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Machen Trail Races
All routes are subject to final confirmation. Final route confirmation will be provided in the pre-race briefing
Machen Trail Half Marathon
The race begins with a short section of road through a quiet residential area to help thin the runners. At the end of the cul-de-sac, you'll turn left onto the old railway that served the forge, Following the old railway through some pretty woods will take you to a small footbridge across the pretty Afon Rhymni. You'll enter the field with the viaduct and we run under the right hand arches.
Going under the right hand arch a little path takes us onto another old railway line, which would have crossed the viaduct. You'll then have an extremely pretty run through the woods to Wellington. Carefully crossing directly across the road to a well hidden footpath to a small lane. Turning left to follow it to the end and into a field to circumnavigate the house and into more woodland. Keeping to the path all the way through, and out into a short field section, over a rickety stile and into what has to be one of the hidden woodland gems of South Wales. There is nothing I can say that is exceptional about this wood, but there is something just perfect about it. Is it the pretty little brook that runs alongside the path? Is it the old workings that break the surface occasionally revealing some industrial secret heritage? Or maybe it is the treacherous river crossing that is only about a metre across and a couple of feet high, so not that dangerous really, is what draws us? Or maybe it's the feeling that this path is only known to a few, and now you? Whatever it is, this a special wood.
At the end of the wood, you'll take a sharp right so as not to enter the road, and up toward Rudry Community Hall. Carefully crossing the road, and a runnable half tarmac, half trail rough road takes us to a completely different environment, Rudry Common, with its bracken, open country and a maze of paths. You'll pass the car park and head back into Van Road woodlands. Past the Mountain Bike park and out onto the road toward Caerphilly.
A short climb along a runnable woodland firetrack takes us to the top of Coed Y Werin (The People's Wood). This really is a very pretty place. Littered with old workings, foundry works, traditional fences, Lily and Iris covered wildlife ponds - the small reserve certainly packs a punch! On the climb up over the ridge you see a tower, which is the breather for the Caerphilly - Cardiff Train tunnel. Following the woodland path we slowly but surely climb up the ridge. Don't worry, if it's not hilly enough, it does get steeper! A slower pace will allow you time to appreciate the amazing trees, some are massive and very old. The gate is a welcome relief to know you've made it to the top.
Keeping straight on and ignoring the turn to the right you will find another old wooden gate which enters Cefn Onn Country Park. Once at the brow, keep an eye out for the sign taking you off the main trail. The main trail is famously boggy. A little turn to the left keeps us on the ridge and a very enjoyable single track descent as an alternative.
Once back on the track, a very steep staircase brings us down toward our first checkpoint. You'll see another breather tower for the rail tunnel, which makes it hard to believe that it's the same line, given our journey since the last one. At the wooden gate make sure you turn right down the hill toward the checkpoint and into the park. After the checkpoint, you'll retrace your steps to the wooden gate and take a right turn onto a wide track. You'll then head up a short hill and through a metal gate, which helps avoid some road section. A short steep climb brings us back to the ridge.
There's now a nice long runnable section over the summit and past a trig point. If you are summit bagging, you'll need to keep an eye open for it - hidden in a field just past an industrial looking mast unit. This is the second trig of the day for the marathoners.
A nice long run will now take you down the hill, which becomes increasingly technical. Ignore all the turnings right and left and keep going to the bottom and the forestry firetrack. You'll turn left and left again, and see another hill. Rather than another climb, a cheeky little turn to the right takes us onto a secret little path, meandering through the woods. Now for our favourite section of the race. Did I mention that the woods just before Radyr were my favourite? Well these put up a good show, and could also be our favourite. After a steep descent and crossing a pretty little stream via a wooden bridge you'll follow a little single track path parallel to the stream. The woods here are perfect all year around. So pretty and magical.
As we gently descend the running is good, but it seems such a shame to rush at this point. Such precious places should be savoured. Maybe come back with the kids one summer day for a paddle. Crossing the firetrack and continuing alongside the pretty stream, we finaly come to a rickety bridge. Despite its strong beams, the sleepers are deceptively wobbly. It may be better to ford the stream if you are not brave at heart. You'll then head into the field and run toward the pony paddocks, through the gate and pass between the paddocks. Don't take the more obvious footpaths into the woods, you are on a path - the Rhymney Ridgeway.
After the pony paddocks, enter directly into the wood, don't turn left toward the farm. A track up through the woods take us to a field, usually with a few naughty escaped sheep eating grass they ought not. Bearing up and to the left is a tricky to track path, Once past the trees, keep high and work toward the houses you see. There is a gate there, honest!
