Afan Valley, 14th December

Lead: Graham

Gale force winds and the prospect of wintry showers could not deter five stalwarts as they prepared for the drive to Afan Argoed Visitors’ Centre. On arrival there the clouds had cleared and, in the sheltered valley, the air was virtually still. We set off on the tarmac track of the old Rhondda and Swansea Bay railway, pausing occasionally to admire wayside posts with their small metal plaques displaying examples of the local flora and fauna. Along the route waterfalls tumbled down deep gorges cut into the hillside to be channelled under the trackway or, at one point, spectacularly onto the track itself. Passing through the reclaimed sites of the Cynonville and Dyffryn Rhondda collieries, giving way now and then to a mountain biker, we entered the small town of Cymer which must be the hilliest place in Wales and once had the distinction of having three railway stations. Here, next to the remaining platform of the Cymer Afan station with “The Refresh” as a background we all posed for the team photograph. (“The Refresh” is the name now given to the licensed refreshment room i.e. pub which was a most unusual feature of the original station and is still in operation today.)

14 dec

We the then crossed the valley on the impressive road bridge high above the rushing Afan River swollen by the addition of the waters of the Corrwg at the confluence a few meters up-stream. A little way on, a picnic table afforded a convenient spot for our lunch. We were now on the abandoned track of the first line in the valley, the South Wales Mineral Railway, engineered by I. K. Brunel and built to carry coal from Glyncorrwg to the port at Briton Ferry. At the end of the tarmac path we joined a firm, stoney track and walked downhill into a low sun which appeared to cause the luxuriant moss on the tortured limbs of the winter trees to shine with a vivid green glow. Eventually we descended steeply but safely onto the valley floor to cross the river by the foot-bridge and then up the zig-zag path to the day’s start where a friendly welcome greeted us at the Centre Cafe. Fortified by coffee and a decadent but delicious slice of caramel and apple pie we were ready for the drive home.

Except at one or two more exposed places the day was calm throughout and, under blue skies, it was a thoroughly enjoyable walk.

The distance proved to be 7.5 miles.