WELCOME! I've been cycling through the Southeast Valleys of Wales since 2010 and I can't say (or show) enough about the place. I just love it. So if you've got the interest and would like to spend some time... sit back and let me show you some of the fabulous places I've discovered.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Snowdrop Run...

Holy cow!... It was another day sunny day in Wales! How friggin' great is this?! We've had nothing but unending days of cold and rain and ice and snow. December and January were simply bleak. Now it's almost spring-like. So the telephone rings and I'm off to ride again with Dai Parry. 

Our first stop was at St. Aeddan's church in Bettws Newydd. The church was rebuilt in the 15th century and the yew trees in the surrounding cemetery are estimated at over 1,000 years old.

On the hills behind the church are prehistoric burial mounds and a large camp with an Iron Age hill-fort.

Read more at: Bettws Newydd 

We then rode further up the Monmouthhsire Valley toward Abergavenny to Clytha Castle. It is actually a folly built in 1790 by William Jones in memory of his late wife.

Read more at: Clytha Castle

Leaving Clytha Castle, Dai led us down this rather steep hill and across the lower pasture. Steve is just in front of me photographing Dai being chased by a cow. (Note, Dai has run behind the bush just on the lower left... the small white bovine in the center-left is the culprit.)

Chasing Steve toward Alice Springs... getting cloudy, but time for lunch and then the short hop home.

To view our route see:  Clytha Castle Tour

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

God Forgive Me...

Dai Parry led me on a ride today up to the Brecon Beacons National park for a bit of history.  We headed north to Pontsticill Resevoir, where we crossed the valley to Vaynor.

Image Copyright Merthyr Camera Club

The reservoir is a stunning man-made lake for a small hydro-electric power plant. What you cannot see from the lovely photo above... is that it also contains the scariest man-made object I have ever witnessed.

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Here's another shot to give you the idea...

Copyright All rights reserved by My Pseudonym

It's an overflow pipe for the reservoir built like a massive sink drain! It's gotta be close to 30 feet in diameter and the drop down into the hole is over 100 feet. The sound of the water rushing down that big ole hole is beyond words. It is absolutely freaky. Can you say; "This is a horrible way to die in a James Bond movie-type-scenario x10". Yes, I want to see what it looks like down that big ole hole. No, I would not walk out on that platform to see down that big ole hole.

Quickly moving on... Vaynor is a spooky little village known mostly for it's spooky little church and creepy surrounding cemetery. Our trip today was to bear witness to the dramatic burial plot of the infamous Ironmaster; Robert Crawshay.

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The photo above is the NEW church built in the 1700's... the original church was replaced because it was feared to be falling down. Well, it's still standing... just further down the hill and buried within the trees. This one dates back to the 1400's. Here is a link to some additional photos worth a look... great title too; "Derelict Places".

Copyright All rights reserved by ChurchCrawler

Now onto Robert Thompson Crawshay; "The Great Iron King of Wales".  His story is a fascinating one, as he is considered one of the greatest men of the Industrial Revolution that began in Cyfartha Iron Works of Merthyr Tydfil. His story is rich in history and well documented... but our visit was to see his grave.

© Copyright RAY JONES 

Hmmm... looks a little odd, eh?

© Copyright RAY JONES 
DIED MAY 10th 1879

The story surrounding his harsh grave, its unceremonial massive 10-ton slab cover with it's cold, cold epitaph, goes that that the people of Merthyr who worked in his iron plants hated him with such contempt, he feared that they would dig up his body. And its pretty weird contemplating this notion while standing next to his grave.

We then moved down the road and passed this little "cottage". Hy Brasail; a folly built upon an old farmhouse at the turn of the 20th century supposedly to court an Italian contessa, (who may have never seen the home). Despite it's Grade II listing, it's in rather shabby condition... but still simply gorgeous.

Copyright All rights reserved by ChurchCrawler

And then we crossed this little sweetie... The Pontsarn Viaduct and yup, it's now part of a walking & cycle path that runs the length of Wales; The Taff Trail. Also of note; all the stone used to build this viaduct was mined and cut from this very same valley.

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And then this little jewel... a road bridge at the end of Pontsarn Viaduct. The stone cutting is amazingly precise and again... all cut from the sides of the valley.

Copyright All rights reserved by ChurchCrawler

We headed down this lovely traffic-free cycle path, uninterrupted for about three miles into Merthyr Tydfil. After a short weave through a housing estate, we popped out onto this monster viaduct sweeping over the River Taff and into town. (Yup kids... that was once a rail line, but now it's also part of the Taff Trail.)

© Copyright RAY JONES

And remember our fella the Ironmaster Crawshay? Well, here's his family crib... properly perched across the river looking down on Cyfartha Iron Works.

© Copyright RAY JONES

At the risk of offending the current residents of Merthyr Tydfil, the town is not the most spectacular vista the above photos present. It's actually quite depressed and run down from it's "glory days" as an industrial might.

© Copyright John Wilson

All that's left of the blast furnaces at Cyfartha Iron works shown above... and below. The iron works were in operation from 1767 to 1919 and at one time employed over 7,000 men, women, and children.

© Copyright Stephen Dewhirst

Here's a link to a quick read on Merthyr Tydfil and it's role in the Industrial Revolution. Here's a link to the route Dai lead me on if yer interested... Four Viaducts Loop.

Special Thanks. It's very rare that I use images by other photographers, but upon my return home as I was researching further details on the locations we visited, I ran across these excellent examples. These are jut a few samples of the fine work by these photographers. Click below to view more of their work.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

A Day Off...

I've been out three days this week riding just over 160 miles. I'm taking today off cuz I'm pooped. Honestly, I'm not nearly in the condition I was last fall. December and January have been a bust... but that's okay... understandable for the time of year.

However!... I do have some photos that I took back in January on my ride up through Clydach Gorge.

I'm finding it hard to shoot photos while out riding in a group... sometimes we stop, but it's not always at a good place to photograph. So my thinking is going forward, I'll have to just plan for solo rides specifically for photography. No worries.

This is not Wyoming... just a beautiful day up in "cowboy country" above Brynmawr on NCN Route 469.

I somehow lost a group of images taken from the second half of this ride from the other side of Clydach Gorge. It's an unmarked and beautiful route that I was recommended so that's on my working list.

Here's a link to the route... Clydach Gorge Route.