Wild Wanderings in Wales

carlberry

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Joined
19 Dec 2014
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2,946
As @TheGrandWazoo (and others) have done write-ups of their travels I thought I should contribute! Whilst it’s just two journeys with New Adventure the comments ramble on about various things so I've started a new thread and the mods can move it if needed!

There used to be a series of subsidised leisure services in the Brecon Beacons national park called 'Beacons Bus'. Basically services from a lot of points in South Wales converging in Brecon and a few all day routes that allowed people to make linear walks. Whilst it disappeared many years ago improvements to Traws Cymru and connected services mean that some areas have better services than ever (including some Sunday services that have returned after many years) offering good linear walking opportunities.

The Amanford-Ystradglynlais service hasn’t improved as much as others however the timetable appeared to offer a journey that was tightly timed to connect into a T6 service which would allow a walk back over part of Black Mountain. (A quick Health and Safety note; this area is the least frequented in the National Park; please follow all the usual advice very carefully if walking here).

The T6 is one of the few examples of rail replacement bus services from the beaching era actually still running. By the 1980s it had 4 journeys each way, usually worked by Bristol VRs as an operational convenience. At deregulation the same journeys ran as a subsidised service using Optare City Pacers which matched the actual demand. Subsequently it’s gone through different operators however still with the same basic service level until a couple of years ago when it had a serious upgrade (which it still retains) with hourly services on weekdays and a Sunday service introduced that was similar to the previous weekday service. I suspect loadings have improved as a result however it was from a low base and I can’t imagine the current service level will be retained long term.

I arrived at Ystradowen for the 64 New Adventure service in good time and then spent some time on Bustimes finding that its outward journey had left 7 minutes late and it was 10 minutes late starting its journey back. It duly arrived 10 minutes late so not a good start.

£2.30 for the 3 1/2 mile journey into Ystradglynlais and the 7 year old bus rattled and squeaked in the usual way of E200s with a good load of passengers. Somehow several minutes were made up on the journey but not helped by the usual habit that bus services have of ignoring signs that point towards the destination so they can go and serve some obscure estate! Arriving 5 minutes late the Brecon T6 had left already and the Swansea one was only prevented from doing the same by the driver of our bus parking across the bus station entrance! This was clearly appreciated as the majority of our passengers then transferred buses. With the hourly service the missed connection wasn’t a major issue, just annoying.

Ystradglynlais bus station opened a few years ago and is vast (given that it replaced a couple of bus stops). It’s clearly designed to facilitate interchange between services (even if they clearly aren’t expected to be held) but, other than parked up buses, remained empty for most of the time I had to spend. Despite its size and newness (which I assume meant it cost a lot) it all feels a little run down. The pedestrian entrance is slightly downhill from the local car wash which drains across the walkway which is a great welcome, it has a closed building that might have been designed as a waiting room and an electronic sign that was telling the temperature and had various adverts for Powys (which was odd as anybody looking at it is already in Powys of course). In some future world it might be possible to connect a sign like this using electrickery of some kind to receive signals from a distant computer that could list the buses that were expected to arrive, perhaps even have updates from the buses themselves via carrier pigeons. Who knows what will be possible! Anyway, another classic example of having some capital budget to spend on things then ignoring them as soon as the running costs have to come out of the revenue budget!

The extra time I had in Ystradglynlais allowed a visit to Greggs (I’m not a gourmet!) before returning to the bus station. A Traws Cymru branded vehicles had arrived and parked up in the back of the yard and the return 64 service made good its escape (10 minutes before the next T6 services arrive; however at least this was timetabled not to connect) and the Brecon T6 arrived as an unbranded Metrocity. This then disgorged its passengers with an instruction to get onto the bus ‘over there’ as it was going out of service. The result of this was one of the passengers wondering around the bus station asking the Swansea bound T6 which had now arrived if it was the correct service, then being told it was the one at the back only to be told to go back to the waiting area after he’d wondered over to it. There then followed a small dance to swap the vehicles onto the correct stand as, clearly, using any of the numerous empty stands to allow this swap was going to break some rule somewhere. 2 other passengers were on board as we left 4 minutes late (now why couldn’t that happen on the last journey!) for a 7 mile journey that only cost £2.10.

The majority of vehicles on the T6 are now recent Metrocities. They were bought for the Cardiff Airport service but arrived just as the service was stopped because of Covid however, such was the Welsh Government’s determination that normal bus passengers shouldn’t be allowed to use them, they sat unused for a whole year until they finally decided to let them be used on the T6 as they were too old for airport passengers. They’re essentially what would have been called ‘dual purpose’ vehicles which kind of fits with the Traws Cymru services in that they’re promoted as long distances services but provide local bus services over most of their mileage. They’re comfortable and pleasant enough however the ticketing equipment makes the usual rattles and the seats squeak in a way that must be designed in as they haven’t actually been overused!

