All trips and journeys start somewhere and mine journey on the Cambrian Way started on the 06h35 service Ebbw Vale Town. The Ebbw Valley Line is very much reverse Beeching having reopened in 2008 after 46 years of closure, with Ebbw Vale Town station opening in 2014. The line also has the advantage of being a useful tool for the first couple of days of the Cambrian Way, if you are based in the Brecon Beacons or in Cardiff as there is a station at Crosskeys and Risca & Pontymister. More on this later.
So after planning to do the walk on my own it was a pleasant surprise to have old friend Jace to walk the first day with me, meeting up opposite Cardiff Castle at just before 08h00 and ready for the day ahead. I'd grabbed a coffee and breakfast at Cardiff Central station and with some trepidation got around to the task at hand.
Walking with someone, especially someone you'd not talked to in a while makes the time and distance go by quickly and walk up through Bute Park on a clear chilly morning was really enjoyable. With only one slight navigational mishap near the waterwheel, where the default temptation is to follow the Taff Trail, it was across the M4 Coryton Interchange and into Tongwynlais by 10h00.
Whilst not that early for the walkers, we managed to shake recently retired Steve West out of bed to make us a cup of tea and spent a happy hour getting the highlights of his recent trips to Argentina and looking at some really creative videos he'd been making.
I'd lived in Tongwynlais back in the early 1990's and it was good to see that both houses were still standing. I'd also done the walk up to Castell Coch a few times, but funnily enough not up to the Three Bears Cave and the Blue Pool. As we continued up and along the ridge, the sunny morning has giving way to cloud and the promise of not so nice weather. No surprise then that around 13h00 it started to hail significantly and I made the naive mistake on not putting on the waterproof trousers on the understanding that it was only a shower. 45 minutes and a good soaking later, I was now testing out the drying capabilities of my walking trousers instead.
Just on the way into Machen came across a good bivvie spot for those on a relatively late departure from Cardiff, which was dry and in a quiet spot before you enter the village. It's been disguised with ivy and has room for 3-4 people.
The climb up Mynnyd Machen was an opportunity to warm up as the sun has reappeared. The route up on a diagonal path through the woods, before a final steep ascent past the motocross berms gives you the feeling that you'd actually done your first peak on the walk. Great views, both of Cardiff, Newport and the other towns and of the inbound weather. All waterproofs on this time as the hail and cold returned as Jace and I made our way down in to Risca. The second navigational error was made after coming off the minor road and heading to the obvious stile, whilst the true course was hidden off to the right. About 1 minute to correct but all good. As the guidebook states, the map and paths aren't really aligned.
Also, worth noting, that if you are using the train, Crosskeys station is a lot nearer to the bridge across the river than the one for Risca & Pontymister. It's also more like 30 minutes rather than the 20 minutes on the sign. We headed for Risca and after a watching the 16h00 go by, managed a quick shandy before I headed back to Ebbw Vale and Jace back to Cardiff.
An excellent day and though with a lighter bag it was pretty pain free, though some bruising on both insteps (rather than blisters).
Distance : 33km / 20.5m
Total Time : 8h30, walking time 7h15