the railway line, reaches a bridge inbetween the two reservoirs. The road then reaches a junction - the same one as earlier, completing the loop.

See pictureThe route now follows the forest path in reverse, with most of the route being unfortunately uphill. The downhills are too steep, and are over too quickly. The last is probably the best. Oh well, the car is back in Pontsticill anyway, so it wasn't too long before we were back there.

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