I left the bus with its remaining passenger at the Tafarn y Garreg which has recently reopened as a pub. I’d been planning a swift half however the delay mean it was prudent to start the walk; as I only just managed to get back in daylight this was a good move. As I said at the start, quite a bit of waffle about two bus journeies so thank you to anybody who’s made it this far!
 
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TheGrandWazoo

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As @TheGrandWazoo (and others) have done write-ups of their travels I thought I should contribute! Whilst it’s just two journeys with New Adventure the comments ramble on about various things so I've started a new thread and the mods can move it if needed!

There used to be a series of subsidised leisure services in the Brecon Beacons national park called 'Beacons Bus'. Basically services from a lot of points in South Wales converging in Brecon and a few all day routes that allowed people to make linear walks. Whilst it disappeared many years ago improvements to Traws Cymru and connected services mean that some areas have better services than ever (including some Sunday services that have returned after many years) offering good linear walking opportunities.

The Amanford-Ystradglynlais service hasn’t improved as much as others however the timetable appeared to offer a journey that was tightly timed to connect into a T6 service which would allow a walk back over part of Black Mountain. (A quick Health and Safety note; this area is the least frequented in the National Park; please follow all the usual advice very carefully if walking here).

The T6 is one of the few examples of rail replacement bus services from the beaching era actually still running. By the 1980s it had 4 journeys each way, usually worked by Bristol VRs as an operational convenience. At deregulation the same journeys ran as a subsidised service using Optare City Pacers which matched the actual demand. Subsequently it’s gone through different operators however still with the same basic service level until a couple of years ago when it had a serious upgrade (which it still retains) with hourly services on weekdays and a Sunday service introduced that was similar to the previous weekday service. I suspect loadings have improved as a result however it was from a low base and I can’t imagine the current service level will be retained long term.

I arrived at Ystradowen for the 64 New Adventure service in good time and then spent some time on Bustimes finding that its outward journey had left 7 minutes late and it was 10 minutes late starting its journey back. It duly arrived 10 minutes late so not a good start.

£2.30 for the 3 1/2 mile journey into Ystradglynlais and the 7 year old bus rattled and squeaked in the usual way of E200s with a good load of passengers. Somehow several minutes were made up on the journey but not helped by the usual habit that bus services have of ignoring signs that point towards the destination so they can go and serve some obscure estate! Arriving 5 minutes late the Brecon T6 had left already and the Swansea one was only prevented from doing the same by the driver of our bus parking across the bus station entrance! This was clearly appreciated as the majority of our passengers then transferred buses. With the hourly service the missed connection wasn’t a major issue, just annoying.

Ystradglynlais bus station opened a few years ago and is vast (given that it replaced a couple of bus stops). It’s clearly designed to facilitate interchange between services (even if they clearly aren’t expected to be held) but, other than parked up buses, remained empty for most of the time I had to spend. Despite its size and newness (which I assume meant it cost a lot) it all feels a little run down. The pedestrian entrance is slightly downhill from the local car wash which drains across the walkway which is a great welcome, it has a closed building that might have been designed as a waiting room and an electronic sign that was telling the temperature and had various adverts for Powys (which was odd as anybody looking at it is already in Powys of course). In some future world it might be possible to connect a sign like this using electrickery of some kind to receive signals from a distant computer that could list the buses that were expected to arrive, perhaps even have updates from the buses themselves via carrier pigeons. Who knows what will be possible! Anyway, another classic example of having some capital budget to spend on things then ignoring them as soon as the running costs have to come out of the revenue budget!

The extra time I had in Ystradglynlais allowed a visit to Greggs (I’m not a gourmet!) before returning to the bus station. A Traws Cymru branded vehicles had arrived and parked up in the back of the yard and the return 64 service made good its escape (10 minutes before the next T6 services arrive; however at least this was timetabled not to connect) and the Brecon T6 arrived as an unbranded Metrocity. This then disgorged its passengers with an instruction to get onto the bus ‘over there’ as it was going out of service. The result of this was one of the passengers wondering around the bus station asking the Swansea bound T6 which had now arrived if it was the correct service, then being told it was the one at the back only to be told to go back to the waiting area after he’d wondered over to it. There then followed a small dance to swap the vehicles onto the correct stand as, clearly, using any of the numerous empty stands to allow this swap was going to break some rule somewhere. 2 other passengers were on board as we left 4 minutes late (now why couldn’t that happen on the last journey!) for a 7 mile journey that only cost £2.10.

