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Between the Afan and Pelenna Valleys

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Between the Afan and Pelenna Valleys
Author: debdwi, Published: 22 Jan 2015 Walk rating : Rating:star1 Between the Afan and Pelenna Valleys Walking Guidestar1 Between the Afan and Pelenna Valleys Walking Guidestar1 Between the Afan and Pelenna Valleys Walking Guidestar1 Between the Afan and Pelenna Valleys Walking Guidestar1 Between the Afan and Pelenna Valleys Walking Guide
Glamorgan, Afan Forest Park
Walk Type: Hills, valleys and dales
Between the Afan and Pelenna Valleys
Length: 8 miles,  Difficulty: boot Between the Afan and Pelenna Valleys Walking Guide boot Between the Afan and Pelenna Valleys Walking Guide boot Between the Afan and Pelenna Valleys Walking Guide boot Between the Afan and Pelenna Valleys Walking Guide
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This walk begins near the village of Pontrhydyfen - the birthplace of the actor Richard Burton. It shows you something of the Afan river and valley, then follows the route of chapel goers of the past, up the mountain to Gyfylchi where the ruins of the chapel are now next to a centre used by mountain bikers. The walk then goes along forest tracks and paths to stream-filled older woodland and through to the River Pelenna where reed beds remove impurities from water flowing from old mine workings. Near the village of Tonmawr, it brings you back up to Gyfylchi and along a deserted upland road with extensive views stretching across Neath and Swansea Bay. Then back down above Pontrhydyfen to Rhyslyn. This area is surprisingly remote and this walk gives a day out in the quiet and the wild.

There is a lot of uphill walking which is why the route has a 4 boot difficulty grading. You will also need to negotiate a number of kissing gates, steps and stiles along the way.

From junction 40 of the M4, follow signs to Cymmer/Pontrhydyfen on A4107. Coming into the Afan Forest Park, (having passed though 2 sets of traffic lights), turn left for Neath/Pontrhydyfen just after a large rock on the left-hand side of the road. Head down across the bridge (and the River Pelenna), turning right immediately after the bridge. This will take you to the Rhyslyn car park and the start of the walk. The nearest post code (which takes you into the village in Pontrhydyfen) is SA12 9TF.

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Walk Sections

Start to Main Forestry Track
Start to Main Forestry Track

Start point: 51.6337 lat, -3.7358 long
End point: 51.6383 lat, -3.7256 long

Walk towards the forestry barrier on the left-hand side of the far end of the car park. Go through a kissing gate on the right which leads downwards towards the river. This path will take you for a while along the River Afan (which meets the smaller River Pelenna at Pontrhydyfen). At the first meeting with another path, follow the footpath sign.

Continue on the path until the next intersection (pictured) where you must turn left uphill, making your way up to the main forestry track. The climb has begun!

Main Forestry Track to Gyfylchi Chapel
Main Forestry Track to Gyfylchi Chapel

Start point: 51.6383 lat, -3.7256 long
End point: 51.6454 lat, -3.7248 long

Turn left onto the main forestry track and walk a short way to the next right turn, signposted for walkers and cyclists. Take this path gently uphill. This section is a fairly gentle climb and you will get some nice views of the Afan Valley to your right through the trees. This is the route local communities took every Sunday up to Gyfylchi Chapel before chapels were built down in the valleys. You will come to a junction where you need to keep on the path going round and up to the left.

This section is a stiff climb - but short - up to the ruins of Gyfylchi Chapel and the Mountain Bike Centre at Bryn Bettws. If you need refreshment, you should be able to find some here. The Centre is almost always open and even if no one is around, there are some drinks and snacks machines inside the main doors. If you see someone, ask if the cafe is open - it seems to operate on demand! From the seating area inside, there are great views.

Gyfylchi Chapel to Left Fork
Gyfylchi Chapel to Left Fork

Start point: 51.6454 lat, -3.7248 long
End point: 51.6495 lat, -3.7121 long

You have an option to shorten the walk from this point should you wish. To do this, turn left and left again to join the path past the barrier then pick up the directions in the section called 'Centre at Gyfylchi to Cattle Grid'.

Otherwise, for the full walk, from where you reached the top of the hill in front of the chapel, you need to turn right (uphill) to continue the walk. Walk up the main track which takes you up and to the right of the bike park. You then need to take a much smaller footpath which branches off to your left (pictured).

