|The Clydach Gorge An intriguing mix of beautiful woods and industrial relics.|
See also Routes 2. and 2a.
7.5km 2.5hr 260m of ascent Farmland; old workings; self-regenerating beech woods, especially beautiful in the autumn; the Merthyr, Tredegar and Abergavenny Railway (path of); Llanelly Quarry, and the Clydach Iron Works. Easy to follow paths. Take a torch to go through one of the Gellifelen railway tunnels! Easy parking
260m of ascent
Farmland; old workings; self-regenerating beech woods, especially beautiful in the autumn; the Merthyr, Tredegar and Abergavenny Railway (path of); Llanelly Quarry, and the Clydach Iron Works. Easy to follow paths. Take a torch to go through one of the Gellifelen railway tunnels!
A lovely cast-iron bridge, dated 1824, spans the River Clydach and leads to the Clydach Ironworks site.
Route map and location of sites
Note that for convenience, this map loads into a new window
DescriptionThe path starts at the bottom of Station Road, Clydach. This is the left-hand turning (going towards Merthyr Tydfil) off the "Heads of the Valley Road" (A465) 1.5km after the turning to Gilwern and just past the Lion pub on the right. You can either park in the first lay-by just after you turn into Station Road or a bit further on where there is a another lay-by and pleasant picnic site complete with picnic benches.
1. Carefully cross the A465 and go through the gate onto what was the Merthyr to Govilon Turnpike road of 1812-13. Turn left towards Merthyr and after 500m take the sharp right turn up hill. Go straight across at the cross-roads (previously the Clydach Railroad of 1794), and just past some houses on the left there is a metal stile. Cross the stile, climb the bank and follow the stream uphill, but keeping about 20m to its right (lots of bracken), until you reach a stone wall crossed by a stile. (There is also a gate in the corner of the field). Cross the wall and immediately turn left, pass through a farm gate between walls after crossing what is sometimes a shallow stream at others a rather muddy patch and take the walled track to the farm. The path turns to the right (west) across a clearly way-marked stile. Follow the marked path around the perimeter of the field and continue south into the next field.
2. Ahead is a small steep-sided hill with a rather strange "pillar" (known as "Tom Thumb"?) on top. This hill may have been an iron-age fort at one time (Chris Barber-"Exploring Gwent") but if so it appears to have been quarried since (and the pillar left as a memorial?).
3. Either climb the hill directly (steep) to the pillar or more easily by taking the track to the right then crossing to the pillar. This area is also referred to as Craig y Gaer. At the pillar take time to enjoy the view and identify the landmarks on the other side of the gorge.
4. Leave the pillar and join or rejoin the path along the west side of the workings and continue south crossing a stile into an open grassy area. The map shows the path going to join the road but instead keep left, walking parallel to the road and below it, following the fence line for about 250m to where it becomes more bushy. Here you will find a stile leading to a path which descends past old limestone quarries to the old Blackrock road at the (now closed) Drum and Monkey Inn. Some of this path is a bit overgrown and it resembles a stream bed in places but it is nevertheless perfectly navigable. Look across the gorge towards Gellifelen.
5. Follow the road up the gorge passing the old Blackrock quarry (now a landfill site) on your right and a National Rivers Authority depot on your left. Continue on for 500m until just past a very obvious sewage works also on your left, where there is a way-marked path descending at first between high fences to the main road below. In the trees the path zig-zags first to the left and then to the right. The route now crosses to the other side of the gorge but you may wish to visit the waterfall (more impressive after rain) about 250m further up the gorge. To do so follow the metalled path parallel to the main road until you reach an overhead pipe. You can now reach the foot of the waterfall . Unfortunately the area may be somewhat spoilt by rubbish.
6. Cross the "Heads of the Valley" road by the underpass. On emerging take the steps up to the right, go through the gate and take the path that climbs gently left through part of what are described as "some of the finest native beechwoods in the West of Britain". These woods in Cwm Clydach are spectacularly beautiful in autumn. At the top of the path, after it has curved to the right and you have crossed through a gate, you will meet the path of the steam-hauled, standard gauge Merthyr, Tredegar and Abergavenny Railway of 1862 (closed in 1958). The railway line follows the path of Bailey's Tramroad of 1821 except where tunnels have been bored because the tramroad turns were too sharp for the railway. (The tramroad originally ran from Crawshay Bailey's ironworks at Nantyglo to Govilon Wharf on the Brecknock & Abergavenny Canal.) The route is east along this old railway line.
7. Continue along the old railway track past the remains of Gellifelen station until you reach the entrances to the twin Gellifelen tunnels. The railway was originally single track but it was doubled in 1877. If you have a reliable torch it is possible to walk through the LEFT tunnel - at your own risk, of course! The exit from the right tunnel is blocked-in apart from a smallish exit hole so I have never tried it. The tunnel is about 300m long, curved, very dark, and surprisingly clear of debris. If you don't want to walk through the tunnel take the track (formerly Bailey's Tramroad) that goes off to the left and contours around the hill, passing the path that descends to Devil's Bridge and some cottages. The track then becomes rather narrow and rocky before you reach the eastern portals of the tunnels.
8. The route continues along the old railway, crossing Cwm Llam-march by way of embankments and an arched viaduct and passing round the left side of a modern iron gate that now prevents vehicular access to the track. Just after the gate a road is joined where there was once a level-crossing. This road follows the path of the Llam-march railroad of 1795. Carry along the road for about 100m to where a path slopes diagonally down through the woods and nature reserve. This path was one of two inclines built in 1811 to supplement the Llam-march railroad for conveying raw materials to Clydach Ironworks. On the right side of the road the railway continues now elevated on a series of arches. The single open arch is the access to Llanelly Quarry that once provided lime needed by Clydach Ironworks for flux, also burnt lime for agricultural purposes and mortar, and more recently, roadstone. This arch severely limited the size of lorry that could be used in the later years when the quarry was used as a source of road stone and foundation stone for Llanwern steel works down at Newport. Just through the arch on the right are the remains of a double lime-kiln.
9. Leave the road and take the path down through the woods bearing right at the bottom and passing behind houses of the Danycoed estate. When you reach the road ignore the footpath that leads left to the footbridge over the A465, instead turn right through the estate passing a number of small bungalows built on a massive dump of slag from the ironworks. This dump fills the whole river valley with the river being taken in a culvert beneath. Follow the road beside the river far below to a path which descends the incline beside the playing field. At the foot of the incline lies the remains of Clydach Ironworks.
10. Leave the Ironworks, cross the iron bridge dated 1824, turn right and walk along the river for 70m before re-crossing the river by a stone bridge to join the road at the picnic site and so complete the route.