In 1858, the Rhymney Railway opened a branch route which ran from the Taff Vale Railway (modern Valley Lines route) at Walnut Tree Junction (modern Taffs Well station) up and over the Glamorganshire Canal to Penrhos Cutting, where it was joined by the Barry Railway and the Pontypridd, Caerphilly and Newport Railway. It survived the construction of the A470 trunk road, and was in use up until 1984, long after the railroad had constructed the Caerphilly Tunnel in 1871 to provide a much more direct route between the eastern valleys and Cardiff.

Today, it forms a section of the Taff Trail, a national cycle path (route 8) that runs from Cardiff Bay in the south all the way north to Brecon in the heart of the Brecon Beacons.

The Photos

Plenty of Lamp Posts at Taffs Well

The Rhymney Railway route starts at Taffs Well railway station, with the magnificant Garth behind it. The Garth, with its three distinctive barrows, dominates the skyline looking north from Cardiff.

Half a Mile to Tongwynlais

At the start of this section of the Taff Trail, if instead you want to head south towards Cardiff (a route which threads its way through Tongwynlais and then largely follows the River Taff), you can pick up refreshments in the village of Taffs Well if you need them. Just cross the railway by the nearby bridge.

If you’re heading north along the Rhymney Railway and then either up Penrhos Cutting to Caerphilly or along the Pontypridd, Newport and Caerphilly railway route up through Nantgarw, your nearest refreshments are some miles away. Stocking up first in Taffs Well might be a good idea.

Daisies Beside The Path

These lush daisies stand large and proud beside the fence at the start of the route.

Gate Guarding Cycle Route Eight

To try and keep the Taff Trail just for walkers and cyclists, the route is guarded by gates such as this one. They do break up leisure cycling a bit, as it’s much safer to dismount to navigate, but they seem a reasonable compromise to stop dirt bikers abusing the trail.

All Quiet On The A470

The route crosses the major A470 trunk road over a distinctive railway bridge. I don’t know for certain, but I’m willing to bet that this bridge is modern and was constructed when the A470 was built in 1969/1970.

Note how the A470 was empty when I took this shot. I commute up and down this road every weekday, and traffic levels have been (relatively) low for several months. Several years ago, it wasn’t unusual on a morning for this stretch to be completely stuffed with queueing traffic.

Rhymney Railway Bridge Over The A470

This is what the view is like along the bridge … wide and flat, with just the offensive graffiti for company.

Central Divider

Almost immediately beyond the bridge over the A470, the former Rhymney Railway section of the Taff Trail crosses a much older bridge, which originally went over the Cardiff Railway. The trackbed over the bridge has been tarmaced over, but this central divider with its metal studs (rivets) remains a major feature.

Bridge Over The Cardiff Railway

There’s hardly anything left of the Cardiff Railway in the immediate vicinity, as much of it was obliterated by the construction of the A470. There’s the Cardiff Railway stretch between Coryton and Longwood Drive that I’ve covered before, and also a stretch through Taffs Well that I haven’t yet written up … but in between, I think this bridge that carried the Rhymney Railway over the Cardiff Railway is about the only bit of the Cardiff Railway that still exists.

Gate Across The Trail

Aways beyond the bridge over the Cardiff Railway, a padlocked gate stands across the route. There’s one of the usual cycle gates beside it (so that cyclists and walkers can use the route as normal).

Alleyway and Gate

This section of the Taff Trail is crossed in places by alleyways that disappear into housing estates in one direction, and up the hill (presumably to the other Taff Trail along the old Barry Railway – yes, there are two Taff Trails running in parallel here!). Metal gates bar them to prevent non-walkers and non-cyclists from abusing the route.

It would be interesting to dig out some old maps to see whether any of these were here (as public footpaths) back when the railway was in existence.

Tree in Abstract

The Rhymney Railway section of the Taff Trail is very green this time of year – almost monotonously so. Occasional breaks of light like this provide interesting contrasts.

Tree in Abstract

The contrast of shade and well-lit trees beyond can make for eye-catching scenes such as this … but I imagine that if you’re cycling rather than walking, you’d probably miss them as you whizz by.

Sign in the Undergrowth

Does anyone know what this sign might be? I spotted it half-buried in the undergrowth along the route. Is it a left-over from when the railway was here, or something unrelated?

Rusting Post

I’ve no idea what this metal post’s original function was. It stands by the route, and is happily rusting away. If you can shed some light onto this, please leave a comment below.

Rusting Post Up Close

I’m a bit of a sucker for textures, especially when they contrast with a soft background like this one does.

Posts Beside The Rhymney Railway

Here are some old posts (I’m guessing they were railway fence posts from back in the day) standing beside the Taff Trail as it runs along the route of the former Rhymney Railway. As you can see, this particular stretch is long, straight, and very green, with not a lot to see.

