Walking in Carmarthenshire

The Shocking State of Carmarthenshire Footpaths

The Official Version
(from the Discover Carmarthenshire website) :

"A walkers' paradise."

"Carmarthenshire has become a hiking hot-spot and is fast gaining a reputation for some of the finest walking terrain around."

The 'Discover Carmarthenshire' website describes the county as 'A Walker's Paradise', and states that it is 'gaining a reputation for some of the finest walking terrain around'. Neither of these statements is even remotely true. Carmarthenshire is almost certainly the most walker-unfriendly county in the whole of England and Wales and is notorious for the terrible state of its Rights-of-Way.

Blaenau Gwent 85%
Swansea 82%
Cardiff 80%
Pembrokeshire 79%
Denbighshire 72%
Vale of Glamorgan 71%
Ceredigion 59%
Isle of Anglesey 51%
Monmouthshire 51%
Carmarthenshire 41%

Figures obtained 2015/16

The table shows the figures I've been able to obtain from other welsh counties, showing the percentage of rights-of-way which are classed as easy-to-use. The figure of 41% for Carmarthenshire (even if it were true - which I doubt) is averaged out over the whole county. Paths in the south and east of the county (and obviously the coast path) are generally in a better condition. To the north and west, the figure is probably below 20%.

In most parts of Britain, it's possible to select a route from an Ordnanace Survey map, and have a good chance of being able to walk that route. The chances of completing a walk of your own choosing in Carmarthenshire are negligible, and in many parts of the county even finding a single path which is fit-for-purpose, is extremely low. Paths are frequently overgrown, signposting and waymarking are rare, barbed wire fences across footpaths are common - almost standard, footbridges are often missing or in a dangerous condition, landowners tell you there is no path anymore or you won't get through. I even had to call the police recently to deal with a problem farmer. IT REALLY IS THAT BAD. The council's favoured excuse is that they have enough footpaths to reach Aberdeen and back, but a glance at an Ordnance Survey map reveals that the density of rights-of-way in Carmarthenshire is no greater than in other Welsh counties, who are able to keep the majority of their footpaths in reasonable condition. The official website also states "There are many different walks in Carmarthenshire" (note the vagueness)! Think about this. If there are enough paths in Carmarthenshire to reach Scotland and back, there should be an almost unlimited number of walks. What the council have done, as a sop to walkers, is to create some recommended routes for which they issue walks leaflets, and attempts are made to keep these routes usable. The leaflets include a good map of the area showing the local paths and the route they want you to take, but should you try to short-cut onto any of the other footpaths, you're likely to find the same problems - overgrown paths, barbed wire fences and no waymarking.

My advice to any intending walker therefore, is simple :

Don't come to Carmarthenshire

You will regret it.

Neighbouring Gower, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion look after their footpaths and are far better choices for walking.

If you do (foolishly) try to walk Carmarthenshire's footpaths, you'll need a map of at least 1:25000 scale (and be extremely good at map-reading), but be warned; many paths are not open due to unresolved legal issues. Some others have been diverted from the line shown on OS maps, but the council rarely waymark the new route or remove old signage!

You'll also need a pair of secateurs to cut overgrowth around stiles and preferably a stick to thrash nettles and brambles - you'll meet plenty of these.

What others say :

From : http://sk53-osm.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/footpaths-in-carmarthenshire-whats-point.html

Late in June I spent nearly a week near Carmarthen. I thought I'd get to know some footpaths local to where I was staying. I was in for a rude awakening: my first serious walk had the following issues:
First footpath, signposted from road. Disappears into someone's garden after about 50 metres. Subsequent enquiries led me to understand that this is indeed its route, but no-one uses it, and the sign was only erected after the occupants of the house tried to have the path re-routed.
Second footpath. Not signed, but led along a nice track along the edge of a field. On crossing a bridge it disappeared. Close consultation of the 25k map suggested it could only go through another garden. This time with a large number of barking dogs. There was someone in the neighbouring garden and I asked about the footpath. "Oh, yes someone came along three years ago looking for it". Indeed the footpath went through the garden, the owners of the house were aware of this and had let people through in the past. I opted not to bother: where would the next obstruction be.
Third footpath. Signed from the road, an obvious path, perhaps even more of an old bridleway. In decent condition. Things looking up.
Fourth footpath. Off the latter path. Started well going through a delightful woodland: with many coppice stools of hazel and evidence of bluebells. At the point where it should have left the wood the path petered out. There was quite a deep stream, a barbed wire fence and a dense thicket of brambles on the other side. Eventually I found a way through, but it took perhaps 20 minutes looking for a decent place. Once through I attracted the attention of horses in the field which was probably not on the footpath. There was a blocked gate which I climbed and the remaining part of the presumed line of the path was through a very rushy field overgrown with thistles. A newish barn and hard standing were located at the point where the path should have reached the road, surrounded by an electric fence.
Fifth footpath. This was shown crossing the valley from an old farmstead. Two parallel tracks led to the farm. An ominous sign was when a middle-aged couple in a BMW asked if they could "help me". The farm had been converted to a house and several bungalows had been built on the site of the outbuildings. They were owners of the former stables, but had never heard of a footpath: and "surely if it existed their solicitor would have told them". I had a search around, and found something which looked vaguely viable at the end of a field. Extensive stands of Himalayan Balsam should have warned me that what looked like dried earth was more likely to have been some kind of slurry. I beat a retreat. Needless to say after attempting a round walk I succeeded in mainly walking along country lanes: perfectly pleasant in themselves, but not what I wanted. After this experience I really lost heart and changed my plans for the rest of the week.