The narrow footpath takes you to a junction with the main track where you need to turn left. At the next fork junction, take the left-hand path downwards.

Left Fork to Lower Forestry Track
Left Fork to Lower Forestry Track

Start point: 51.6495 lat, -3.7121 long
End point: 51.6556 lat, -3.7153 long

This path leads down to a T junction with a main track. Turn left onto this track. Stay on this track until the next junction with a forest track on your right (a sharp right turn) and take this downwards. Follow this track down, ignoring paths or tracks to the right or left until you reach a T junction with another main track. Turn right here.

Lower Forestry Track to River Pelenna
Lower Forestry Track to River Pelenna

Start point: 51.6556 lat, -3.7153 long
End point: 51.6619 lat, -3.7134 long

Walking along the forestry track, you need to take a footpath to the left marked by a post (the actual sign is on the side of the post furthest from you) and leading down some stone steps. This takes you down into woodland.

This is a lovely section of the walk. Especially after rain, the stream - which winds beautifully through the trees - is full and loud and the place seems full of water. It is a good spot to stop for a snack. Make your way up on the other side of the stream to a stile which leads you out of the wood and to a track where you need to turn left.

Follow the road down above reed beds which are removing, predominantly, iron oxides from the water coming out of old mine workings. The water then flows into the Pelenna. This area was the site of the Tonmawr mine, but now you would hardly know as it returns to nature. At the bottom, cross the bridge.

River Pelenna to Bridle Path
River Pelenna to Bridle Path

Start point: 51.6619 lat, -3.7134 long
End point: 51.6494 lat, -3.7243 long

After crossing the bridge, turn left and continue along the road back past the reed beds. There is an information board to tell you about the process. The house to your left is Pelenna House.

Follow the road for the longest section of the walk so far. As you get the first glimpse of houses on the edge of the village of Tonmawr, you need to turn left and take a path downwards over a stile (pictured). On the hill opposite, you will be able to see the Centre at Gyfylchi which you are making for.

Follow the footpath signs down to a T junction with a track. Turn left. Follow the path round and up through woodland with a stream to your right which crosses the path just before a T junction with a higher track. Here, turn right onto the track. Soon along this track and just over a stream, there is a bridle path on your left.

Bridle Path to Centre at Gyfylchi
Bridle Path to Centre at Gyfylchi

Start point: 51.6494 lat, -3.7243 long
End point: 51.6456 lat, -3.7251 long

Take this bridle path (pictured) up to the road which goes back to Gyfylchi. Turn left at the top of the bridle path and follow the road back to the centre at Gyfylchi.

Centre at Gyfylchi to Cattle Grid
Centre at Gyfylchi to Cattle Grid

Start point: 51.6456 lat, -3.7251 long
End point: 51.6429 lat, -3.7329 long

Take the track reasonably straight ahead past the barrier (pictured). Follow this track until you reach a gate where the footpath is then indicated to the right. From here, you can see up and down the Afan Valley and to the sea and the loaders in Port Talbot deep harbour. Turn right on the footpath. Follow this footpath until it brings you down to a road.

Cattle Grid to Kissing Gate
Cattle Grid to Kissing Gate

Start point: 51.6429 lat, -3.7329 long
End point: 51.6418 lat, -3.7443 long

Turn left along the road over a cattle grid. Follow this country road, which offers extensive views over Neath and Swansea Bay, until you meet forestry from the left where there is a kissing gate.

Kissing Gate to End
Kissing Gate to End

Start point: 51.6418 lat, -3.7443 long
End point: 51.6339 lat, -3.7358 long

Go through this kissing gate (pictured). Take a narrow path by the side of the fence upwards and back on yourself. At a small tree on your left, take the path going right and downwards continuing to cross a forestry track and keep going down.

This path leads you down above the village of Pontrhydyen, swinging round to the left as it does so (ignore any other paths). Follow the path down past stables to your right. At a junction, just above houses, turn left and this path will take you back down to the road leading into the car park at Rhyslyn, where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2015 by the author debdwi and may not be reproduced without permission.


1 responses to "Between the Afan and Pelenna Valleys"

A thoroughly varied and beautiful trek - the perfect introduction to the countryside typical of the South Wales valleys.

F.Y.I, the large, mushroom-covered tree in the woods (section 5 of the walk) is perfect for climbing when dry, if you are that way inclined...

Highly recommended overall!

By Fisher197 on 2016-05-30 16:21:40

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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