Continuing my training for the Brecon to Cardiff Ultra in just 4 weeks time, I plotted another route where I could catch a train to the start and then end up in Cardiff for a recovery beer. Fortunately, there are a selection of lines that connect three different valleys with the capital.
Along each line are a number of stops and a variety of trails and cycle paths so there are many options to plot routes of different lengths and terrain.
I had originally planned to run this route the week before but due to a little snow and ice a few days before I decided not to risk it and instead headed for Bridgend. The weather this time was forecast to be cold but gloriously sunny.
The route wasn’t going to be too challenging in terms of ascent and was going to be nearly entirely on tarmac. I purposely chose this route just to get the miles in. The main climb was going to be Caerphilly mountain with an optional off-road section on the descent through Coed-y-wenallt.
Arriving at Bargoed station the route follows a main road down towards Bargoed Woodland Park which contains a network of paths and woodland that run alongside the Rhymney River. This section was covered in a layer of frost that sparkled in the morning sun and thankfully the paths were completely clear of any ice so there was no need to slow down.
The path reaches Pengam on the outskirts of Blackwood where you follow a long road towards Ystrad Mynach. As with previous long runs in the cold, just a few miles in I was having to take off most of layers as I tend to warm up quickly. In future I think I’ll just save myself the time and take them off at the start of the route.
As you near Ystrad Mynach, you encounter the Hengoed Viaduct at Maesycwmmer, a Grade II* listed railway viaduct that carries the National Cycle Route 47 across it. Originally opened in 1858 the viaduct eventually became inaccessible to the public until it reopened in 2000. It offers great views in either direction and I didn’t have to deviate far from my route to take a peek.
Alongside the viaduct is a sculpture by Andy Hazell called Wheel of Drams – an eight metre high circular sculpture of six curved steel coal drams that commemorate the original haulage companies that operated on the goods line that passed over the viaduct.
Dropping down into Ystrad Mynach and past the hospital the road passes uneventfully through Llanbradach and still near the Rhymney River and onto the outskirts of Caerphilly. The road leading into Caerphilly is a section of the start of the 10K race held annually in June so I was familiar with it. It leads to Caerphily Castle and town centre which was a perfect opportunity for a toilet break before heading out onto Caerphilly mountain. This added to my time but also gave me an opportunity to take some photos of Caerphilly Castle.
There’re two roads leading to Caerphilly Common and I chose the slightly longer route which I knew had a path up most of it although I didn’t know just how far. As a fall back I had plotted a route along a trail path but I managed to get as far as the cafe using a path which was past the trail turnoff.
At this point the path ended but I noticed a footpath sign which in theory would cut out the section of road without a path but I very quickly got confused and couldn’t find the path I wanted, even with an OS map, so headed back to the road and ran on the grass verge. Despite being a busy road, it wasn’t an issue and was only for a relatively short distance before I reached the turning that leads to Coed-y-wenallt.
At Coed-y-wenallt – an ancient 44 hectare woodland known for its spectacular carpets of bluebells in Spring – I headed into one of the paths that followed the road before going deeper into the woodland. With the sun shining through onto the golden leaves, the woodland looked stunning. Being based on a hillside, starting at the top of the wood meant it was downhill all the way.
I exited at the south of the wood, and the very outskirts of Cardiff. My route would then take me through the populated areas of Rhiwbina, Birchgrove, Maindy and finally ending at Cardiff Castle. Until this point I had resisted listening to music but with very little to see and another 6 miles to go I needed something to keep me occupied.
At 18.5 miles, I had done enough for the day so it was time to visit my favourite Cardiff pub for a well earned craft beer.
Route Map and Profile