- Location: Blaencwm in the Rhondda Valley.
- Distance: Six miles
- Description of this walk: A circular walk through the heart of the Rhondda Valleys, past waterfalls and former industrial landscapes.
- Map: O/S Explorer 166 - Rhondda & Merthyr Tydfil.
- Download a map of this walk to print off and follow in Derek's footsteps. (PDF 1.4MB)
As an experiment, this walk was done using a GPS device. We've included GPS marker points should you wish to follow them.
1. Penpych woodland car park
51.680414° N, -3.557283° W
We began the walk one fine day in October at the Blaencwm Woodland car park. Our guide for the day was Kerry Rees, an Outdoor Education Officer with Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council.
51.681115° N, -3.556207° W
The weather was more like a summers days than the middle of autumn as we set off in an easterly direction towards the first way marker.
After cutting through a grassy embankment we followed a zig-zag trail up towards the woods .
Everywhere you look you'll see vast conifer forests littering the pock marked hillsides and valleys where a mining industry once thrived.
Nowadays the land has been reclaimed by nature and much of the old industrial heritage has been carefully landscaped to resemble something a little more natural and green.
We made our way up a stone track, laced with bracken either side, occasionally wandering in and out of large pine forest clearings and stepping over mountain streams as we went.
Approximately half a mile along the track (before you reach the main waterfall) you'll pass a nice picnic area - complete with wooden tables.
From here there are lovely views over the surrounding valleys but it was only the beginning of our walk so we continued onwards and upwards.
A little further on and you'll spot your first little waterfall next to a fenced off viewing area.
51.683514° N, -3.565971° W
The path steepens considerably after this point and the muddy trail is replaced by a stone track leading up to an impressive waterfall cascading over a high cliff. See if you can spot the climbing route used by rock climbers.
The area directly in front of the waterfall is strewn with rocks and boulders so take care if you wish to get a closer look. If not, bear right and continue up the stone track which hugs the hillside all the way to the top of Penpych.
51.683128° N, -3.560430° W
Once we reached the top, we walked along to the end to take in the views from the top and learned all about the area's industrial past from our guide Kerry who pointed out where the old railway tunnel used to run into the side of the mountain, emerging in the Afan Valley.
Ravens soared over head and a few buzzards could be heard 'mewing' in the distance. The grass along the edge is very tussocky and it's easy to fall over - so watch your step.
We then made our way back onto the walking trail and headed past more conifer plantations on our left towards an area of rough grassland.
3. Views over Treherbert
51.684385°N, -3.559732° W
The track here veers left but we turned right and followed the fence line down to another viewing point on the tip of Penpych which overlooks Treherbert and the valley below.
Nearby is a Man United football flag - apparently placed here in memory of a local boy who died in a tragic accident. You don't realise how high up you are here, until you stare down on the 'ant like' people in the town below.
4. The route on from Penpych
Head back up the way you came towards the track and walk in a north westerly direction, keeping the valley to your right and the conifer forests to your left.
It's pretty bleak up here - the only sound is the wind and occasional 'croak' from a raven but it does have a certain rugged charm all of its own.
The grasses either side of the track are long - knee deep in places but the track itself is well maintained and cut to a good length for walking.
5. Old stone wall
51.68722° N, -3.56417° W
After around 450 metres you'll come to an old stone, boundary wall. Immediately after this, turn right and follow a rough track, flanked by heather, down into a deep conifer laden valley.
The landscape around you gets more interesting again now as you're shadowed by the steep cliffs and scars of Craig Blaenrhondda above you with dark wooded areas of dense conifer forest to your right.
6. Entering the pine forests
It's eerily quiet along here and the ground is carpeted with bright green mosses whilst lichen smothers the low hanging branches giving the landscape an almost Nordic feel.
Keep an eye out for some of the rock strata and old walls here which are beautiful to look at, as the lines between man and nature have become blurred over time.
The next section of the track we came to was incredibly boggy and it was hard work staying upright; so if you're planning on doing this walk in autumn or winter - good waterproof walking boots are a must.
51.693420° N, -3.562554° W
Making our way through the muddy track, the forest opened up offering nice 'Twin Peaks' style views ahead. Pay attention as you clear this section of the forest, as the track at the end forks in two different directions.
There is a small standing stone (route marker) here but it was covered by bracken so hard to spot. Turn left, and follow the track up the hill where two mountain streams flow down either side of you.
Up the hill and into the woods
51.694196° N, -3.56398° W
You'll encounter wet ground all the way up the track as streams trickle down from the hillsides above. Keep walking until you come to the next forested area, again carpeted deeply with mosses and lichens.
The forests here appear vast at ground level and we stumbled across a few old boundary walls dating back to the 18th century.
A rocky clearing
Eventually you'll escape the woods and arrive at a rocky clearing. In the distance you'll see the A4061 - Rhigos Road running down through the valley.
As you walk down the hill you'll spot a number of rocks and boulders on the opposing hillside; below is an old Iron Age settlement but you'll get a better view of that later.
The track down was wet and boggy as the path followed a stream bed through a small, marshy area so tread carefully. Derek ended up in mud up to his shins much to our amusement but the rest of us made it down unscathed.
A short way on and you'll get your first glimpse of the Rhondda River, complete with waterfall and metal footbridge.
51.702181° N, -3.561310° W
Apparently there's an old steam engine boiler at the bottom of the falls here which was left behind after the mines closed. You can also walk behind the falls on a different route but we didn't do this section of the walk.
Follow in Derek's footsteps as he walks through stunning locations in Wales.
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