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Elenydd – the Welsh ‘Green Desert’ longer walk

The latest in our series of longer walks took place in the Elenydd – often called the Welsh green desert - on June 11th.

When reconnoitring this walk, we were struck by the silence – so sparsely populated not even the distant hum of a machine could be heard – something rare to find nowadays. This was again the case on this Saturday morning as we assembled. Whilst the area was new to some, others had distant (some more distant than others!) childhood memories of time spent there.

It is certainly the remotest, least populated, wildest area of Wales and southern Britain. Everything about the area is big – vast expanses of water, copious forests,  the many hills to see and it’s remoteness makes it feel special and a privilege to explore. With showers forecast, our merry band of five enthusiastically struck off suitably attired, looking forward to exploring new terrain – even those who had been previously had not covered all of the proposed route.

Our walk started on the high tracks that frame the reservoir, proving us with reflections of conifer forests distant hills and blue skies. The landscape later changed to an open valley, with a meandering river, before we reached Soar y Mynydd, reputed to be Wales’s most remote chapel and still with a regular programme of services. It’s peaceful riverside location, and simple interior makes it feel a place apart where time has stood still. We sat on a small stone footbridge next to the church to have our lunch, listening to a gurgling stream.

After lunch, our initial climb along a stony track rewarded us with lovely backward views down to the chapel we had just visited, and more of distant hills of the Elenydd.  The isolated and unspoilt Doethie Valley, the next stage of our walk, soon came into view and as we descended what had now become a more rutted track, the tranquillity was even more vivid. We entered the Valley not far from Ty’n Cornel Hostel – one of two in the area run by volunteers from Elenydd Wilderness Hostels (https://www.elenydd-hostels.co.uk/en).

We followed the route of the Doethie river for several miles, admiring some ancient oak, hawthorn and beech trees, passing the ruins of a few long-abandoned settlements and again enjoying the sense of solitude, with the whole valley to ourselves.

The final leg was a steady pull up to return to one of the reservoir-side tracks we walked on earlier, and retraced our steps the short distance back to the carpark.

The few showers in the morning did not dampen the enjoyment, and the afternoon bathed us with warm sunshine. Whilst it was a long walk with sometimes challenging terrain, the sense of achievement of completing it (as one person said – ‘now that the gauntlet has been laid, I have to do it’) was most rewarding. As well as giving that glow of satisfaction of having risen to a challenge, these longer walks provide the opportunity to get out into some more remote places that is not possible to do on shorter walks.

Some photos credit to Massimmo – thank you!

The next long walk is a South Wales one in the Rhondda Valley on August 13th (https://www.goc.org.uk/event/pontypridd-circle-challenge-accessible-by-train-2/0  If anyone knows of other such longer routes, do get in touch – I’m always keen to discover new places.

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