Upper Tarell Valley walk
Follow this glaciated valley down the 18th-century metalled track that was once the main road from the Midlands to Cardiff.
Take a meandering stroll by the river Tarell
Cross the valley and follow the river Tarell, where you'll pass the remains of farmsteads that were once inhabited during the heyday of the coach road.
Storey Arms, grid ref: SN982203
Start the walk from Storey Arms, the outdoor education centre. Please take note there is no public access to the building. When facing the centre take the track to the left - this is the old Brecon to Merthyr coach road. Continue down the valley towards Brecon, passing through a gate by a cattle grid until you reach a gate across the track itself.
Coach road and sheep pens
Once the main route from the Midlands to Cardiff, it takes you right through the heart of the valley and is part of the Taff Trail. In bygone days, the Tarell valley was home to 10 dwellings. They would all have been connected to agriculture at some point but today only two farms remain – Blaenglyn and Ty Mawr. A landscape sculpted by farming, to your left below the road, you'll see stone-built sheep pens. These pens were used to wash the sheep before taking them to market.
Pass through the second gate, continue downhill along the coach road, keeping an eye out on your left for a signpost to the Youth Hostel. Pass through the field gate at the signpost, crossing the field diagonally to your left down to the River Tarell.
As you walk towards the river, make sure to take in the views up ahead of Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad overlooking Tarell valley. The National Nature Reserve dramatically illustrates, on a huge scale, the glacial processes that carved this spectacular landscape. The reserve offers several excellent walking opportunities to enjoy the atmospheric amphitheatre created by the soaring, craggy cliffs.
Cross the river using the wooden bridge. Just above the bridge are the remains of a Bronze Age burial chamber. Turn immediately right and follow the path keeping the river to your right, until you reach a stile.
Cross the stile and climb a short section of steep bank. You are now on Ty Mawr Farm, a National Trust tenanted farm. Follow the path always keeping the River Tarell to your right for approximately 1.5 miles (2.4km). You will cross several stiles, bridges and fields and the edge of Ty Mawr farmyard.
The River Tarell means `spring source’ in Welsh. The river is the source of life for an abundance of animals, from otters to dippers. Salmon and sewin (sea trout) have been known to swim up this river, which is quite some feat, as the River Tarell winds its way with joining the River Usk in Brecon, then continuing to the sea at Newport.
At the far end of Ty Mawr Farm, you will cross a stile through a hedge where the path leads to a bridge across the River Tarell. Crossing the bridge, you will come onto a tarmac road, turn right leading up and past the white cottages called Old Glanrhyd. Keeping straight ahead, follow the road for approximately 300m until you reach the entrance to Coed Carno, with an entrance board to the right. At this point, following steps 6 and 7, you have the option to take an additional route through the semi-ancient woodland up to a disused quarry with panoramic views of Tarell valley, and then back down to re-join the old coach road. Alternatively continue to step 8.
Old brewery and tavern
Glanrhyd cottages used to be a tavern and brewery serving the old coach road back in the 18th century. Drovers would leave their sheep, guarded by their sons, close to the river (in an area marked by pine trees in a circle) and go to the tavern for the evening.
At the entrance to Coed Carno pass through the small gate. Follow the woodland track which winds gently uphill until a fork. At this point bear left and after 100m cross a small stream that runs over the track. Bear right uphill and look out for the waymark that directs you to the path following Beddagi stream. Take care on this section of the walk as the path is narrow, rocky and slippery in places. The stream walk re-joins the track further up. At this point cross over the track, following the path back into the woodland, over an old stone wall. Continue along this path until you cross a second stone wall with a stile leading onto the open hill.
Coed Carno’s wildlife
In spring the woods burst into life, with migrant birds such as pied flycatchers, wood warblers, redstart and chiff chaff flitting between trees and filling the air with song. Bluebells, wood anemone, red campion and lesser celandine push through the woodland floor towards the dappled light filtering through overhead branches.
At this point, stay in the woodland climbing uphill with the boundary wall on your left. After approximately 100m you will reach the disused quarry with panoramic views of the valley. Please take care of the steep drops. From the quarry the path follows the boundary wall, crossing back and forth several times, continuing downhill until reaching a stile leading onto a track. Cross the track back into a wooded dingle, following the path downhill across the stream until you reach some wooden steps, leading back onto the old coach road and turn left. Now follow step 9, omitting step 8.
Passing Coed Carno, continue along the road until you reach Blaenglyn Farmhouse, a National Trust tenanted farm. Keeping the farm buildings to your right you will come to the end of the tarmac road and bear left on the stone track. As you gently climb up the track, you will pass a second building to your right – this is the National Trust ranger base and Dan y Gyrn bunkhouse which is available for weekends away and working holidays. Shortly after passing Dan y Gyrn you will see some wooden steps on your left. This is where the Coed Carno loop re-joins the path.
You are now back on the stoned metalled track of the old coach road. Follow this all the way back up to Storey Arms.
Many of our veteran trees are visible from the old coach road running south to Storey Arms. From a distance they look like any other tree, but up close they’re hollow, gnarled and full of life. Alder, birch, rowan and oak are just a few of the species of trees in the valley.
Storey Arms, grid ref: SN982203
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