Penarth and District Ramblers
12:01pm Friday 30th August 2013 in News
RACHEL played host to a group of ten which included three new walkers when they met at Taff Bargoed Community Parc developed from 1993 when the area of three former collieries, the Harris Navigation Colliery, Taff Merthyr Colliery and the Trelewis Drift which certainly wasn't a pretty site was transformed into a home for wildlife, community projects and recreation and the area became useful once more.
The Taff Bargoed River was culverted and redirected underground when the Harris Colliery was sunk back in the 1890's and the pit waste was piled high on the old river bed whilst the river was used to wash the coal and thousands of tons of dirty black water ran through the river causing much pollution. Now the river has been brought back to the surface along with the creation of two new lakes and a steep cascade channel along with bridleways and footpaths which link the former mining communities of Trelewis and Treharris.
Setting out on a lovely bright morning they passed the Taff Bargoed Centre which contains one of the largest climbing walls in Britain and crossing a road just below the old disused railway line and following the contours of the hillside above Cwmfelin they slowly curved round heading uphill towards a minor road. Entering open moorland at Cefn Gelligaer Common which stands at 372 metres the extensive views in every direction were enjoyed before they stopped for morning coffee in a sunny spot utilising a dry stone wall as shelter from the wind. Reaching the top of the common the funnel shape indicated it was most likely part of an old droving route to move stock from common grazing to the farm and continuing they crossed a road en route to Ty'n Mynydd then dropped down through fields and a wood with views overlooking Nelson to cross a road.
They reached the Nant Caeach valley where the stream gave its name to nearby Llancaiach Fawr Manor and made their way into the car park to hear how it was built in 1530 for Dafydd ap Richard and designed defensively with one entrance and four foot thick walls enclosing a spiral stone staircase to the upper floor. The stout wooden doors which when closed cut the house into two made it a safe place of refuge during the stormy troubles experienced during the Tudor monarchy.
Llancaiach is heralded as a fine example of a semi fortified manor house and in 1628, the Pritchard family whose fortunes had prospered extended the house to show their added wealth and a grand staircase led to the upper floor whilst two of the rooms were panelled in oak. The house which has now been renovated to how it appeared during that time is one of the top ten most haunted places in Britain and has its fair share of ghosts as well.
Crossing a footbridge and then the old disused railway they entered more fields to reach the road above Quakers Yard before entering a developed area from where they made their way back to Taff Bargoed Parc. They heard from a group member who grew up in the area how originally a stone viaduct which had been filled in with coal slag was removed in order for the construction of the cascade and new bridge over which they had just passed. They also noted the bridle trails were marked with the shapes of horseshoes made from cobbles and set into the ground whilst the reed beds between the lakes were set up to purify the water. Fortunately the mature woodland which covers the surrounding hillsides was not touched during the mining era and therefore, as the park was developed, the wildlife soon returned to its natural habitat and over seventy species of birds and nineteen different butterflies have been recorded there as well as sightings of fox, otter and maybe even water vole.
On Sunday, September 1 a change to the planned programme, meet 8am at Cogan Leisure Centre for a 15 mile hard walk from Llanthony Priory taking in the Olchen and Honddu valleys; contact William on 01446 747239.
Wear suitable clothing, preferably boots and carry waterproofs, food and drinks. Some degree of fitness is required and if you are in any doubt contact the walk leader for advice. To follow the group log onto www.penarthramblers.wordpress.com Programmes and membership advice can be obtained from Pam on 029 2025 5102.