Whilst browsing in Swansea’s Central Library recently I found a brochure for this walk. Cwm Clydach is an RSPB reserve that I have visited previously. But this walk sounded a good reason for another visit and a more extended trip around a nearby, but new, area for me. Yesterday had a good weather prediction, so off we went.
This brochure is also available as a download from the website http://www.swansea.gov.uk/media/pdf/1/6/Cwm_Clydach_Leaflet.pdf
It is excellent, and contains a 1:10 000 map of the walk based on OS information. The walk is also waymarked with signs like that shown below (scanned from the brochure).
We managed to find our way using this map, but the lack of contour lines on the map and lack of obvious routes on the ground, particularly over the moorland, gave us the odd small problem. I would advise anyone attempting this to take a full map. OS Explorer Map 165 of Swansea covers the route.
The brochure says the trip is 9 miles and takes just over 4 hours. I think the length may be a slight underestimate and the time a large underestimate. It might be possible in that time. But we took about 6 hours including a short stop for lunch and you really need the extra time, partly for the distance and terrain, but mostly to take the time to enjoy the wildlife and the views, both of which are outstanding.
The paths are generally very good and easy going, although just near the half-way point the path was very muddy in two significant places. On one, I slipped over trying to avoid a deep muddy part, and sat down in dark peaty water. The Temperance Seven number “Black Bottom” came to mind, along with a number of expletives. Luckily, the day was hot and the wet trousers and underwear dried off fairly quickly.
We chose to walk up the Cwm where the bluebells are in full abundance and there are lots of interesting birds; dippers, redstarts, woodpeckers etc. There is some evidence of the industrial history of this area but you have to look quite carefully to discern it. There was coal mining in the valley between 1863 and 1962 and stone quarries nearer the valley head. The footpath, for much of the first part of the Way, follows the tramway track that served the mines. In February 1910 around 4pm there was a flood from a disused coalmine which destroyed 11 houses and a shoemaker’s shop and inundated Clydach Vale school, trapping 950 children. All but 3 of the schoolchildren were rescued by school staff and miners just returning from their shift. One adult and five children lost their lives in this incident.
By the time you reach the head of the Cwm, where you cross the stream and head off up to the moorland, the path becomes less clear on the ground but I think you would have to be quite perverse to go the wrong way, particularly if you take special note of the field boundaries on the brochure map. The path goes close by Baran Chapel and it is well worth the extra few steps to deviate and take a closer look at this lovely remote building. From the chapel, there is a longish stretch of moorland walking, where the tracks appear and disappear quite frequently. You walk over Mynydd Carnlechart, a modest “mountain” but with majestic views including those to the Brecon Beacons, shown as the featured picture at the head of this blog, courtesy of Mrs D. Coming down to Lechart Fawr, a crumbling farm, there are marvellous views over Swansea to Mumbles. It was a hot day so we decided not to follow the Walk route at this point but to return to the shade and cool of the Cwm. We followed Nant Llwydyn back to the Cwm.
This is a highly recommended walk.