Hir Fynydd – Sarn Helen Surprises by a Resolven ‘Walkaholic’

In search of The Stargazing Hare

As a boy I’d always played in the woods behind the school, up the ‘Tump’, over the ‘Lido’, up the ‘Burma’ or over the screens. Never did I venture to the other mountain to see what was going over there, it’s a walk that was inspired by this waterfall that was revealed during the forestry clearance.

I had no intention of being out too long, just a quick track from the side of ‘The Farmers’ and a steep climb to the top of the mountain, see the Roman road then return, easy right?

I found what seemed to be a tramroad and started following it. It runs parallel to the B4242 so I know I’m going the right way. I missed the steep track I wanted, so ended up in Abergarwed on the main road, never mind I’ll go up the forestry road on the other side of the hamlet. As you climb and zig zag with the road there are a few good places to view Resolven, more of the village unfolds as you get higher. I look at the map on my phone and see a trig point up here, it’s not too far I’ll head for that. The road zigzags again and again, I find the track I wanted to climb originally, it’s a swamp and I didn’t bring wellies. I eventually find Sarn Helen, the Roman Road on top of the mountain.

This section runs from Aberdulais to Banwen but there are sections at Ystrafellte and other places I’ve been to. It probably linked the port at Neath to Brecon which was connected to the rest of Wales, most importantly for the Romans was the Gold Mines at Dolaucothi and their baths at Caerleon.

There are a few markers and a sculpture I passed, this one scared me.

Anyway my goal is to find this trig point. Ordnance Survey over 80 years ago placed these pillars all over the country to map it. Each one had a fantastic view and usually marks the highest point on a mountain, each trig point has to be in line of sight with another 3 trig points so our country could be mapped accurately. This trigpoint is a little off the road, it’s in a little clearing and even with GPS it’s a bit tricky to get to. There’s no view from here as the trees all around have grown, still a pleasant place to visit.

Like a numpty I open the wrong map app on my phone and Google, not too far away is a ‘Stargazing Hare’ what on earth is that? “I’d better take a look.”

The path from Sarn Helen to the Crynant side is a bit waterlogged in places, stretches of places that you have to walk on an embankment on the side of the path, “don’t fall in now” is the only thing I keep repeating to myself. I joined another forestry road and that makes walking much easier, I’ve not got too far to go and there’s a row of trees either side of the road, this Hare isn’t going to see much. Then it happens, the trees have been cut, there’s a clear opening and the view is amazing. Looking South you can see Mumbles lighthouse and to the North the bleak beauty of the Black Mountains. What a lucky hare to be looking at this forever! At the moment I could only imagine what the view at night must look like, I think something like this.

After being amazed by the hare, it’s time to return. My phone battery is low, it’s getting dark and I have no idea what road goes where. I walk what I see is the quickest route back, all on forestry roads and end up at Rheola.

This was supposed to be a quick hour stretch, instead it was a five hour expedition, totally worth it for seeing the Stargazing Hare.

Resolven Walkaholic

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