The majority of vehicles on the T6 are now recent Metrocities. They were bought for the Cardiff Airport service but arrived just as the service was stopped because of Covid however, such was the Welsh Government’s determination that normal bus passengers shouldn’t be allowed to use them, they sat unused for a whole year until they finally decided to let them be used on the T6 as they were too old for airport passengers. They’re essentially what would have been called ‘dual purpose’ vehicles which kind of fits with the Traws Cymru services in that they’re promoted as long distances services but provide local bus services over most of their mileage. They’re comfortable and pleasant enough however the ticketing equipment makes the usual rattles and the seats squeak in a way that must be designed in as they haven’t actually been overused!

I left the bus with its remaining passenger at the Tafarn y Garreg which has recently reopened as a pub. I’d been planning a swift half however the delay mean it was prudent to start the walk; as I only just managed to get back in daylight this was a good move. As I said at the start, quite a bit of waffle about two bus journeies so thank you to anybody who’s made it this far!
No @carlberry - most interesting as it's an area I know vaguely having driven through there several times but never travelled by bus on those routes.

Last time I was in Ystradynlais, it was the day after I'd been told I was being made redundant, so perhaps that clouds my recollection of the place. However, I remember seeing the capacious bus station on a truly miserable day, wondering why there was such an oversized facility in that town, thinking who would change buses there....well @carlberry would.
 

Dai Corner

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Joined
20 Jul 2015
Messages
3,390
Thanks for an interesting trip report Carl. £2.10 for a seven mile journey seems cheap compared with your earlier fare.

I think they charged something like £9 for the 15 miles on the same vehicles between Cardiff and the airport.

Market pricing at its best!

I'd been thinking of doing Newport-Cardiff-Neath-Brecon-Merthyr-Cardiff-Newport by bus. If/when I get round to it I'll write it up if people are interested.
 

carlberry

Established Member
Joined
19 Dec 2014
Messages
2,946
An excellent report! Any photos?... :E

36.JPG
I only took two, neither of which were vehicles I traveled on! New Adventure YJ59NNB and VX64VRE parked up up in the bus station. This is the parking area, the actual station is to the left. I suspect YJ59NNB was being used as a drivers rest room.

37.JPG
The only other picture I manged was YX64VRE on a local service. The bus station is to the right of the picture and the previous stops were dotted around this junction.

Very good. Perhaps you could report briefly on your walk on Mynydd ddu/the black Mountain.
I'll do a quick report just in case the mods start deleting stuff for going off topic and featuring holiday snaps!
Mynydd ddu is the correct (Welsh) name for the area, usually called Black Mountain by the English and not the same as the Black Mountains. The most spectacular part is the main (North) ridge which consists of three different summits over two lakes however my aim was to walk parts that I hadn't visited before which was the Fan Hir ridge then head west across the moorland to the top of Afon Twrch then walk down the Twrch gorge. (Again this misses out Cwm Haffes and Sinc Giedd which are more scenic). The only other people seen were a couple on Fan Hir and the only problem was getting lost in a wood very close to the end of the walk (which is preferable to getting lost during the moorland part which can be fatal). As you can see the weather was good (strictly too hot and too much haze, however no mist/rain which can easily turn a walk like this into a serious undertaking.

For those with a desire to do a linear walk like this my recommendation would be an area where there are likely to be more people around and route finding is easier. An example would be using the T4 Libanus - Storey Arms on the bus then walk up Pen y Fan and return via Llyn Cwm Llwch or walk up Fan Fawr then return via Craig Cerrig gleisiad. And be properly equipped to cope with conditions changing; the local mountain rescue group dont want any more rescues involving flip flops and T shirts in winter.

53.JPG
Pen y Fan and Corn Du in the far distance and Fan Gyhirych in the middle distance from Fan Hir

61.JPG
Llyn y Fan Fawr below Fan Brycheiniog

68.JPG
The top of Afon Twrch (the only feature for miles around at this point!).
 
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TheGrandWazoo

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Excellent photos @carlberry! Looks like you had a great day.
Seconded - tremendous photos and shows what you can access by public transport and not necessarily climbing into your metal box and driving there! To be fair, I've travelled on the T4 and seen plenty of people get on/off at Storey Arms so people do use these routes for their leisure activities; we just need more people to do so and leave the car behind.

ps I know I'm a hypocrite as I've driven through the Beacons too many times :rolleyes:
 

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