Red Route: artists against cuts march from Merthyr to Cardiff

MadeinRoath is an artist-led organiser of free events and the second march from Merthyr Tydfil to Roath, Cardiff was part of their Made in Spring festival.  This year I did the 14 mile Merthyr to Pontypridd stretch representing Women’s Arts Association solidarity with the right to the arts.

Buses run from Ponty to Merthyr every 10 minutes.  Once in Merthyr, we walked over to the Redhouse on Merthyr’s High Street to meet others there. Redhouse is the former Town Hall and the renovated Grade II listed building makes a fine centre for cultural regeneration.  Printed yellow dusters to “draw the line” on art and cultural cuts were being printed and stitched and we had red flags too.  (In 1831, the red flag of revolution was first flown here in Merthyr, against lowering of wages and unemployment.)

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

Walkers had packed lunches of tasty rolls, fruit, crisps and Becca’s energy-boosting fudge, and photos by Homer Sykes of last year’s march were on the walls.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

About 20 of us set off, after stirring poetry from a Redhouse balcony followed by song  –  famous Bells of Rhymney by Idris Davies (from his 1938 Gwalior Deserta, also a wood-block print by Paul Peter Piech).  It was drizzling and 17 of us left Merthyr on the Taff Trail.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

The purpose of the march is to confirm people’s right to arts and culture, that these rights cannot be a “low priority” or something to cut – they are absolute and for all.  And we were walking on a public right of way, and the definitive right to use our paths, trails and other ways is also in danger of being lost if not asserted.

Geoff Matsell had provided a short history of the route we were taking, mostly following the tramroads and towpaths (the trams and canals are long gone).  This is the bridge that carried a railway from Merthyr through the mountain to Hirwaun, Neath and Swansea.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

I learned about Lucy Thomas (we passed Lucy Cottage) who lived 1781-1847 and first sold coal to households – sale coal – instead of only to industry.  On the steep hillsides, cottages with two stories on the higher side and three on the lower were called house-over-house.  We saw rows of cottages, like Quay Row and Pond Row, which dated back to the early 19th century.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

The steep hillsides have some tidy gardens too, and bright cherry blossom.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

The muted cloud covered colours over the valley as we passed Troedyrhiw and onwards were lovely.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

No one could forget the Aberfan disaster in 1966, when a slag heap wiped out the primary school and 144 died (I lived in Manchester then).  It is poignant to see the row of white memorial archway stones in the cemetary beyond the hedge and darker stones.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to PontypriddAs well as the walkers, we had CiBach the corgi accompanying us – she was cheerful, saying Hi to each of us.  Past Aberfan, the Taff Trail goes under the A470 with a brutalist concrete tunnel with tagging.  Note James with his banner-in-progress (more on it next year).

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

The trail now goes beside some huge rocky wooded areas, with twisted trees, trail bikes and opportunities for photographer Pete to pose walkers and CiBach.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

I do recall how noisey the A470 was here: the trees were great but cars do make a row.  Birds seemed to singing loudly in order to compensate perhaps.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

Steadily forwards, with beautiful greens of spring – and occasionally, burnt hillsides.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to PontypriddRed Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

At Pontygwaith, we descnded into a tunnel under the A470 and into Good Cop – Bad Cop. Cuktural nourishment before food.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to PontypriddRed Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

Pontygwaith has a hump-backed bridge and a 500 year-old farm.  Even better was the prospect of tea and a lunch break at the National Garden Scheme cafe.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

A pause for a tree by the bridge and reflections.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

The break was welcome.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

The next bit of the Taff Trail was special for me because it began with a horse-step and yes, horses are allowed on the Trevithick Trail, named after Richard Trevithick.  In 1804 the first steam train, designed by Trevithick, travelled this route.  (I just wish horses were allowed on all the Taff Trail – it is certainly wide enough for shared use.  Maybe RCT Councillors simply hate horses.)

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

You can still see the stones from the tramway, and stone walling hold back the rail embankment of the Valleys line above.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

This was a lovely part of the walk, with a lake and then the river below, and buttresses of old lines, and I heard a wren among the birdsong.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

And there were the colours of bracken and greens, with the odd stone carving.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

The Goitre Coed viaduct is really impressive, with Brunel’s name on its plaque.  This carries the Valleys line to Merthyr from Cardiff and was built in 1840, having a second viaduct built next to it in 1861 because it was so busy.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

We crossed over the river.  Becca is here drawing the line, in chalk.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

The trail passes Quaker’s Yard, a pre-industrial village and recently home to poet Philip Gross (his book with artist and print-maker Valerie Coffin Price is “A fold in the river”).

We were surprised to see these pre-fabs, and met this smart dog with his owners.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

A dual carriageway over us has a net between the two – showing what car-drivers chuck even so high above ground.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

The signpost says it is 4 miles to Ponty and 10 to Merthyr.  We were ready for another comfort break in Abercynon.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

This all looks a bit grey and pensive.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

By contrast, the valley opens out below Abercynon, with horses grazing on the meadow and a sparkling river.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

The Taff Trail comes into Pontypridd through Trallwng, the river now lazy.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

We walked via the terraces and into Ynysangharad Park, where poet Steve Kennard added more culture to tea time.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

We split off there, with best wishes for the day’s finish at Taffs Well, and on to Roath the next day.

Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd Red Route march with MadeinSpring from Redhouse, Merthyr to Pontypridd

This entry was posted in arty things, countryside, open spaces: rights of way & highways, Women's Arts Association Wales and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Red Route: artists against cuts march from Merthyr to Cardiff

  1. lindakasmaty says:

    Intended to come and then didn’t, so it’s a real treat to see it through your eyes. The contrast between the wild, relatively unspoilt places and the rest is startling.

    Like

  2. Rachel Hurdley says:

    Fabulous story of the walk. Saw this was happening but couldn’t come this year. One day…

    Like

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