Tarquin's cycling pages

23 July 2006 - Senghenydd Loop

WhereSenghenydd Loop
(Brecon Beacons and South Wales)
Date23 July 2006
Duration4 hours 35 minutes
Distance24 miles (~39 km)
WeatherSunny and windy, with scattered clouds
Trail conditionsSome tarmac, dry dirt track, and dry grass
Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones 26 GT LTS 2000 (TWJ)

Trip report

Description by Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones

This trip was made up after seeing the mountains from the Garth loop trip. It is worth repeating, but I recommend that you start and end in Caerphilly. This should give a 14 mile round trip, and take a little over 2 hours.

The small towns of Senghenydd and Abertridwr are nestled inside a range of mountains, with the Senghenydd dyke running along most of them. The ride follows the dyke, but in general uses paths beside it instead. In total, there are 6 natural mountain summits in the range, and one set of artificial peaks created by a coal tip. This ride will take in 4 of the natural summits, but you could easily take a small detour to pick up the other two. The route was planned using the OS map of the local area, but be warned that many of the paths used by this route are not shown on the map.

This route description is designed to be printed. Choose the 'Print route' style from the style dropdown on the right (needs a good browser; Opera, Firefox, Safari/Chrome, Konqueror, iCab, Internet Explorer 7), then use your browser's normal print function.

See pictureThe ride started in Cardiff, and followed the Taff Trail to Taff's Well. From here, you get the first glimpse of the mountains you will be ascending, easily identifiable by the number of television transmitter masts on the tops.

See pictureSee pictureFrom Taff's Well, follow the Taff Trail from the railway station, but instead of turning off to Nantgarw (the normal way along the Taff Trail), continue along the main route to Caerphilly. When you reach the old railway arches, go up the ramp ahead-right. This joins a dirt track with a sign post telling cyclists to go to the right. Ignore it and go left. Join the road and follow it to a busy roundabout (yes, you need to be able to comfortably cycle on roads). Take the turnoff directly ahead of you - that is the second turnoff (the first is a dual carriageway).

See pictureAfter a little over 100 metres, turn right into Gypsy Lane. It starts with a gentle downhill, then zig-zags a couple of times before climbing quite steeply to a junction. Turn right, then almost immediately turn left.

See pictureSee pictureThe road skirts the edge of a housing estate. Stay with the road, passing a riding stable. It climbs a little, before flattening out, with a nice view to the right of the end of the ridge that you will be descending later. As soon as the road begins to flatten out, take the dirt track that doubles back hard on the left. Follow it to the remains of a farm, then take the path a little to the left.

See pictureSee pictureThe path passes through a gate and crosses a field, where you should be able to see the riding stable to the left. If the path swings a little to the left and begins to descend, you have gone too far. Go back to the last field.

See pictureGo up the edge of the field. In the top corner of the field there is a stile. Cross the stile. Several paths are visible heading up into the bracken. Ignore them, and turn right. Follow the obvious path running parallel to the wall.

See pictureSee pictureThe path stays beside the wall for a while, then slowly swings to the left, climbing up to the moorland.

See pictureSee pictureYou should be able to see the first two television masts ahead of you. Stay with the path. Another obvious path joins from the left. Either cross it and follow the edge of the fence enclosing the television masts, or follow the path to the right - you will get a good view across the whole mountain range, following which the path swings left and eventually joins the other one.

See pictureSee pictureAt the end of the fenced enclosure, one of the many paths swings left to follow the edge of the fence. Follow it. Soon you should see the Mynydd Meio trig point to the right - 321 metres. Just beyond the trig point, the mountain suddenly drops off, and you are rewarded with a view across the Taff valley. On the left is the narrow part between Craig yr Allt and Garth Hill. Ahead-right is Pontypridd, and to the right is the next mountain you will be climbing, with the Brecon Beacons in the far distance.

