Afan Valley, 14th May

Unlike on our previous visit the carpark at Afan Argoed was busy with both cyclists and walkers and we six swelled the numbers of the latter as we set off down the hill to cross the river Afan. A rather grey morning was beginning to lighten and warm up as we followed a delightful path upstream, leaving the river far below but with the tumbling waters still in earshot. The shade afforded by the fresh spring leaves of the huge trees took the edge off the building heat of the day but, after about a mile and faced with a steep climb, some of us stowed our jackets whilst others were forced to remove items of clothing on the actual ascent. Welcome relief at the top for a coffee stop and a retelling by Robbie of a stressful end to a recent walk reconnoitre.

We had by now reached the track of the old South Wales Mineral Railway, engineered in the 1850s by none other than I. K. Brunell which we followed up the valley towards Cymer. The dense deciduous woods tantalised us with wonderful views down into and across the valley through gaps in the trees clad in their vivid green finery of new season’s foliage. What remained of the long terrace of housing at Abercregan came into view and we soon after stopped at a convenient picnic table for our well-deserved lunch before entering Cymer itself. The steel trellis viaduct which carried a branch of the Ogmore and Llynfi Valley Railway across the Afan looked frighteningly flimsy and we too crossed high above the river in the opposite direction on the more substantial, listed concrete road bridge.

After a brief stop at the old Cymer Afan Railway station (one of three once in operation) for calls of nature and the obligatory photograph we headed back down stream on the abandoned track of the Rhondda and Swansea Bay Railway. Later in the year the track side is adorned in places with purple orchids but we enjoyed the more subtle hues of wild strawberries, speedwells and violets. More spectacular was the towering, pencil-thin eucalyptus trees and art-work at the reclaimed site of Dyffryn Rhondda Colliery. Further along huge bridge abutments marked the location of the old Cynonville Colliery and we soon passed between the platforms of Cynonville railway station before turning off the rail track into the Visitor’s Centre where, disappointedly, the cafe remained closed. It proved a wonderful day for a walk with unbroken sunshine and, sometimes, a cooling light breeze. A thoroughly enjoyable day.