Monday, 27 October 2014

10 reasons why I loved Afan Forest's Y Wal (The Wall) trail

I live in Berkshire, UK and regularly have the pleasure of riding the Swinley Forest mountain bike trails. I ride the blue with the dog and the red for myself. I mix it up between a single speed and a 5 inch trail bike, and un-expectantly, the speed at which I get around for both is averagely the same.

They're capable bikes and when you get to know a trail well enough you can almost ride them blindfolded. But there's only a certain number of times you can ride a trail in different ways, bikes or conditions before things start to go stale. And that's why, on a cold and wet day in October, I decided to head to the colder and wetter place of Afan Forest in Wales.

Top 10 reasons why I loved the Y Wal (The Wall) trail


  1. It starts easy. There's a bit of a climb and then down onto an open hillside. Perfect warm-up
  2. The boring parts are simple. To go down, you need to go up. And fortunately for Y Wal, the ups are mainly on wide smooth(ish) tracks, that although make ascending a tad boring, you get to the downs so much more quickly
  3. The terrain changes. I went from open land, to mud, to gravel, to leaves, to rock, to soft groud and back to rock, which offers variety and keeps things interesting
  4. The smile on my face got bigger all the way around. I loved the first little bit, I genuinely did (honestly, it's the most basic bit ever), but it got me started and then I loved the next bit more than the first and then the next bit more than the first and secon... you get the point. The last part of the trail, the Graveyard, was easily the best bit of the whole ride
  5. If you go mid-week, like I did (a Thursday morning) it's utterly empty. I didn't over-take anyone, didn't have anyone over-take me and in fact the only people I saw, except for two groups of mountain bikers trying to solve a mechanical issue by gathering around and staring at it, was only the occasional dog walker along a track
  6. Getting there is really easy. Get to the M4 > Go to junction 40 > Follow signs to Afan Forest Visitor Centre > Ride
  7. The trails start right from the car park too and they're sign-posted so there's no faff or searching to get started. Costs only £1 to park for the whole day too
  8. The trail is a loop. If you want to go around again, you can turn back onto the trail before heading back to the car park and bypass the most basic part of the trail
  9. There are no jumps along the trail. It's always a challenge to ride a new 'red' trail. Does this mean jumps and drop offs? Will I fall and be all on my own for the foxes and owls to devour? For the Y Wal trail, no, not at all. There are places where you can jump, but that's only if you make the concerted effort to launch yourself off rocks and trail features
  10. The trails are named. At Swinley, all the trails have names and I have no idea what they are; it's only for those in the know (or probably a 5 minute Google search). At Y Wal, and presumably across all of Afan Forest, the trails are sign-posted which means I know where I am should I come a cropper
The views were amazing before the fog rolled in

Will I go back?

For sure. Next time though I'll probably ride the W2 trail, which is a combination of the Y Wal trail and White's Level. It's graded black, but that's because of the duration. It's essentially two reds back to back.

Garmin trace of Y Wal

Trail guide

Download the Y Wal trail guide from the Afan Forest Park website.

Garmin

I took my 910XT with me and recorded both loops separately. Here's the data for those interested.

Lap 1 and lap 2 of Y Wal, Afan Forest.