Cefn yr Ystrad, bleakness and history
by clivegrif » Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:55 pm
Hewitts included on this walk: Cefn yr Ystrad
Date walked: 03/03/2013
Time taken: 3
Distance: 14 km
Ascent: 560m1 person thinks this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
My escape of choice today was the often overlooked hill of Cefn Yr Ystrad, the only hill in South Wales I hadn’t climbed before. I thought it would be good to use a different route to the usual, and also to take in a little of the history of the area.
On a cold and murky day I parked at the top end of Dyffryn Crawnon, the valley that approaches Cefn Yr Ystrad from Llangynidr to the north east. The road is narrow and winding with few passing places, and only a few parking spaces at the end near the farm of Pyrgad.
It is possible to climb the head of the valley directly as there is a path that winds its way steeply up through the trees, but I was going by a more circuitous route. I started be heading north west along the track that runs past the farm of Pyrgad across the valley, crossing the stream and then heading up past the cottage of Glasgym Isaf, following the bridleway into the trees. The Forestry Commission have been hard at work because the woods on the map are nowhere near as extensive as they were, more stumps than trunks. Open pasture follows, but keeping to a line rising to the right eventually brings you to a gate that opens onto the old quarry trackway. Crossing that leads shortly to another clear path that follows the ridgeline that runs Southwest from Tor Y Foel towards Bryn Cefnog, and thence to Cefn Yr Ystrad.
The ridgeline is good walking, with decent views right to the Talybont reservoir below. On a nice day you may need to keep your wits about you as the track is signposted as a Mountain Bike Route – I only saw one intrepid soul, wrapped up against the cold. The ridge runs out at Bryn Cefnog, where it merges into the tree-less and bleak moor, but the way is clear. There is a section just before reaching the old quarry workings that looked as if it would be quite soggy in warmer weather, but today it was frozen solid.
The bridleway that will eventually lead down to Pontsticill heads up past the huge limestone quarries, and soon reaches the concrete roadway. These quarries only closed in the mid ‘90s, the millions of tons of stone were destined for the furnaces of the Welsh steel industry when there was one. I find these places quite interesting, and as the quarries are completely open I thought I would have a look around. Using an obvious cutting just after an abandoned red brick building I entered the Cwar yr Ystrad limestone quarry. The place is basically a series of very big holes that have been carved into the mountain, and using a rather scrabbly slope I was able to get a good view of the man-made lunar landscape with 40m high cliffs on all sides.
It was a short hop up to the summit of Cefn yr Ystrad from here, and I was followed by a curious (hungry?) mountain pony. Along with a trig point there are two large bronze age burial cairns adorning the summit; an odd juxtaposition – our ancient ancestors piled up the stones, whilst we fed fiery furnaces with them. On days like this, in cold, windy and murky weather, it has to be said that this mountain is as bleak as a very bleak thing.
My next port of call was a long trek across the moor, weaving in and out of the many sink holes. At least the ground is quite dry underfoot, there are real benefits to being in limestone country! Dropping down to the road I have to cross a rather soggy section, but fortunately it is pretty well frozen. From a junction in the quarry roads, it is straight up a faint path onto Llangynidr mountain. The path does lead to my next objective, the Chartist Caves. The Labour movement was a bit more radical in the 1830’s than today, and they used these caves to meet and store weapons before the ill fated Newport uprising of 1839. The caves themselves are worth exploring.
I had only seen one other person all day up to this point, but as I was looking round the caves, a huge scout group appeared. Time to go.
The way down from here was past the third bronze age burial cairn of Garn Fawr, and then across more wild moor pocked with sink holes. This led to the top of Cwm Pyrgad, where an obvious track leads down into a steep tree-lined valley. Part way down is a lovely little waterfall – I’m a sucker for a nice waterfall and it made for a very pleasant strategic photographic break.
All in all, what could have been a dull hill day turned out to be just what I needed. I’ve had a good walk and the world looks a much better place. Amazing what wandering about on a bleak moor in the freezing cold can do!
by poppiesrara » Mon Mar 04, 2013 8:47 pm
by johnkaysleftleg » Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:47 am
by clivegrif » Wed Mar 06, 2013 10:47 pm
Having decided I really should finish off the Welsh Hewitts (I started them back in 1979....), the detailed reports by Poppiesrara and Malky on the more obscure hills have been required reading. Its great to have a site like this where it is usual for different routes for any given hill to be described, and so I can make an informed choice.
Drygarn Fawr is probably next - hope it isn't raining when I get there .....
by ChrisW » Mon Mar 11, 2013 7:43 pm
by clivegrif » Mon Mar 11, 2013 8:09 pm
Hope all is well on that side of the Pond!
by ChrisW » Mon Mar 11, 2013 8:54 pm
clivegrif wrote:Cheers Chris, good to hear from you. Hope all is well on that side of the Pond!
It's lovely over here Clive, just starting to show some signs of spring.....but I've got bloody bronchitis and have spent all this week attempting to cough out my own lungs (that was my present from home, I returned to the UK for 10 days and got that on the plane I think)