The Afan Valley is situated in the centre of the old County of Glamorgan. To the North is the Rhondda Valley, to the East is the Llynfi Valley and to the West is The Vale of Neath whilst to the South is Port Talbot the Coast and The Bristol Channel. The old mining scars of the past 150 years have all but gone and in their place are 110km of some of the best Mountain biking trails in the country and they are right on our doorstep. There are four trails which start in two centres situated in the valley.
Two at the original site of Afan Argoed;
Penhydd, graded Red 22km long and The Wall, 23 km long also graded Red.
The other two are at the new centre in Glyncorrwg which also has a cracking Cafe and bike shop.
Whites Level, apparently 9km long with a 6km climb, I think this is wrong as it certainly feels longer. It has a tricky section everyone calls the Black Run and a new section 'Energy'.
The final route is Skyline, a full 46km and graded Black due mainly to the distance.
So last weekend Griff and I made one of our frequent pilgramges to Afan Argoed.
We decided to start at the beginning of Penhydd. This is a trail we do not often ride, it is the one most people start on although it is far from a beginners course.
Shortly after the start we swung off down hill over the the river Afan. I always think this is a strange name for a river considering Afan translates to river in English. So is it the River River, who knows. After the river we took a muddy bridleway up to the start of The Wall climb. From here the only way is up.
This Griff at the top of the main Wall climb just before the start of the picturesqe Nant y bar section.
Once at the top after a section called Picaddilly we turned right and headed over to Parsons Folly.
From this view point apart from Griff you can see the new Ffynnon Oer Wind Farm, Energy is in the valley, Windy Point is on the skyline. The Black Run on Whites is just out of the picture to the right.
The bit of trail commonly known as Parsons Folly is used to link The Wall with Whites Levels. However, this old railway emabankment on top of the mountain is only part of the story as it is just one part of The old Glyncorrwg Railway.
The Glyncorrwg Railway ran from Aberdulais through Tonna up the side of The Pelenna Valley and on to Blaencregan. It was built by Robert Parsons and Charles Strange between 1839 and 1843. It first carried minerals in 1842. The intention was to carry on to Glyncorrwg but Parsons was charged 4/11d per ton at Aberdulais and only received 4/9d per ton income so he made a loss and a lack of finances prevented the project from being completed. There is a misconception that Brunel helped on this project but his input was on the lower South Wales Mineral Railway which now forms part of the lower valley cycle route.
Back to Mountain Biking, after Parsons Folly we rode the new Energy section before going off Piste and heading over to the Whites Level climb. This trail is called Whites Level after an old drift mine the entrance of which can still be seen on the climb out of Abercregan.
By this time the light was fading and it was time to switch on the lights. We both have top of the shop lights which are essential for riding these trails in the dark. Anyone who has done a bit of Mountain Biking in the dark will no what a buzz it is. Your whole body wakes up and your senses are become finely tuned with 100% concentration.
Once at the top of Whites and the aptely named Windy Point/Corner we bypassed the Black Run (which I have yet to ride in the dark) whizzed down the Windy Point section and retraced our route back over Parsons Folly and straight into a blizzard of hailstones. The hail fortunately cleared before the final descent of The Wall which is very tricky in the daylight let alone at night.
If you are wondering what the trail looks like at night, this is the final descent.
Another great ride.
Welcome To My World of Pedals and Paddles
An account of my Sea Kayaking and Mountain Biking exploits
- ► 2009 (14)