Monday 15 September 2014


Looking south over the river in Glanamman

Unfortunately I can't make it tomorrow to the Carmarthenshire Let's Get Physical! event in Ammanford - but I will cover it of course.

Meanwhile on Sunday I anticipated the event by cycling from Ammanford to Brynamman and back (about 15 miles) on the new off-road track which has recently been developed. At the moment there are no guides to it as far as I can see but there is some signage on the ground and it is marked on the Sustrans web-site here. Otherwise you can find the substantive start of the route 100 yards short of where Ammanford High Street hits the A474 east of the centre.

But come on, Carmarthenshire County Council, where is the leaflet and on-line guide we need to promote this?

Brynamman RFC: these playing fields are iconic landmarks in our industrial villages. The cycle path passes directly in front of the stand but you might not want to do that during a match unless you were prepared for a barrage of satire

It's a great route through fantastic countryside weaving back and forth across the Amman which is a delight - all natural, not one of the canalised drainage systems full of shopping trolleys which too many of industrial South Wales' rivers became, though they are getting cleaned up slowly.

Pausing to contemplate the river at one of several crossings - I spotted a huge, venerable heron but it flew off languidly before I got my camera out

And yet you are unmistakably in industrial - or formerly industrial - Wales as witnessed by the remains of heavy industry and the familiar housing stock from the late 19c to the late 20c. Also unmistakable because it is a safe bet to greet people in Welsh around here, unlike (oddly enough) much of rural West Wales, because there are precious few newcomers and even fewer tourists (and there won't be any in future if there is no publicity about the cycle route).

And if like me your Welsh is limited then cycling is a safe place to practice because if your interlocutor responds with something you don't understand it doesn't matter because you have already disappeared 200 yards down the road in a whirr of spinning wheels and the crunch of derailleur gears.

I wonder if my grandfather, then vicar of Ammanford, would have raced his motorbike up the Amman Valley on sunny September mornings 100 years ago? How could he have resisted, though he would have needed goggles and a scarf over his mouth to screen the smoke and dust which in those days invested this outpost of thriving Welsh heavy industry?

A welcome sight: passing Lidl (another iconic landmark of post-industrial communities) means you are nearly back in Ammanford centre...