Craig Cefn Parc

Key information: Craig Cefn Parc

  • Well maintained footpaths crisscross this RSPB bird sanctuary in the undulating, scenic countryside behind Swansea.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating77
  • Beauty30
  • Natural interest17
  • Human interest2
  • Charisma28
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating77

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Level of Difficulty: Straightforward



The following is DJ Gallivan's piece on walking here, which was an entry we much enjoyed for our 2011 Travel Writing Competition. Thank you, DJ, for bringing this walk to our attention!

A Wonderful Welsh Walk in the Wilderness

Cwm Clydach is one of Swansea's best-kept secrets. It can be found nestled below Swansea Common and the village of Clydach; the car park entrance is midway between Clydach and Craig Cefn Parc and is visible on your right hand side as you cross the bridge heading to the top of the mountain. The entire valley is managed by the Royal Society for The Protection of Birds (RSPB) and provides visitors with an inspiring day out amongst some of Wales's finest flora and fauna.

For those who may not see our countryside as a tool to achieve tranquillity and inner peace, I would urge you to take up the challenge. After returning to your car, having walked one of the many routes within the valley-would be the right time to make up your mind. If then, you said to yourself that the experience did nothing for you; I would suggest that you might need some form of medication.

My back garden runs down into the valley bottom, and I have lived here for three years. Every morning when I wake, I look out through the window and never fail to be inspired by the surrounding countryside looking back at me. This daily experience has without a doubt gone a long way to getting me back on the right track from being in a dark place a few years ago.

From the car park, you can walk upstream and follow one of the many sign posted walks into the woodland. Last year I spotted a cuckoo for the very first time, and followed it through the trees for several minutes. It tempted me to get ever closer in order to get a perfect picture, but, I was denied the privilege and it flew off. This left me frustrated but satisfied having seen such an elusive solitary creature.

As you follow the valley bottom along well maintained footpaths you will become aware of the area's history. Your mind is allowed to wander back in time when black gold was the quarry. It is hard to believe how Mother Nature has reclaimed the area and given it back to the wildlife. Old mining buildings are still evident; they peep through overgrown ivy and have become the perfect habitat for many birds to nest. Tree creepers and nut hatches can often be seen scurrying up tree trunks busily going about their business.

The Jurassic limestone outcrops on the northern wall of the valley constantly seep perfectly clean filtered water, they support a large variety of plant life. Fronds of fern grow through the cracks and crevices along its length giving stability to the crumbling limestone. This is spoilt only by the ever increasing presence of the invasive Japanese knot weed doing its level best to destroy the fine balance of our native plant life, which is struggling for survival along the valley walls.

It can be quite eerie walking alone after sunset. Ghostly visions of pit ponies and miners have often visited my sub conscious mind and with a little imagination, it is not too difficult to visualise the miners pouring out from the remains of the pit head covered in coal dust and the whites of their eyes and gleaming teeth contrasting against the blackened skin on their faces.

Many of the residents who still live in Craig Cefn Parc were once miners and I have had many a conversation, where they tell yarns and tales in a way that can only be described, as passionate and poetic. I am always aware of the sense of loss many residents feel now the mines have closed, but equally, I am in awe of the power of nature and its ability to put things right again.

I find the best time to visit the bird reserve, is after heavy rain, the river becomes a torrent. There are many rocks and drops in level before the river spills into the River Tawe and finally into the sea. All the small tributaries gush into the main stream from high up on either side of the valley causing a confusing cauldron of white water. Standing on one of the many wooden bridges that span the river allows you to view all the debris from our throw away world as it is washed away. I always think of the white-throated dippers during heavy rain and wonder if they are safe, and our native natural brown trout, how do they survive such a violent flow of water? The dipper is resident all along the river year round, and provides comical viewing for those who are lucky enough to spot it bobbing up and down on polished rocks as it searches for insect life hatching from the water.

In the summer, inspiration can be found in abundance, the large variety of wild flowers and the gentle sound of the river washing over smooth pebbles will test your sense of sight and sound. The diversity in bird song lends itself perfectly to the name of my cottage 'Glyn y Gan' and when listened to at dawn there is no better way to start the day.

Winter is a much harsher time in the valley, but no less inspiring. The grey, cold and muted colours of the surrounding countryside are perfect to give your writing a creative kick start, and have inspired me to write some of my better moody poetic writings. Walking along a frosty footpath early in the morning watching a robin rooting about in decomposing leaf matter for worms is all it takes, or a pair of wood pigeon perched in a bare hazel tree with their chests puffed out to keep warm, would certainly give me something to write about. There are several pairs of red kite which are also resident year round, and provide perfect picture opportunities for the photography enthusiast as they soar effortlessly on warm thermals. On occasion they are joined by other raptors, and more commonly by crows and rooks competing for air space, this provides a spectacular air display that I think everyone should have the opportunity to witness at least once in their lives.

After returning to the ample car park, you are able to put your feet up and recall the wonders that you discovered on your walk, by taking advantage of the hospitality you will find in the pub right next to the entrance of the bird reserve. In the winter there is always a roaring log fire burning away, and in the summer a pleasant beer garden for you to enjoy whilst drinking your favourite tipple.

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