It’s still a case of ‘local walks’ only in Wales, with restrictions very much against driving to favourite beauty spots for our daily exercise. But that’s ok, because – it’s Wales! and we’re spoiled with hidden beauty spots right on our doorsteps.
For a long time, I’ve been an advocate of ditching the car and setting off from your own front (or back) door. You only have to arm yourself with a smidge of curiosity and a handy map / app (oh, and water and suncream in this lovely weather!) and you’ll soon be nosily following footpaths and jumping over stiles that you’ve just somehow managed not to spot from behind the steering wheel.
And the wonderful thing about urban and countryside trails close to home is that they tend to be a great deal quieter than those routes you keep seeing on Instagram. So, to celebrate all walks peaceful, I’m starting a series of imaginatively titled ‘Quiet Walks’ as a starter for 10 for folk in my area of south east Wales. I’m kicking off with my favourite teen-and-dog-friendly stroll through Coed Garthmaelwg (Llantrisant Forest), as it’s close to the Royal Glamorgan Hospital and, therefore, hopefully useful to our fabulous NHS staff in need of a spot of breathing space right now. To find a local, quiet walk of your own, check out Ordnance Survey’s Greenspaces, which is an amazing guide to fields, parks and nature reserves near you.
Start: ST 024 846 / Coed Garthmaelwg car park
OS Map: OS Explorer 151 / OS Landranger 170
Distance: 2.5 miles
Time: One hour+
1. From the forestry car park, follow the wide track beyond the metal barrier. As it plateaus at a junction, continue straight ahead, ignoring the track bearing off to the left.
2. The path briefly opens up in a break from the trees, before curving to the right and heading slightly downhill back into forestry. The gravel track merges with a bridleway, bearing left and gently uphill through a beautiful avenue of trees until reaching a gate.
3. Through the gate, the footpath thins and climbs through open hillside, leaving the trees behind. The path eventually reaches a stone wall; pass through the gate and bear straight ahead, crossing the track running to your left and right. Keeping to the grass, veer north west up and along the escarpement to the large stones. Time for a tea break!
4. This outcrop is Caer Rocks, known locally as the Cariad Stones because, from below, you can see the Welsh ‘Dduw Cariad Yw’ carved into the slabs. It translates into English as ‘God is Love’ and is said to have been inscribed here around 100 years ago by a zealous preacher from nearby Tonyrefail. It’s a beautiful spot above Llanharan, overlooking the Vale of Glamorgan all the way to the Bristol Channel on a clear day.
5. From here, you can either head back the way you came or extend your walk slightly by following the escarpment a short distance, until a thin sheep track drops sharply downhill to the wide track below. Note that this path can be overgrown with ferns in high summer!
6. From here, stroll back eastwards, walking under the Cariad Stones to see the inscription clearly. Pass through the gate and back towards the forest.
7. Once inside the forest, pass the gravel track walked earlier and continue to follow the bridleway for an alternative route back to the car park. Unfortunately, this spot has a real problem with litter, so please pop yours in a bag and take it home!
You can find the full route map over at Ordnance Survey here – I’d love to know how you get on!
Please remember that current restrictions vary between Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. When plotting your own local walk, check ahead to make sure country parks, reserves and public footpaths are open.