An elevation gain approaching 5700m!

There’s a point on Cwmcarn’s Forest Drive where the trees draw back like curtains on a widescreen panorama. Stretching west are ‘The Valleys’; Sirhowy, Rhymney, Merthyr, Rhondda Ogmore and Afan.

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Every time I’ve stopped here to gaze across the layered hills, I’ve wondered about the terrain spreading before me.

It’s been a nagging urge to explore the landscape, discover what trails lie hidden within, learn about its industrial relics and find out how green are its valleys.

In February I got the chance to scratch that itch, riding from Cwmcarn in the east to Afan Glyncorrwyg in the west.

It was a route that delivered as many highs and lows as the landscape itself, contrasting the 21st century singletrack of two acclaimed trail centres with tracks as old as the land, and opening a window on the past and a snapshot of the present.

As the crow flies, Cwmcarn to Afan is about 40km. My route added a further 100km and chalked up an elevation gain approaching 5700m.