The Two Taff Trails Merge

Not far from the start of Penrhos Cutting, the other Taff Trail route (which runs along the old Barry Railway line that used to go over Walnut Tree Viaduct) joins the Rhymney Railway route. I’m planning on covering the other Taff Trail route at a later date.

Bathed In Sunlight

When you get to Penrhos Cutting, the trail goes under this bridge. I’ll talk about the bridge more in the next photo.

What you’re seeing isn’t rain. It was a very dry, very sunny day, and when I angled my Nikon D300s up towards the sun, these strange streaks of purple light appeared on the image. I think it looks better as black and white, but if anyone really wants me to, I’ll upload the colour original for you to see for yourself.

Bridge At Penrhos Cutting

A little saner than my last shot, here’s the bridge at Penrhos Cutting that the Taff Trail goes under before its climb up Nantgarw Hill. It doesn’t take a lot to imagine local boys standing up on the bridge, waiting to be engulfed as a steam train huffs and puffs its way up the valley from Walnut Tree Junction. Maybe the driver blew the train’s whistle for them as his train passed by.

It’s a romanticism that our modern railways, with their sealed carriages and grumbling motors, simply can’t compete with. Who knows … when oil finally starts to run out, maybe we’ll all be forced back to a second age of steam?

Two Miles To Caerffili

At the foot of Penrhos Cutting, the intrepid explorer has a choice. He can continue along the Taff Trail (cycle route 8) to Nantgarw and on to Pontypridd, or he can continue to follow the old Rhymney Railway line up Nantgarw Hill and into Penrhos Cutting.

Entrance To Penrhos Cutting

If you leave the Taff Trail and decide to continue to follow the Rhymney Railway route up Nantgarw Hill instead, this takes you into Penrhos Cutting and on to Caerphilly. At the far end of the cutting (approx 2 miles) stands Penrhos Junction, which I’ll cover at a later date.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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The Gabalfa Roundabout and Flyover marks the coming together of three of Cardiff’s most important road arteries: the A470 down from Merthyr Tydfil and junction 32 of the M4 motorway, the A469 down from Llanishen and Caerphilly, the A48 Western Avenue from Llandaff and Canton, and the A48 Eastern Avenue out to junction 29 of the M4. The roundabout and flyover were built during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, around the same time as the A470 trunk road up to Merthyr Tydfil, and the Heath Hospital that is adjacent to the roundabout.

The Photos

Flyover Towards The City

For many drivers, travelling south into Cardiff from Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, or just from Junction 32 of the M4 motorway, this is their main view of the Gabalfa roundabout: the flyover that takes you over the A48 and down towards Maindy and Cathays.

Flyover At Gabalfa Roundabout

Beside the flyover runs this sliproad that drivers use to go down to the Gabalfa roundabout. From here, you can go east onto the A48 and/or into the Heath Hospital, west onto the A48 Western Avenue towards the large Tescos and the turnings to Llandaff and Canton, or south down towards what eventually becomes City Road.

Cyclist in Silhouette

Because the A470 intersects north / south, and the A48 intersects east / west at the Gabalfa roundabout, there are pedestrian walkways across the roundabout, reached by subways like this one.

Approaching Gabalfa Roundabout

This shot shows the sliproad down to Gabalfa roundabout from the foot of the A469. It’s normally a little busier than this, but in recent months traffic around this area (and on the A470 into Cardiff) has seemed lighter to me, perhaps due to the very high price of petrol at this time.

Underside of the Flyover at Gabalfa Roundabout

The flyover at Gabalfa roundabout carries the A470 over the A48. It also carries the road over the pedestrian route across the roundabout too!

Above The A48 At Gabalfa Roundabout

The flyover at Gabalfa roundabout carries the A470 over this road, the A48. The A48 runs from junction 29 of the M4 in the east out to Culverhouse Cross in the west, making it one of the major arteries of Cardiff. It’s normally a little busier than is shown here.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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Restored Bridge At Taffs Well

This footbridge over the River Taff between Taffs Well and Gwaelod-y-Garth has recently been renovated and restored into a fantastic condition.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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The Aneurin Bevan, Cardiff

This unusual building stands on the roundabout formed where the A470 down from Merthyr meets the A469 down from Caerphilly. It’s currently a Weatherspoon pub called the Aneurin Bevan after the founder of the National Health Service, but it is a site that frequently changes hands.

I’ve been unable to track down online anything about the older history of this site, and especially whether this building pre-dates the construction of the Gabalfa roundabout or not. If you know, please do let me know.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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Cathays Station Sign Behind Grilled Fence

In the foreground is the fencing on the western side of Cathays Railway Station. Across the tracks is the bold red ‘Cathays’ railway station sign.

