Should this be a footpath? Abercynon 3 gets a visit

As the Open Spaces Society local correspondent, I went to look at a footpath in Tyntetown, north of Abercynon. Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC is considering extinguishing the path which seems to have been ignored when the Bryntirion estate was built over half a century ago.


Unfortunately, planning departments have not always checked properly about the rights of way on the Definitive Map when deciding an application, and there are historic cases of paths through houses.  Open Spaces Society is one of the statutory consultees only when there is a proposal to change our rights of way network, and this was a preliminary look to make (hopefully useful) comments to the Rights of Way Officer, who is expected to clear up the planning mess.

Bryntirion is above the old village, which dates from the 19th century. We parked on Main Road and walked down to the Tynte Hotel pub opposite a house named Central Stores which backs onto the steep mountainside.  Footpath 3 begins through a green gap in the terraces up the road and the path certainly exists.

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The path is tarmac’ed (metalled), maintained and in use. Later we saw someone carrying shopping up it. One comment on the proposal is that this part of the path should remain on the Definitive Map of rights of way, and OSS – and the Planning Inspectorate sometimes agree – that being on the road map, and easily changed, is not enough – I shall argue that this footpath should additionally remain on the Definitive Map of rights of way.

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The route will need a diversion because, at the top, FP 3 should carry straight on between the gardens of houses and a steep drop to the road.  The metalled path turns slightly right and joins the road.

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The roads are traffic-calmed and quiet in the day.


The path (on the map) runs through gardens between rows of houses, and emerges to cross a turn-off to the left from one driveway to another.

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There is another metalled path down to the left off this road – I have marked a blob A on the photo (these blobs looked bigger in Paint!). Looking down that path, there is a crossing at a blob B on the next photo.  these paths are not on the Definitive Map.

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I thought that the path might be diverted along in front of houses past blob C, but, chatting to some residents, the dangers of the quarries probably make this impractical.  I like to explore options.

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There are a number of paths not on the Definitive Map, for example one looking from blob B to D, which pass through open spaces and eventually down to the main road.

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There are an attractive walk and views.

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We walked back up to Bryntirion and explored the last problem, of finding a way to the open access land of the mountainside.  I would have liked to find a solution. There doesn’t seem to be any route through the houses on Bryntirion, and an attempt to find where the path 3 should have met up with Footpath 2, didn’t end well.

Footpath 2 runs from the park and playground on the main road.  Oddly, the sign for the path is pointing at a wall, which gives confused signals.


There was a way in at the end of this wall, through the play park and past the slide, but the route is soon obstructed by branches.

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We scambled over a fence. I got a shout to beware, and found Mike minus a shoe and sock after going in ankle deep into what looked and smelt like excrement.

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The mountainside looks lovely in the sun, but I didn’t fancy it any more and that was that.  Our Rights of Way Officer is going to have a look.

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Eisteddfod at Abergavenny

I had never been to an Eisteddfod before last Tuesday.  A friend drove us to this year’s which is in Y Fenni (Abergavenny).

Once parked and bussed to the Maes (field), Mike quickly found a friendly free cuppa.  The daughter was soon active and kept playing and running all day.

It wasn’t too crowded and there were lots of stalls, pavilions and stages to visit, talks to listen to and characters to observe.

Of course, there is art and the Arts Council of Wales exhibition.  I liked the photography, especially the underground photographs by Simon Fenoulhet.


There were interesting pieces by Susan Phillips (embossed collograph prints) and portraits by the Tony Goble Award winner Liam O’Connor, and a steady stream of viewers.

Outside, there was more to see, like this lovely harp studio.


There were, as expected, pop-up events like the singers and then a poet under a tree.  While we ate lunch (good curry, salad and a fish and chips) there was an amazonian warrior event which I didn’t understand at all.


Some of the S4C presenters were thrilling a young audience. Later we listened to fine singing of fairly mournful ballards.  It was an enjoyable day, though my wellies were far too hot and not needed.


I also met Rebecca of Zimele (an Abergavenny-based charity with links to Swayimane, South Africa), beneath some gorgeous knitting-decorated trees.

With a small person still running and running, we could not stay for the evening choirs and peformances – perhaps another time.

Later, I got Twitter credit as @ossjay after Open Spaces Society‘s general secretary Kate Ashbrook @campaignerkate was on the OSS and Ramblers’ Wednesday morning walk.  The annual Eisteddfod walk is always a highlight, but it was, I must confess, Kate and not me.

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Wales Coast Path: Aberavon beach to east Swansea

Last week, we had a varied walk on the Coastal Path: along Aberavon beach, up to the old Briton Ferry bridge to cross the Neath river, along the Tennant Canal to the Hookers Dyers pub on Fabian Way.

