Parc Cwm Darran
On a fine day at the end of June we travelled to Parc Cwm Darran, north of Bargoed. Even the drive here was interesting as we found ourselves driving across an area which none of us had ever visited before – a vast coal reclamation site. We are so lucky that the industrial sites of our valleys have been redeveloped into wonderful Nature Parks. Parc Cwm Darran was created on the land abandoned when the Ogilvie mine closed in 1975. It now takes some imagination to picture the landscape covered in gantries and pitheads with millions of tonnes of coal waste in huge black mounds. Trees and grass would have struggled to grow in the wasteland created by the coal industry.
Since 1975 most of the coal buildings have been demolished, debris buried, and mineshafts capped. The mounds of waste have been reshaped to blend into the hilltops, the colliery feeder pond is now a reed fringed lake, a pond has been created and trees and grasses have been planted to provide habitats for wildlife. The result looks like a natural landscape and walking through the area makes you realise just how much can be achieved with what industry left behind.
Most importantly for us it has a network of footpaths and parking at the visitor centre we were able to use their facilities before starting our walk. There are several trails recommended from a stroll around the lake(1Km) for those with health challenges, a couple of slightly longer routes (up to 3Km) and cycle trails. For younger visitors there is even an Ogilvie Olympics obstacle course.
Luckily, we had a booklet with a recommended route that would take us up onto the hills for a longer walk. After a short walk along the lake in morning sunshine, we headed into the wooded hills. We had only just started out when we spotted some results of the regeneration, large furry caterpillars, and swathes of orchids in the grass.
We found a large stone entitled ‘Marquis of Bute Stone’ with an engraving ‘The Romans first introduced boundary and road marker posts. Until this time ditches had traditionally been used. The Roman marker stones, such as along the Apian Way leading to Rome, showed the name of the emperor only. The Marquis of Bute boundary stones demarcating land under their control, continued this tradition so that the letters MB are shown.’. In two places, once on the edge of moorland and again at the edge of the country park, we spotted these marker stones which rather grandly showed a B beneath a stylised crown.
Out in the open, a kite soared overhead, a sight which is always thrilling even though it is becoming more common. The land around us was lush and dotted with groups of trees. We entered an atmospheric stretch of oak woodland where all the tree trunks and branches were gnarled, bent and twisted. Maybe they struggled to grow during the industrial period this land experienced.
We emerged onto extensive moorland where we could see the outline of Pen y Fan and its accompanying hills in the far distance. We decided to break for lunch while we had sunshine and such good views.
Continuing, we spotted some strange structures at the top of the ridge, which looked like a 1970’s idea of a spaceship. According to a passer-by (one of the few people we saw all day) they are listening stations. Now we had a wide track to walk along and were surrounded by hundreds of sheep. The farmer drove towards us on his tractor, we stepped off the track and he had soon disappeared in a cloud of dust. Some sheep grazed next to a pond, and we noted the murky waters.
We skirted the Fochriw forest with its tall bare trunked fir trees and tumbledown stone walls and came back towards the country park. A long wooden sign at Cwmllwydrew Meadows Nature Reserve depicted a goods train with a tree branch covered with leaves as an engine.
Returning to the lake we saw plenty of waterfowl and yellow water lilies.
In medieval France, the yellow water lily was described as ‘the destroyer of pleasure and the poison of love’, the opposite to an aphrodisiac. Stonemasons carved flowers of the water lily into the roof bosses of Westminster Abbey to encourage celibacy.
Arriving back at the visitor centre we quickly changed out of our boots and sat in the shade enjoying tea and ice-creams whilst cooling down. By the time we left it was school chuck out time and the roads through the valleys were chock-a-block with parents trying to collect children. Avoiding the industrial route, we came by and the narrow valley roads with cars parked both sides some of us enjoyed a picturesque drive along a narrow mountain top road to pick up the main road to Cardiff, which rounded off the day nicely. Walk 7 miles, 800ft. Map 166
STRESS BUSTER STROLLERS
Anxiety and stress can affect anyone at anytime. Walking can help improve a person’s mood and overall well being. The first stress Buster walk set off from Romilly Park in bright sunshine and the strollers were treated to a superb display of sunflowers, fabulous coastal views and a cool woodland walk. This was followed by coffee or ice cream in a local cafe. Join us if you want a gentle stroll in good company, on the last Tuesday of every month,
AUGUST CARERS WALK
It was appropriate to be holding a walk for carers in the week of world friendship day. Being a carer can be a lonely and isolating occupation with very little time to spend outside the responsibilities of caring. This walk gives people a chance to chat, meet other people and enjoy the beauty of the Vale coastline.
