Neath Abbey Quarry is a dark reddish, sandstone crag on the edge of the Mynnyd Drumau, in the south of Wales just shy of Swansea. Apparently, in 2002 the cliffs fell down (to the surprise of the inhabitants) creating a jumble of rocks and a bouldering playground that has been recently developed, primarily by Liam Fyfe and Alex Mannion. We went to check it out last week on an unusually warm, sunny, November day with Dan and Jonny.
Parking is possible in a cul-de-sac just below the crag, avoiding any imposition on private property. We met Dan and Jonny there, and began the walk up through the woodland, up the slippy slope, across the muddy track, over the swampy stream and along some rocky bits, putting us at the first boulder, and lunch. We climbed a couple of routes here, a nice 6b and 6b+ (Rail to Rail and Rail Diversion) and a few other bits and bobs, before heading further up into the boulders.
It's a good thing we climbed these, as they were the only routes that most of us managed that day. Our only other send was Dan's, of the delicate Techtonics (7b), despite splitting his fingertip on it. Sam and Jonny worked Half State at the top of the crag, with some progress, until sundown snuck up on us. The combination of being behind a hill and the change in clocks meant it got dark pretty quick and the long stumble through the boulderfield and brambles would have been testing had we left much later.
Success and failures - (right) Dan Stephenson keeping the side alive by making a heroic, post-finger-split ascent of Techtonics (7b) and left, Sam making one of many failed attempts to close Half State
Opinions seem to be split on this area - this write-up on the South Wales Mountaineering Club site is fairly scathing, whereas the UKC overview is more enthusiastic. Our opinion is a bit divided, too. The location is rather beautiful, quite wild and very tranquil despite sitting just off the M4. The climbing that we did was nice, on frictionous holds, and the blocs are pretty, featured, and with soft profiles that blend into the vegetation. The approach, on the other hand, is adventurous - a Mountain Rescue Leader that performed a rescue operation at Neath described the ground rather strongly as "exceptionally treacherous..."
Our conclusion; the number of problems here, over 120 with potential for more, make it a rather lovely, worthwhile venue so long as you don't mind a bit of brambles and stumbling. We'll be back for more...with approach shoes, thicker trousers and a smaller picnic.