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Penarth and District Ramblers: beautiful buildings and more

Steve from Penarth and District Ramblers played host to a group of eight walkers and welcomed new faces Shuna and Richard and the return of Zoe to the group as they all met in the car park of Caerphilly Mountain Snack Bar on a chilly and overcast morning.

They crossed the busy A469 and followed a track for the slippery descent where the old set of steps have finally disintegrated and through bare autumnal woodland onto part of the Ridgeway Golf Club, where the ground was glistening white with a thick carpet of overnight frost. After waiting for three golfers to complete the hole they moved on locating their first stile in woodland which led into fields containing sheep as the sun put in an appearance.

A descent led them to the ruined buildings and old stable block at Cefncarnau-fawr along with a mysterious ivy clad ruined building, where they deviated along a narrow muddy track in woodland to enter fields, where boots crunched over frozen uneven mud as they approached a stile leading into Coed-y-wenallt.

A wide wet and muddy pathway populated with dog walkers led them to a wooden footbridge and across the fast flowing Nant Cwm Nofydd for the climb up to Rhiwbina Hill and a short road walk before turning into Fforestganol.

A steep climb past water gushing down the bare hillside in small waterfalls led them through Heol y Forest and along a rough track carpeted with autumnal leaves with shadows of the surrounding bare trees silhouetted on the ground. Then downhill through part of Fforest-fawr where natural resources like limestone, coal and haematite, an iron rich mineral which were abundant in this area were mined. So many of the hollows and mounds to be found within the woodland are the result of shallow workings and spoil tips, many of which are now hidden beneath vegetation.

The path eventually brought them out at the bottom of the main driveway leading uphill to Castell Coch, or the red castle and stopping to utilise fallen tree trunks for seating, they enjoyed morning refreshments whilst gazing at the fairy tale castle. Actually built on the remains of a 13th century castle this 19th century Gothic style folly, standing above the steep Taff gorge was built by William Burgess for the 3rd Marquis of Bute, although sadly Burgess died ten years before the project was complete.

Refreshed, another climb led them uphill and further into Fforest-fawr where they descended a wide pathway to the valley bottom to join part of the Taff Trail along the flat disused railway line. Then another climb, this time on narrow muddy pathways through bracken to zig zag gradually uphill to the open hillside overlooking Taffs Well and Gwaelod y Garth in the valley below and up through the Taff valley towards Rhydfelin and Pontypridd.

The last haul brought them to the summit of Craig yr Allt with its panoramic views including towards its sister hill the Garth and the reward of a sit down for lunch under overcast skies, whilst gazing towards the coast at Penarth Head and out across the misty Bristol Channel. Continuing along the ridge and making their descent to a road, a short journey led them back into fields containing passive horses as they trekked through mud to Waun-waelod.

One last climb up through a waterlogged narrow track between bramble bushes led them out onto Caerphilly Common as the sun returned, for the short climb to the trig point at 271m on Caerphilly Mountain to enjoy the views over Caerphilly in the valley below with its ruined castle clearly visible.

All that was left was the short descent passing many other people who were out with dogs and children enjoying the afternoon sunshine and views, to make their way back to their start point after a lovely 8.5 mile undulating tramp.

You can follow the group’s exploits at www.penarthramblers.wordpress.com or Facebook.

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