It’s pleasing (to my eye at least) that although Arriva Trains Wales has painted the rest of the station in their hard-on-the-eye turquoise, they’ve left the pole of the station sign in the original Valley Lines green colour.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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Alert! Treforest Estate

I couldn’t help but chuckle when I noticed this sign appear at Taffs Well railway station. Has there been a problem with train crews forgetting to stop at the Treforest Estate railway station, I wonder, or is it simply that we do have dragons in Wales after all that Treforest Estate is where they lie in wait to snack on passing trains?

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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Clifftop Path At St Donats

Posted by Stuart Herbert on July 17th, 2010 in Photos, Shoot.

The Photos

The Path Along The Clifftop

St Donats, recurring venue for Beyond The Border, sits right on the edge of the Glamorganshire coastline, and provides easy access to the clifftop path that winds its precarious way along the top of the cliffs. Back in 2007, when we camped at the festival, we walked along the path, but didn’t manage to snag any decent photos (it was the first of three pretty miserable summers here in South Wales … we’re certainly making up for it this year!). Last weekend, one week after the festival, we headed back down there, and had a great time ambling along in the peace and quiet of the Vale of Glamorgan countryside.

More Barbed Wire Than You Can Shake A Tetnus Jab At

If you take kids with you out along the clifftop path, it isn’t just the sheer open drops down onto the hard rock shelves below that you need to be mindful of with them. There’s plenty of rusted barbed wire too along the path, perfect for snagging little horrors running riot along the otherwise peaceful path.

Dangerous Cliffs Keep To Path

The funny thing about this important warning, if you know this path at all, is that the warning sign is on the seaward side of the wall. That’s right, in order to see the sign, you have to follow the path through the wall and out onto the cliffs. It isn’t as mad as it first seems; on the other side of the wall, the path ambles along cliff tops that have suffered from erosion that has claimed ever-increasing chunks of the wall itself over the years.

The Fence That Goes Over The Edge

This is a path on the move, because it runs atop cliffs that are slowly but surely being claimed by the relentless tides of the Bristol Channel down below. There are countless reminders of this along the walk, such as old fence post pits, bits of wall that used to be joined up, and even bits of open cliff where the safety fence has now been lost. My favourite from all of these choices was this solitary fence post, which still has a bit of wire clinging to it like two trapped lovers waiting for rescue from the inevitable.

St Donats

The clifftop path, to be honest, only rarely affords views along the coast, but when the breaks in the bushes and fences and walls come, the views are very pleasant indeed.

One such view is this one of St Donats itself, complete with sunbathers on the slipway if you view this image at full size.

Grass On The Clifftop

The grass here is the kind that just invites you to lie down and let it swallow up all of your cares and troubles, even if just for a moment. Never mind that some of it is a peculiar blue colour, and that most of it is the wrong side of what looks like a possible fault line in the crumbling cliffside. Just give into temptation, and relax for a bit.

Looking Up At The Trees

A little ways along, past the old (presumably World War 2) pillbox on the cliff, the path descends down into a little bay mostly walled off from the passing public. Behind the wall sits a house, and in the grounds of the house I spotted these trees creeping over the skyline.

Pebbles On The Shore

Like nearly all of the bays along the Glamorganshire coast (the notable exception being Whitmore Bay at Barry Island) the bay that the clifftop path descended into is stony rather than sandy.

Search and Rescue Helicopter

Whilst we were down in the bay, this Sea King search and rescue helicopter flew down the Bristol Channel (that’s England over there in the background, btw). This was the closest I could get to it with my 70-300mm lens.

I hope you enjoyed these photos. Don’t forget to check out my Beyond The Border 2010 photos too.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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Cathays Station

Opened in 1983, Cathays is (I believe) the newest station on the old Taff Vale Railway (opened in 1983) and the only station opened on the line since the demise of the coal mines that the TVR was built to service.

On the right of this shot is the hut holding the new ticket barriers that Arriva Train Wales installed. When the station is manned, the passageway beside the hut is gated closed, and passengers must pass through the hut to enter and exit the southward-side platform (aka the down platform).

Immediately to the north of here, on the east side of this surviving track, used to stand a large rail yard, complete with several impressive railway sheds. I don’t know when the yard’s track was ripped up, but the sheds were only demolished a few years ago.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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Public Telephone At Heath Low Level Station

I didn’t think to check to see whether it was in working order or not 🙂

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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Cathays Station Grill

I shot this to symbolise what has been a growing trend in the UK over the last few decades … publicly-owned facilities (in this case, Cathays Railway Station in Cardiff) being fenced off so that private operators (in this case, Arriva Trains Wales) can charge us taxpayers for access.

With such disenfranchisement, is it any wonder that no-one feels a sense of civic duty any more?

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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