Aberavon is well-known as a sandy surfers’ beach and holiday place not far from Port Talbot.  There’s plenty of room for all on a three-mile beach.  We paused for take-away egg sandwiches at the Pop-In cafe, a good move, and I sketched a wind-surfer popping above the waves.  The path turns inland before the River Neath, with the sign into the dunes made more obvious by a traffic cone.  The sea holly lining the path was bright blue, and brambles already had ripe blackberries.


The plants changed to non-salt loving like buddleias as we passed the Baglan Energy Park and followed the river to find a crossing.  Remnants of the industrial past made a nice foregound for a view to the distant masts on Kilvey Hill. That’s near where we were going.


Briton Ferry had a floating dock designed by Brunel’s father and was active until 1979.  There are moves to regenerate the dockland with a marina. Part of it, the accumulator tower for the hydraulic system at the dock, has been restored.


Commuting to Swansea, I had often looked at the strangely isolated area visible from the bridge, and it was interesting to see it up close as we used the footpath alongside the old bridge, if a bit noisy. I had no idea that the fire brigade practise in a yard far below.


Everyone must surely know that new roads create more traffic.  I can remember the excitement of there being no 20 minute delays at Briton Ferry when the new motorway bridge opened, but now both bridges carry continuous traffic and the motorway was clogged up.  We were passed by cyclists – the Active Travel Act has good networks here.

We used the subway to go under Fabian Way between the two golf courses.  It was a relief finally to get away from the main road and go through Jersey Marina (lots of land was owned by Lord Jersey), and joined the Tennant Canal.  This is one of the places where the Coast Path is a bit inland.  The Crymlyn Burrows are a salt marsh between the road and the sea, and landmarks like the Amazon warehouse have replaced the oil storage, chemicals and Ford plant of the 20th century along Fabian Way.

The Coastal Path is peaceful along the canal, although we first had to negotiate passage round a family of swans.  I never argue with cows with calves or swans with cygnets.


The canal provided a navigable link from the River Neath to the River Tawe at Swansea Docks, and George Tennant extended it to Aberdulais.  It crosses Crymlyn Bog, and has thick bamboo-like vegetation and some grasses that could cut your hand with their very rough surface.  I was not surprised to read of its rich natural history, rare plants and being a haven for birds.

We were lucky to catch a bus quickly outside the Hookers pub, and had a great tour of the villages, being reminded of the public parks and open spaces provided among the houses as South Wales developed.





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Penarth Open Studio Trail 2016: textiles

A quick afternoon on the Open Studio Trail in Penarth was very worthwhile: we popped into a couple of favourites and spent more time with textile artists Judy Stephens and Sarah Fisher, both Women’s Arts Association members.

Judy Stephens has introduced me to quilting with her works on the Billybanks estate (one of these was in the Bath Society’s recent exhibition), and I treated myself to two small more recent pieces, inspired by sea and the volcanic ash incident and full of texture and narrative.  She explained some detail of the long process of selecting materials, colours, patterns, and the sewing before final quilting.  So much varied creative input and patience.


Sarah Fisher was opening her studio for the first time: she works with felt, fashioning it into weird and wonderful animals, fish and more practical wall hangings, hats, bags and accessories. She combines wool with silks and other fabrics for an exquisite detail of weight and texture.

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A bonus was their lovely gardens – typical of Penarth.

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The marrying of gardens and art reminds me of the blog by Swindon Open Studios which combines the two.

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Rights of way above Cilfynydd

Sometimes people openly use a route without permission and never know that it is not on the key map and descriptions of Public Rights of Way, which is called the Definitive Map and Statement.  Some of these unclaimed and unrecorded paths are on Ordnance Survey maps or in other historical records.

At least one such path runs across grassland known as Egan’s Field above Cilfynydd, and I was contacted by a regular user after fencing was installed, creating fields for horses to graze.  It is one of many beautiful places for views over Pontypridd and the Valleys.



Obviously, if there is historic and user evidence for a right of way, then an application can be submitted to modify the Definitive Map.  At the moment, the nearest recorded path is Footpath 4 Pontypridd, which I joined above Egan’s Field through Bodwenarth barns, off Albion Court.  People do seem to use other ways.

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Soon I arrived at a large tree with swing attached, and the fenced area, with a fenced way through.  This is not the most used route, but with pressure to get home for Fantasy Football transfers, I decided to get a feel of FP 4 and the area.

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The well-worn walled path follows the hillside, and there were more enclosures by electric fencing and horses grazing between the fence and the wall.

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One pony was quite nosey.

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Wild roses and foxgloves were among the flowers as the path neared Penrheol Ely Road, which runs up to Egwlysilan Common.

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I later reported flytipping which was just out of sight of the road, and it should be removed shortly.  I headed back on the path, with sheep on the other side from the horses.

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It is too early to know if there is an unclaimed right of way, not noticed until the change in the use of the field.  Phil Wade of the Open Spaces Society has co-authored a book with Sarah Bucks “Restoring the Record” which outlines the process, and routes in Wales, as in England, may disappear after 2026 if they remain unclaimed.


