ROBIN and Pepper from Penarth and District Ramblers along with four companions headed west to explore the Mellte and Nedd Fechan Valleys beginning from a car park north of Ystradfellte where the Beacons Way crosses the River Llia.

Ystradfellte is a small village in the Fforest Fawr area of the Brecon Beacons National Park and the village derives its name from the River Mellte which is formed by the confluence of the rivers Llia and Dringarth and flows southwards to Pontneddfechan where it becomes the River Neath.

Heading out along the road in a southerly direction on a cold and misty morning with brighter weather coming in almost straight away, a track led to a path on Ystradfellte Common and passing two people dressed in camouflage gear leaning on a fence along with the presence of shotguns and hounds in the area, meant a hunt was underway.

Following a grassy track across the common taking care to avoid some small crags and even larger sink holes, tracks and paths led them to Porth yr Ogof car park.

At this point the River Mellte disappears underground at the mouth of Porth yr Ogof cave which is 20m wide and 3m high and a very popular place for cavers, as well as walkers and visitors.

At one time it was referred to as ‘white horse cave’ because of all the calcite streaks inside the cave which resemble the head of a horse.

Continuing southwards beside the river passing some of the many visitors and sightseers out enjoying the dry weather and pretty scenery, further downstream a small footbridge led them across the Mellte.

Mellte is the Welsh word for lightning and this river tends to rise and fall very rapidly during and after heavy rainfall.

With all the rain that had fallen during the week prior to this walk the river was flowing well and at Sgwd Clun-gwyn or white meadow fall, the amount of water cascading down was impressive.

Crossing from the Mellte towards the Nedd Fechan River in the upper Neath Valley a bridleway led on to the gated bridge of Pont-Rhyd-y-cnau or Nutsford Bridge and a stop for lunch.

Then turning northwards on the edge of the densely forested Coed y Rhaiadr, a little known pathway along the riverbank which was tricky underfoot in places eventually led them out into a field above the river.

Joining part of the infamous Roman road Sarn Helen which runs for around 160 miles from north Wales to south, parts of the ancient cobbled surface are still visible in places.

A good track led them in a north easterly direction and joining the Beacons Way and re-crossing the River Nedd Fechan the track led on to a standing stone.

Maen Madoc stands at 2.7m high and bears a Latin inscription which over the years of wear and tear has become difficult to read.

The words are Dervacus Filius Justi Ic Jacit which translated is Dervacus, Son of Justus, he lies here and although this was a popular sixth century Roman name, it is possible the stone may well be much older and relate to the Bronze Age.

Just to the north of this stone hidden within a forestry plantation is Plas-y-gors which was a Roman marching camp that possibly was built to protect an encampment, but may only have been occupied for one night at a time when legions were passing through.

Making a stop at Llew Coch or the Red Lion in Penderyn for refreshments on the way home rounded off a great day.

On February 19, meet 9am at Cogan Leisure Centre for a 13-mile moderate walk taking in Craig Ogwr and the Ogmore Forest; contact John R on 07484 844 533.

Wear suitable clothing, preferably boots and carry waterproofs, food and drinks. Some degree of fitness is required and if you are in any doubt, then please contact the walk leader for advice.

To follow the group please log onto or Facebook. Programmes and membership advice can be obtained from Pam on 029 2025 5102.