The Penrhys Pilgrims
With one long run left to go before Marathon Eryri, one bright spark suggested that the ancient pilgrimmage route from Penrhys to Llandaf Cathedral would be a great last long slow run; and offer something different to Run Grangetown’s normal territory of the Cardiff bay barrage and the coastal parth. On the 16th of October, four aspiring pilgrims set off from Grangetown to tackle the Pilgrims Way, Emma Harris, Richard Carr, Leon Hughes (the aforementioned bright spark) and Dafydd Trystan.
Having taken the train to Ystrad the first task was to get to Penrhys. The gentle jog up from the train station was not gentle and at times barely a jog, but by the time our four intreprid adventurers had reached the statue of Our Lady of Penrhys; the added description on google maps ‘Pray for Us’ was well understood. The hill to Penrhys for those unfamiliar is a pretty brutal one mile incline all the way to Penrhys!
With the sun shining and the Rhondda Valley laid out below, the pilgrimmage began. The first part was a gentle section through Rhondda golf club, with a few bemused golfers wondering why there were runners heading through relatively early on a Sunday morning. Having avoided the flying golf balls there was then a steep descent into Dinas. Here another friendly local couldn’t quite work out why anyone would be running to Cardiff, but having regained her composure offered a lift to ASDAs as she was heading there for her weekly shop!
Having navigated friendly locals, the next challenge was a steep uphill section from Dinas towards Trebanog. Here our pigrims were met by very few signs of any description and the carcass of a dead sheep! If it was a sign, it was a clear signal that challenging navigation was ahead; and much discussion along with some running the wrong direction took place on top of the next mountainside. After some time, the path of righteousness was found again, and the runners were greeted for their efforts by some lovely mountain ponies. Emma, could probably have stayed and petted the ponies for sometime; but as Dafydd would remind us all the time had come to press on.
Now Trebanog to Tonyrefail should have been relatively easy. But while the spirit of the runners was never in question, their navigation skills may have been! At one point, along with another walker who was also lost in his quest for Tonyreafail, the runners had to contend with head high ferns and knee high bracken. Dafydd at this point, who had chosen shorts and a t-shirt for his adventure may have resorted to some agricultural language describing those who came before ‘F***ing pilgrims’. But, despite the challenges Tonyrefail soon came into view, and the prospect of the blessing of three saints propelled our pilgrims forward to Llantrisant.
Having paid their respects at the Llan (and had a well earned pause in the square), our pilgrims fortified by the spirit of the adventure set off again. On a particularly sharp descent, some familiar faces greeted the runners and encouraged them onwards to their ultimate destination, and once the by pass was crossed then the homeward stretch began to come into focus.
Following Llantrisant the next point of interest was Pant y Brad, where it is said that Edward II was captured in 1326. Thankfully there was no such treason in store for our interpid runners some 700 years later; though some friendly alpaccas in a field did lift some of the tiredness for a few hundred metres!
Having left the site of Edward’s capture behind the pilgrimmage arrived at the outskirts proper of Cardiff, and with a brief comfort break at a local pub, the runners were once again on the road. The route now was a proper cross country, up and down, plenty of trails all the way to Radyr. By now some 5 hours after starting, all of the water had been consumed, all of the flapjacks prepared had been consumed, and the pilgrims had begun hallucinating about the welcoming bells of Llandaf cathedral. There was a brief discussion as to whether the Spar in Radyr might be close enough to offer some supplies; but even the half a mile detour was veteoed as legs were properly tired by now!
A few miles later, with the Taf itself as company, the spire of the Cathedral came into view and the pilgrimmage came to an end with four tired but inspired runners. Appropriately enough the run came to an end as a service was starting at the Cathedral, so our pigrims rested their weary limbs on the steps of the Cathedral listening to evensong. Our Lady of Penrhys had indeed guided them well to their destination after all.