Like last weekend, Saturday again confounded the miserable weather during the week by dawning dry with brightening skies to welcome eight walkers ready to spend a day in the hills. It seemed quite busy on our arrival in Bryn and, as we set off, the reason became clear when we came across dozens of young people kitted out for their hiking adventure. The track was steep at first but the gradient eased as we entered woodland with beech, sweet-chestnut and oak trees not yet awake from their winter slumbers. Negotiating a few muddy patches and a final steep section we halted for well-earned drinks with great views over Maesteg golf course and the wooded hills beyond.
Easier walking on wide forestry roads followed where, in contrast to the sunlight filtering through the skeletal limbs of leafless winter trees, the dense, closely planted coniferous forest on either side of the track appeared rather dark and forbidding. It was warm in the sunshine but immediately chilly on entering shade as we pressed on to a more open area before veering off into a steep sided valley with a choice of a track on either side.
Taking the one on the left we descended steeply for some way until, nearing the bottom, the sudden sight of the startlingly aquamarine waters of Cwm Wernderi reservoir drew an audible gasp from Liz’s lips. Reaching the lake, we followed the narrow perimeter path towards the retaining dam where a group of motorcyclists did not augur well for a peaceful picnic stop, however, on our approach, they set off noisily into the hills.
A cold breeze off the waters encouraged us to stop for lunch at the sheltered base of the dam where we also posed for the obligatory photograph.
We continued on down Nant Cwmwernderi past numerous large fallen trees – casualties of high winter winds – then alongside an enormous stone retaining wall, the only visible remnant of an old coal mine. At the valley foot we came across a large notice board warning of the dangers of swimming in the reservoir – deep waters, leptospirosis and blue-green algae, the latter the cause of the amazing colour of the water. From there we joined the bed of the abandoned Port Talbot Railway line for the long but gentle ascent back to Bryn. The weather was great throughout the 7 mile walk which all appeared to enjoy.