My solo walks have been thin on the ground this year. So when I had the opportunity to go this weekend, I jumped at it.
Having lived in Ystradgynlais for around three years now, there’s no shortage of nearby places on my list to explore. It’s somewhat frustrating seeing all this gorgeous scenery around me daily knowing I haven’t set foot amongst it.
Sunday comes and I really fancy a bracing walk. Something to blow away the cobwebs. I’ve often driven through Ynsywen and Penycae and looked over to the hills above with a strong desire to walk there, so this weekend inspiration strikes and my choice is Penwyllt.
Penwyllt is a hamlet the the hills above Penycae. As the former site of lime quarrying and brickworks, it was once a thriving industrial village. Since the second world war, it fell into decline and now is home to the South Wales Caving Club.
With the temperature sitting around 4°c, it’s bitterly cold when I pull up to the car park. It’s spitting rain and the waterproof I’d packed in my pack ‘just in case comes straight out’. I set off from the car park overlooking the abandoned quarry, past the South Wales Caving club cottages, and up onto the dismantled tramline. As I ascend, high winds add to the chill.
Walking up the track I keep turning around to look down the valley. Cribarth is opposite, and I can see the Varteg and Alltygrug shrouded in haze further down. Down in Ystrad, both mountains cast an imposing silhouette on the horizon, but from way up here, they’re just part of the undulation.
As I reach the top of the hill and the first intersection, it begins to sleet. Whilst I could have perhaps done with some better weather for my photography, this sort of weather is exactly what I’m looking for with today’s walk. With sleet falling around me, low cloud scudding across the sides of the valley and a playlist of music from The Elder Scrolls in my ears, the atmosphere is epic. I’m in my element and so grateful to be out walking.
Sometimes walking is like a meditation — meditation over several hours. I’m so wrapped up in the scenery that there is nothing but the present moment. Cares and concerns cease to exist while I’m putting one foot in front of the other.
Following on I see pristine forestry below me in the distance. I’m drawn to forests and set that as my next waypoint. Approaching it on from the maintenance road, the forest isn’t so pristine from this side. The opposite side of the track has been logged, exposing the trees to a level of wind force they weren’t used to while growing. They’ve all blown down and this side of the forest is an absolute mess.
The views from further down the forest tracks look inviting, but it’s getting colder and windier now. I want to double-back and see if I can find a different route back to the car park.
I climb to the drystone wall on the hillside. There’s a gap between that and the barbed-wire fence that appears to be a walking route. I follow it for a bit, dodging bits of stone that protrude out of the ground like teeth. Strangely, this track is cut off suddenly by a right-angle of fencing. I clamber through a collapsed part of the wall and continue on.
Visibility is decreasing in the distance now. The views down the valley are now a hazy blur. It’s been a great walk and has opened up more areas to explore. I think about coming back up here on a finer day before dawn, or at sunset — either time of day, the light and views will be incredible.