From : http://davidswalks2.blogspot.co.uk

By the time I had clambered out of my last Valley, I was in Carmarthenshire, pleasant if unspectacular rolling countryside, let down by the (in my experience) unprecedentedly appalling state of the footpaths.

When I did resume my walk, I quickly discovered that the state of the footpaths in this county was pretty ropey. They haven't improved. If you're lucky, you get a sign at the roadside, but after that you are pretty much on your own. Stiles are often rotten or broken, waymarks are almost non-existent, and conditions underfoot are frequently horrendous. To cross Carmarthenshire on foot, it helps to be willing and able to climb gates and fences, and where the footpath has disappeared altogether it's good to be handy with a map and willing to trespass. If (a path) is, say, near a farm, or in any other way inconvenient, a conspiracy of silence comes into play. The council don't mark it, there are no stiles or gates, and landowner simply denies its existence.

From : http://www.carmarthenjournal.co.uk/footpaths-open/story-16514896-detail/story.html

Having tried to walk the footpaths around Abercorran [a farm north-west of Laugharne], it is not so much the fact that there are no right of way signs on the paths, but the fact that the paths are impassable. Hedges are overgrown, paths are blocked and various earthworks force you to walk through streams. Walkers face many obstacles in Carmarthenshire, with missing footpath signs, paths blocked, and landowners preventing walkers crossing their land. It is great to see that there have been big efforts to open up new stretches of path with the opening of the Wales Coast Path, and no doubt Carmarthenshire Council's footpath team have been busy getting this open. However, now is the time to look at all the footpaths across the county and help make Carmarthenshire a destination for walkers. Landowners have as much obligation to keep paths accessible as the council do. Neighbouring Pembrokeshire do it so well, it puts Carmarthenshire to shame.

Gallery of Carmarthenshire footpaths - the Reality of Walking in Carmarthenshire

These are NOT just isolated problems; they are typical of what you'll find if you're foolish enough to attempt walking in this county. You have been warned!
All of these problems have been reported. A few have been resolved, but most of them haven't
somewhere

If you try following footpaths in Carmarthenshire, you'll very likely end up lost, somewhere like this. All trace of a path has disappeared, waymarking is non-existent, conditions underfoot are muddy and there are barbed wire fences where there should be a stile.

Is this a remote path miles from anywhere? No - it's just a mile from the offices of the council's Rights-of-Way department!

blocked footpath

The path goes straight ahead!

somewhere

"A walker's paradise"

blocked footpath

Where the footpath meets the road, there should be a stile, but here you get a barbed wire fence and a hedge instead.

illegal sign on footpath

'Whatever path you choose to take in Carmarthenshire you will discover a warm Welsh welcome' - so says the official website.

footpath

"Some of the finest walking terrain around."

illegal sign on footpath

Another illegal sign on a footpath

footpath obstruction

A thick hedge across a path near Bancycapel

blocked footpath

A barbed wire fence and a ditch must be crossed to continue on this path.

footpath

Shortly after following this muddy path down a field, it disappears altogether

river crossing

The footpath crosses the river, but there's no bridge and a few barbed wire fences to climb

path junction

A choice of paths. Both are overgrown and impassable.

kissing gate

Spot the kissing gate! It's buried in the hedgerow, and just for good measure, there are barbed wire fences on both sides

SWTRA footpath

At Nantycaws on the A48. The South Wales Trunk Road Agency should keep footpaths clear within their boundaries, but in Carmarthenshire they don't bother.

sleeper bridge

This 'footbridge' near Meidrim is a double-length railway sleeper, which has rotted right through lengthwise. It could be easily replaced by stepping stones, but (according to the council) these have 'Health and Safety issues'!

pont abraham

At Pont Abraham Services (end of M4). If you need to stretch your legs (or your dog's) after a long motorway drive, try footpath 33/48 at the entrance to the service area. The path (which is not sign-posted) descends the buttress of the river bridge and continues along a narrow, overgrown river bank.

somewhere

Note the 'Footpath' sign and waymarking arrow on a (recently cleared) stile. So what's wrong? This path was diverted months ago and doesn't go this way anymore!

footpath obstruction

Crossing one of SEVEN barbed wire fences on this path