See pictureSee pictureFollow the path running to the right, slowly descending the edge of the ridge. This is a very steep path, and you may need to get off and walk down. Join the road and turn right. Follow the road through a small village, to reach a cross roads. Take the poorly maintained road directly ahead. This climbs between two rows of pylons (pretty - not), and eventually joins a dirt track at Eglwysilan Common. The track stays beside a wall for a while, then reaches a junction. Stay with the the main track which curves round to the left, again running beside a wall. You should get a nice view to the right of the typical mining valleys terraced houses in Senghenydd. Senghenydd suffered a coal mining disaster in 1913, where an explosion in the mine killed 439 colliers - about half of the total number in the mine, making it the worst in British history. More details on the Senghenydd disaster page over on Wikipedia.

See pictureSee pictureThe track levels out, and you should see the next set of television masts on a summit ahead-left. Further to the left, a low rise is another summit, only slightly higher than the one with the masts. You will probably want to pick up both of them, since they are the biggest in the range. Do not head directly over to them - it is a bog. Stay on the path until the edge of the rise with the masts on it. Follow the edge of the rise, and pick up the track that heads to the left, up the rise to the other summit.

See pictureSee pictureFrom this direction, the summit has no path, so when the track begins to drop again, turn right, and make your way up to the Cefn Eglwysilan trig point - 382 metres. Do not follow the obvious path at the top, it goes the wrong way. Instead, go back the way you came, and when you reach the mound with the masts, follow the path up to the masts. It crosses the highest point beside the fence of one of the masts - Twyn Hywel, 381 metres.

See pictureSee picturePick up the dirt track at the masts, and follow it down to a junction. Turn right. It heads downhill, and is joined by another track from the right. Continue ahead, and follow the path until it joins a road at a layby. Follow the road ahead-left. When the road swings to the left, take the obvious route ahead-left up towards the next summit.

See pictureSee pictureThe path climbs up to the summit with some nice views both left and right. The 355 metre Mynydd Eglwysilan summit is fairly easily reached, with the path continuing on the other side.

See pictureSee pictureVisible ahead-right are the artificial summits of the coal tips. Follow the path ahead, which slowly curves right to join a dirt track. Turn right. Follow the track as it climbs gently past a branch to the right before levelling out. If you want to pick up another summit, follow the track branch to the right, then follow the dyke path that should leave up to the left - this passes over the unmarked summit - 345 metres. The main path passes the coal tips (with the tips on the left side of the path), before the dyke joins it from the right.

See pictureSee pictureThe track drops into a small valley, and is crossed by a stream. It climbs the other side and reaches a parking area with the way on ahead-right. Over to the right is the last mountain summit - 325 metres, and you can head over there if you want. To the left in the parking area is a track through the forest, that reaches the bottom of the coal tip - 315 metres, with the tips reaching 340 metres. The way on reaches a road at a farm.

See pictureThe road drops into Caerphilly. After about 500 metres, it reaches a junction with the main(ish) road. Follow the road ahead. This is also very steep, but be careful with your speed. After 750 metres, it joins a main road, and the junction is not really obvious until someone drives from the main road into the road you are on. If you do not give yourself enough time to stop, you will overshoot the junction (like I did) and hit a car (like I very nearly did). Go ahead-right at this junction, into the dead end. Ignore the dead-end, and go around the fence. Continue until the road turns hard right. Follow the path ahead across a bridge, then follow the road on the other side to a junction.

Turn right, then take the cycle path to the left, just before a bridge crosses the road. At the end of the path, turn right, and follow the alleyway to a roundabout. Join the road heading to the left at the roundabout. Take the second right - a 3-lane main road. Use the footpath on the left (it is an unmarked cycle lane). The road drops, then begins to climb again. After climbing most of the way up to where the road appears to level off again, take the cycle lane to the left (this should be the second cycle lane on the left). Ignore the first road to the right, then join a housing estate to the right. Follow the housing estate (turn left at the first junction, and right at the second), and when it joins the main road, turn right, and follow the cycle lane on the footpath. Continue in the same direction, past a roundabout, then cross the main road, to complete the loop at the railway arches.

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