If you’re wondering why this walk is illustrated by a circle of feet…the walk leader miscalculated the tide at Jacksons Bay and to get around an outcrop of rock wading became necessary! The wet feet didn’t stop people enjoying an ice cream when the walk finished!
LIVING WITH CANCER STROLLERS
A Stroll Around Cosmeston
A grey day did not dampen the spirits of the living with cancer strollers as they set off around Cosmeston. Two of the strollers were enjoying chatting so much, the rest of the group had to keep stopping to allow them to catch up….but isn’t that the point of these walks, to chat, to stroll, to get some fresh air and exercise? See you next time in Cosmeston at 10 30, the first Thursday of every month.
We discussed ‘A child in the forest’ by Winifred Foley (no longer in print, but available as an audio book or second hand). The book was originally written for broadcasting on ‘Woman’s hour’. It is the autobiography of a young girl, born in 1914, growing up in a mining village in the Forest of Dean. She has a great love for her family, the Forest and her life there, in spite of their poverty ( no electricity, or running water and shortage of food). At the age of 14 she went into service, first in London, then in the Cotswolds and then on a Welsh farm. The working conditions were tough.
For many people in the group, the book provoked childhood reminicences of their own. There were interesting portraits of characters in the village. The descriptions of nature were good but we wanted more details about the forest. The book emphasised a child’s delight in simple things, in contrast to much of modern consumerism. A couple of readers found the vernacular was off putting and thought a glossary would have helped. Several thought the book was ‘not a page turner’ and preferred other autobiographies like ‘Cider with Rosie ‘ .
We all enjoyed the delicious cake and a chance to meet up again without restrictions. Score 7/10
OFF THE SHELF
Several members were away in July and so we discussed two books at our August Meeting.
Sleepwalk on the Severn by Alice Oswald
Oswald is a contemporary award-winning poet, and this was our first venture into poetry.
The slim volume is one long poem set at night on the Severn Estuary. It describes the effect of moonrise on people, water, and voices during the five phases of the moon. Characters and events based on real people talk towards the moment of moonrise and are changed by it. The moon is personified as she keeps watch over the estuary and the writing paints beautiful dreamlike pictures of the landscape
Poetry is not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, so some members of the group were more enthusiastic than others. Overall, we gave it a score of 8/20.
The House of Trelawney by Hannah Rothschild
We all agreed that this was a good summer read. It is a comic satire on the English Aristocracy and their estates over time. There is the history of the long dead ancestors who founded and added bit by bit to the house and its surroundings. Then there is the quandary of their modern descendants left with the crumbling, dilapidated castle, a shadow of its former glory. The variety of characters of different generations are well described. The way they ultimately address their dilemma is the final twist in the story. It was a fun read enjoyed by all. We gave it 9/10
LIVING WITH CANCER STROLLERS
The strollers were promised a flora safari and were not disappointed with the multitude of flowers found in the fields around Cosmeston. Orchids grew in abundance next to the footpaths, and the more knowledgeable botanist walkers pointed out the different varieties. The warm, wet weather seems to have made it a bumper year for orchids. Take a look next time you are in Cosmeston, or join us on our next safari…who knows what we might find?
At last the Covid 19 restrictions relaxed enough to allow us to meet in Jill’s lovely garden with delicious cake to follow!
We discussed The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. For Raynor Winn and her husband Moth, the cruellest of diagnoses and the simultaneous collapse of their business opens an unexpected door to salvation through a journey which, over its length, transforms into a sweeping narrative of inner courage and nature’s ability to heal. They have almost no money for food or shelter and must carry only the essentials for survival on their backs as they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.
There were mixed feelings regarding the book. Nearly everyone agreed that it was a good read with great evocative descriptions of the weather, geography and the hardships encountered. It was not a negative book despite the sadness of their situation with lots to smile at.
However, many felt that it didn’t quite ring true. There was some criticism of the lack of Moth’s viewpoint or communication with their children, despite the couple’s closeness; Ray seemed in denial of Moth’s condition and that she was pushing him. Ray came across as not a very nice person. Many felt that there had been a lack of planning in relation to equipment, irresponsibility in not considering Moth’s medical condition or medication and some resentment about their taking advantage of others.
All agreed that it was good to read a book that led to wider discussions regarding ‘wild’ camping on private land which could encourage others to think that it was possible and right to do (although illegal in much of Britain), the problems of litter in wild places and sharing long distance walking stories.
Scores out of 10 ranged from 6 to 9 resulting in an average of 8.
Other books discussed:
Barak Obama’s autobiography
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards
A Single Thread by Tracey Chevalier
The Bell in The Lake by Lars Mytting.