Several years ago whilst cycling in the Afan Valley I met two men working for the Rivers Authority who were tasked with ridding the area of Himalayan Balsam, an invasive species but with an attractive flower. It became abundantly clear today as the three hardcore walkers completed their walk that they had signally failed in their labours as great drifts of the weed flourished all along the trail. Setting off from the busy carpark at Rhyslyn we took the track on the eastern side of the valley, through the Japanese arboretum towards Afan Argoed Visitors Centre. Under cloudy skies it was quite close and, anticipating rain, we had donned waterproof jackets so soon began to feel rather warm which caused us to moderate our pace a little. Arriving at the Visitors Centre we were impressed by the refurbishment it has and is undergoing so it was very enjoyable to relax there with coffees and welsh cakes.
Crossing the valley it began to rain and soon became heavy enough for us to stop and climb into our waterproof over-trousers. Because of the conditions we decided against a possible alternative route and pressed on, passing several hardy cyclists and dog walkers, finally arriving back at Rhyslyn. Seeking what little shelter there was we quickly posed for the obligatory photograph then, back at the car, the rain ceased and we took the opportunity to find a picnic table where we sat, with the hot sun on our backs, to consume a belated lunch. The experience was enriched by chatting to a dad and his delightful four year old son – both on mountain bikes.
Louring cloud drove us back to the car where we were able to remove boots and set off as the rain again started. Eschewing the motorway we took the A48 through Margam – the site of a certain miss-spent youth – before diverting to Margam Abbey for Liz to case the ‘Abbots Kitchen’ and whilst there looked in on the ‘Stone Museum’. This latter establishment is well worth a visit being superbly laid out with clear information boards around the walls. It was especially rewarding to examine the original ‘Bodvoc Stone’, a replica of which we had seen in its original location on an earlier walk. Heading home we agreed it had been a thoroughly entertaining day with wonderful views and lots of laughter packed into a distance of under five miles.
Many thanks to my two companions.