After spending the last year hiking in his home county of the Vale of Glamorgan, Rhys' journey continues to other parts of Cymru.
Walking in Llanharan, Wales
After spending the majority of the last year hiking in the Vale of Glamorgan and Brecon Beacons, I decided it was time for a change of scenery. Using The Ramblers app to find a hidden gem nearby, I discovered a 5.2mile (8.4km) walk in and around the village of Llanharan, located in the Welsh valleys of the Rhondda Cynon Taf.
The circular hike over mountains on the edge of a coalfield has spectacular views overlooking the Vale of Glamorgan. If you're as lucky as I was with the rare Welsh sunny weather, you'll be able to see across the Bristol Channel to Exmore.
A Step Back in Time
With my face covered in suntan lotion and my really fashionable headband on, I left Llanharan railway station under the 22°C morning summer sun towards a local war memorial. Here marks the official start of the Llanharan and Ridgeway Circular trail. Leaving the town behind, I made my way beyond a church on a narrow road and looked up towards, what looked like, a daunting steep path. As I began to climb, the noise of the bustling Monday morning commuters and children playing in the distance were replaced by pigeons cooing above, the welcome cool breeze whistling through the leaves and a trickling stream nearby.
As I continued up the steep rugged road surrounded by trees, the path had decayed over the years and I thought I had suddenly stepped back in time. It felt like I was wandering up a "Victorian" trail and that a horse and carriage would appear around the corner at any moment.
I stumbled my way through a kissing gate and found myself back in the present day, on the edge of a lush green forest. I climbed a hill and panted across a field to reach an outcrop. I sat down and found myself looking at the best views I would gaze upon for the rest of the day. I could see for hundreds of miles across the built-up Vale of Glamorgan, beyond the sea of the Bristol Channel to the English coastline and Exmore.
Whilst admiring the view, birds of prey circled above. I briefly panicked wondering if they were after me or the sandwich I had pulled from my rucksack. Continuing the walk past the outcrops and away from the danger of the non-human eating birds, I was surrounded by the noise of crickets with a backdrop of sheep and spectacular views.
The Usual Story
The walk winds through wooded valleys and the striking views are spoiled somewhat as you meander through a wind farm and pylons. If you read my articles often, you will probably be expecting one of two things that usually happen to me on my hikes. In this walk, you’ll be pleased (or disappointed if you like a bit of suspense and danger) to know that I didn’t have a close shave with any cows! I did however get lost…what a surprise!
I needed to find a gate to leave the wind farm and It turns out it was in front of where I started looking 20 minutes earlier. I blame the glare from my sunglasses.
Back on the trail, I met a small group of walkers from England. We inevitably spoke about how nice the weather was before discussing the history of the 12th-century church ruins ahead. St. Peter’s Church stood proud on top of the mountain for 600 years before a new church was built down in Llanharan.
A Feeling of Happiness
Here the walk begins to weave back down through the valley. Trudging across soft grass and through country lanes, I passed a farmhouse, some geese, a pond to a twentieth-century coal mine and an eroded train track. The weather was reaching 25 degrees as I reached a wooded, rocky track. I was grateful for some shade but almost fell several times over the sunken lane.
Following the path all the way back to the war memorial, I reached the car in one piece, feeling extremely happy with myself. Nothing beats exploring somewhere you’ve never been before and walking a completely new route.
I closed the Ramblers app and opened my car door to be struck by a gust of heat as I foolishly didn’t park in the shade. However, this was another successful ramble across one of the many glorious hidden treasures you can find in Wales.
© 2021 Rhys Russell
Viet Doan from Big Island, Hawaii on August 25, 2021:
Incredible peaceful countryside! Great reading and beautiful photos, felt like I was there walking on the trails with you.
Liz Westwood from UK on August 21, 2021:
This is a well-illustrated and interesting account of your ramble. I really appreciate the easy style that you write in with a good sense of humour.