With a few weeks left until the Brecon to Cardiff ultra, I wanted to get a couple more long trail runs in. WIth the previous three weekends featuring some very long runs I wanted something a bit ‘shorter’ so planned a route that was 14-15 miles.
The route starts in Aberdare town centre and then heads out through residential streets towards Dare Valley Country Park. To get into the country park you follow a path leading up towards it. Without paying too much attention I saw a footpath sign that pointed in the right direction and looked like it was in the right place on the OS Maps app. There was another sign next to it but I presumed it was pointing in the opposite direction.
I headed up the small path behind some houses before I realised that I was on the wrong path and the other sign was pointing to the actual path I wanted. I was on the other side of the river and either had the option of running back down the way I came or seeing if there was another route. The OS Map should a feint path and bridge across the river but I think the path was long disused as it meant a slippery descent down a steep hill and tip-toeing through brambles, in shorts!
On the other side I was still not on the right path and had to head back down a track before I could join the path I was looking for. It certainly would have been quicker to just have retraced my steps on back to where I took the wrong turning.
Back on the right track the path led me to the entrance to Dare Valley Country Park for the long climb (I’m getting better with my contours!). The first section of the climb along the wet and muddy coal tips is a reminder of the long heritage the area had with coal mining in the 19th and 20th centuries. Once out of that section the route turns into a steep forestry trail which at times is too steep to run.
Leaving the woodland the path descends then levels off through a large open expanse of boggy grassland where there were plenty of opportunities to get my feet wet! Beyond this section there was increased logging activity taking place so the path became increasingly cut up and muddy.
Reaching the main Aberdare to Maerdy road, I joined the 47 cycle route which would take me through forestry trails as far as St Gwynno Forest. This section is long and in parts repetitive but you are rewarded with some stunning views of the Aberdare valley at times.
Leaving St Gwynno Forest it’s a descent down a road to Llanwonno past the historic St Gwynno Church and back into the forest. There was a particularly muddy field where sheep were feeding.
The battery on my phone suddenly started to rapidly lose juice at this point and whilst this isn’t usually an issue as I tend to have a charger with me, this time I didn’t. I still had a few miles to go and was down to 6% and a very poor signal. I managed to grab a screenshot of the map just in case and switched on airplane mode to conserve power.
Passing through Ynysybwl I joined an old dismantled railway line and then a muddy track towards a wood that would ultimately lead back to Abercynon. I had originally plotted a route that would have taken a steep ascent into the wood but a path further along that skirted around the contours on the map was far more appealing.
All that was left was a nice fast descent through the wood and then out into residential streets, the town centre and ultimately the railway station.
Route Map and Profile