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Works on Eglwysilan: the Inspector calls

On 23rd June, for the Open Spaces Society, I attended a site visit on Eglwysilan Common.  The Inspector visited following the application for an access across the common for the wind turbine at Castell Llwyd farm at the Nelson end.

The access is along the important and popular byway Heol Las which runs, from Nelson in the north all the way to Caerphilly in the south, across the large common.  As a statutory consultee, Open Spaces Society had no objection subject to proper tidying of the site, which had been a mess in January (below left) and is much improved now (below right).

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Public and commoners’ rights to access and use common land are protected.  Work on common land – especially where hard surfaces, fencing or obstacles to access are involved – require consent under Section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. Applications are considered by the Planning Inspectorate Wales.  On Eglwysilan Common, the public also have the right of access for air and exercise under Section 193 of the Law of Property Act 1925.

This application under Section 38 was retrospective, regrettable although there was the excuse of needing to act quickly on permissions before tariff changes for renewables.

In January, the access track along the Heol Las byway was in a poor state and attracting flytipping.

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Applicants Clean Earth Energy have now completed separation and removal of soil and the byway is improved with compacted clean local stone.  They agreed to re-seed more and have removed rubbish.

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In this case, proper procedure and a positive outcome should be secured, unlike problems  on other parts of the common.  Clean Earth have also linked a commoner to the grid for the first time.  It’s a stunning common for air and exercise, on foot or on horseback, with views over the Valleys.

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On the way through Nelson, I stopped at a greengrocers at the old General Picton Inn (one of many closed inns listed in “Drinking Pubs”.  Owner Bobby regularly runs on the common and chatted between customers while his dog slept by the door.  I bought broad beans and nectarines – good too.

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The Picton closed decades ago – it was a farmers’ pub when Nelson was a market town.  At the Dynavor Arms next door, he said, I could see the rings to tie the horses up, and, sure enough, there they were.  I could imagine the horses waiting patiently, then carrying the farmers home across the common at night.

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Flat Holm island for a day

Ynys Echni or Flat Holm island is an interesting daytrip from Cardiff.  We went on the former car ferry, Westward Ho.  The exit from Cardiff Bay through the barrage is dramatic.

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You can see the island from the top of the Garth mountain in Wales or from Weston-Super-Mare in England. Our companions came from Shrewsbury (a group came by train) and closer to home – Olwg Camera Club from Church Village and cricketers we knew.

We went past Penarth Pier and watched Lavernock Point recede as Flat Holm came clearly into view.

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It wasn’t quite what we expected, having more buildings and “stuff” there.  From a distance, the warden and volunteers looked a bit like wreckers on the stony beach (if you watch Poldark); of course, they were full of friendliness and had a wealth of knowledge about the island and the stuff on it.

We landed near the cliffs where the herring gulls nest and pink thrift grew.  We walked over to the main visitors area.  In June – slightly late this year – it is breeding season, and some walks are off limits to visitors.  Cardiff City Council has the Flat Holm Project which conserves it for seabirds and is supported by the charity, Flat Holm Society.

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Over in the buildings near the lighthouse, we got an introduction, paid our £5 landing fee and got tea at the pub.  We had taken sandwiches – there’s drink but not food.  They also have an excellent guide book and a free guided tour.

Among the stuff there is the rare wild peony (caged off to stop rabbits eating it), and the Welsh leek which is tall and has a garlicky-oniony smell.  And then there are strange constructions which turn out to have been built by Victorians or for World War defences.  Mostly, they have a gull or two on top.

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We saw the old farmhouse: there was a religious retreat from the 6th century, as was Steep Holm nearby.  There was farming long ago (they sent thousands of rabbits to market in Cardiff) although now it is all managed grassland on one side and more growth for the black-backed gulls area – they nest on the ground.  On the west beach (where soldiers hauled guns up in World War II), the pattern of a sea bed can be seen.

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The Project would like to see some of the buildings restored – it’s hard to know.  the cholera hospital lost its slate to the farmhouse roof and is falling down.

The black-backed gulls breed by the mown paths, for the good reason that they need some flat space to land and take off.  They were very vocal about us walking by the eggs or chicks.

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Gulls looked accusingly, from posts or along paths, and screeched.


P6060581There are also chicken bones around, evidence of the birds’ flying trips to Cardiff to collect thrown away food.  They are incredible fliers.

The lighthouse was being repaired and we couldn’t go in.


Nearby were two fascinating structures from the Victorian times. In the photo at the back, you can see the sunken gun position: the gun was raised to fire using the Moncrieff carriages (no longer there). The stonework and brick work were superb.  In front in the photo is the water collecting device of unglazed tiles which runs down into a tank and is the only natural source of water on the island.


It is simple and effective and gets a clean – water scrubbing only – regularly.  I thought a clean might be due soon. Like the water, all power on the island is from renewable sources.  All amazing stuff.

Altogether, a good trip.

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