Sarn Helen Roman Road traversing heathland and forest

March. Normally a lovely time of year to walk. But this year, reports just came out that we just had the wettest March for 30 years, and it’s not hard to see why. Several of my opportunities to go walking have been quashed by bad weather.

So in April, on Good Friday, with temperatures around 12 with sunny intervals, the opportunity finally presented itself. It’s been way too long since I did a good, long walk — the last being Penwyllt late last year.

I chose Banwen to Crynant via Sarn Helen Roman Road. I’ve been intrigued by this route since seeing ‘Roman Road’ marked on the OS map and further reading suggests it’s a route that runs right through Wales from the north down to Carmarthen in the west.

Starting off in Banwen, I gained altitude along the wind farm and forestry access trails through mostly scraggly, sick-looking Japanese Larch — a tree I adore, but lament due to the disease that is sweeping the population. I spent most of the time looking back. With fine skies, the countryside was a high-contrast patchwork of dark forest, green farmland, and the golden grass of the beacons.

The views of the Beacons were breath-taking, with the summit of Pen Y Fan clearly visible way off in the distance. I love being high up in the local area and viewing the lay of the land that I know so well from down below.

Looking down from the trails towards Craig Y Nos

Once onto the Roman Road itself, the forest turned to thick, healthy looking firs. I’m guessing back in the days of the Roman empire, this road would have been pretty good going. Not so today. I had to constantly weave around the track due to uneven scree and standing water. Some places were completely submerged requiring a detour in the forest to get past, and about half a mile was really rough scree which was hard on the ankles.

Views of Maesgwyn Wind Farm

Once well along the Roman road, dare I say it was actually quite boring. Enclosed by dense forest on one side and grassland on the other, views were quite restricted and it became essentially several miles of corridor. It wasn’t until I got closer to Crynant that it began to undulate more and open out into views of the valley before winding into a lush and mossy forestry.

A long fallen tree stump covered in moss on Sarn Helen Roman Road
A long fallen tree stump on Sarn Helen Roman Road

From the map, this stretch of the road runs right down to Aberdulais, but I turned off before then and worked my way down the foothills of the community forest into Crynant to wait for a lift home. Just over 8 miles in total. A good walk!

Long walks like this are a meditation, with the scenery, some music, and putting one foot in front of the other being the only things on my mind. Today’s soundtrack was Longlake, but on the ‘corridor’ stretch of the track, I had to switch to an audiobook.

I love walking new routes and the thrill of what new scenery will greet me around the next corner. It makes me yearn to walk into old age, until I can walk no further. I often gaze from the window on car journeys thinking “I want to walk there someday”.

Views of the Brecon Beacons from Crynant Forest

It’s lovely seeing nature awaken again with luminous new growth, constant birdsong, and insects busying themselves. Spring is a special time to walk, but I fear it will shift to summer all too quickly before I get a chance to walk again.


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