Once on the road you'll take a short little run onto a wide track. Please be careful with this road, it can be busy, and there may be chickens on the road too! You'll now reach your second check point.
After the second checkpoint, the path is easy to follow, A right turn past the large house leads us down to Ruperra Castle, which has a fascinating history including being an MOD base during the war. You'll head past the castle and take a hidden left turn. Don't worry, the climb isnt long, and there is a really lovely descent all the way down to Draethen.
You'll take a left up the road, and right onto a path that looks like a house driveway (because it is!). Just before the gate to the house is a little path, which takes us around it and into the woods. Your last hill of the day is here and it's a long one, or it will feel it after 12 miles. Luckily it is very pretty.
Once on the top, take a right turn onto the firetrack and enjoy the last mile as you follow the forestry path downhill back to Machen. Head straight over the road as you leave the woods, down the narrow path and to the Afon Rhymni - which we crossed so early in the race. And its race over - sadly. So nice to finish, but such a shame to not be on an amazing wonderful route, with magical woods, glens and history. We hope you'll be back again next year!
Machen Trail Marathon
PLEASE NOTE: The race route has now changed and this section of the race will be run AFTER not BEFORE the section above. GPX files and maps have been updated.
The route starts on the old railway linking Machen to Bedwas. A walk along this cycleway is well worth it, as there are still old signals and points of interest along it. Sights not for us on the race.
Patience is called for on the first few hundred metres. Hares out of the trap will shoot along the short tarmac section of cycle path and onto some residential streets that sit alongside the old railway, evidence of which is clear to see.
Those hares will soon be caught by the mountain goats as the steep hill, that takes us up to the ridge, starts. Did we say steep?! Patience is called for here, conserving a little energy until you're off the tarmac will pay dividends later in the day. The road section finishes just over 1K into the race, - did we mention the hill?
A marked turn to the right finally takes us onto trails, a lovely old track that gloriously takes us onto the ridge. Out of a wooded track and onto open fields. Your experience very much depends on the weather - which is the wonder of Wales, no two days are ever the same. Clear days - amazing views over the channel; Foggy days, an eerie silence that provides a wonderful feeling of being so remote and far from the madding crowd.
A short drop to a timing point (only a short way into the race, but we will be back here later). Then along the very runnable Rhymney Ridgeway Path. The gradient is slightly uphill, but you can really make good progress along this easily followed track for the next 3.5 miles. Apart from the occasional 4 Wheel Drive gouged puddle, the track is in good condition and excellent for running, whilst providing excellent views of the maze of wooded valleys that is South Wales.
There are sometimes cattle near the end of the trail section. For those a little nervous of our bovine friends this is a good opportunity to come a little closer. They are possibly the most docile and uninterested cattle i've ever known. The old breeds here may glance up, but will then get on with the more serious work of eating.
After a brief speedy road section, a hard right at a very black telegraph pole, A fun technical descent down a very old track leads us to the Sirhowy Valley path, For me the very best bit of the day, after a meander through a bit of woods and open bracken sections the route enters the country park, and a truly wonderful descent, through old woodland that is pure joy. Just steep enough to fly, but not so steep. Simply pure fun that reminds you of why trail running is the very best sport there is.
At the bottom, up an old river bed, and out into managed woodland. Watch your map and for race markings, a few tricky turns to keep on the race route. If you do get lost - keep travelling east, and try to get back up onto the Ridgeway.
After a mile or two, a short sharp climb takes you onto another forestry track, and the final run along the bottom of the valley. We now climb back onto the ridgeway, through some wonderful beech woods, and the timing point we passed through some time ago.
A short climb up a track that has some very loose rocks takes us to another lovely runnable section. The masts of our highest point of the day sit on the horizon teasing us with their closeness, yet still some miles away, Finally - Machen Mountain! We hope the weather is clear to reward you, with amazing vistas of all South Wales and west of England.
Make sure to travel east from the Summit Bagging Trig point. There are many paths, so keep an eye to turn right when possible. You will see the coniferous forest on your right and you should try and get there if you can. From the Trig, follow the main path Eastwards down hill for a few hundred metres, and you should see a clear path to the right. In fact, just take any path to the right once off the summit! They should lead you to a single track path through the woods, and off the mountain. A suprisingly technical descent, often used by fell races brings you back to the race venue, the start of the 2nd half of the race, and the Half Marathon section........
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