Hikers and mountain bikers keen to stay one trail shoe-clad step ahead of the zeitgeist are discovering a new playground – and its location may surprise you. On the western hem of the south Wales valleys is the stunning Afan Forest Park, with a criss-cross of plunging off-piste routes, gentler family-friendly tarmac trails, cobalt lakes and a hearty ‘croeso’ – that’s a Welsh welcome – for visitors.
On a warm day (yes, they happen in Wales), you’d be forgiven for mistaking Afan for the finest central Europe forestry; no surprise, then, that it’s been labelled ‘Little Switzerland’ by those in the know. The relative secret of this tucked-away treasure might soon be out, with outline planning permission granted for a £200m adventure resort. But you can head there right away and stay in style at Willow Springs, a back-to-nature glamping and campsite cwtched into the crook of the valley at Glyncorrwg.
Willow Springs is the dream-turned-reality of Marc and Jude, who returned to Wales in search of balance and tranquility. They have achieved both, with a small but perfectly formed site that gives the most glorious getaway. It has simple camping facilities; there are no electric hook-ups here but, don’t worry, you won’t need that portable TV anyway, once you fix your eyes on the emerald views.
Willow Springs is Camping and Caravanning Club certificated, meaning it’s an independent site but up to the club’s high standards. Certificated sites are small, with an emphasis on peace and absolutely no dreaded clubhouse. There are 10 pitches for tents, caravans and motorhomes, all generously spaced and separated by lines of willow saplings for privacy. Then there’s the glamping.
The Shepherd’s Hut is a treat, a traditional timber cabin on wheels with a cosy double bed and wood burning stove. On the night of my stay, an unseasonal wind is blowing a hoolie but I’m as snug as can be, with a log fire sparkling easily into life.
By day, the hut is airy and light, with windows on all four sides, while solar energy powers two lamps and a dual phone charging point. Outside the cabin is a fire pit and grill – an axe is provided for keen bushcrafters to chop their own wood – and a neat food prep hut is tucked to the side.
Canine companions are not allowed in the Shepherd’s Hut but are more than welcome in the two Camping Huts, also raised on wheels and each with a sun-soaked veranda complete with table, chairs and a small food storage area. Each hut has two sofa beds; although labelled as doubles, they prove quite a snug fit for teens and adults, but the floor is spacious enough to accommodate a couple of inflatable mattresses and the pod has room for six guests.
Keen to make Willow Springs a real home from home, Marc and Judy have paid attention to the small details, including three large, spotless shower rooms with toilet and sink, instead of the usual wash blocks (the water, by the way, is fresh from the spring running straight off the mountainside).
There’s an enticing decking area outside reception, with cushioned rattan sofas, while the homely reception itself is well-manned by family members ever-happy to chat and signpost the way to nearby cafes, amenities and trails.
Willow Springs has a good wifi signal and phones can be charged at reception for £1, but the emphasis here is on retreating from the busy-ness, switching off and telling stories around the campfire. As well as backpackers, couples, families and well-behaved groups, the site attracts writers and artists in search of inspiration and is also popular with European visitors.
Glyncorrwg is easily accessible by car and just 14 miles from Port Talbot’s railway station, yet seems worlds from the steel town’s thrum. A short cycle away is Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre, the starting point for many a well-marked trail or simply a spot of forest bathing, and where you’ll find a creative menu at the Cedars cafe, with good gluten-free and vegan choices. Closer to the campsite are Glyncorrwg Ponds, a reclaimed beauty spot in this former industrial hub and an easy stroll away along Route 887.
Rates start from £40 per night for the Shepherds Hut and from £30 for the Camping Hut. Pitches cost £6 per person, based on a minimum £12, and dogs stay for free, while essentials such as firelighters and kindling, mountain bike trails maps and shampoo bars can be purchased from reception. For bookings and further information, visit the Willow Springs website, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07903 799793.
More from Travel
Ireland remains a favourite destination for several tourists globally for many good reasons; it is widely acknowledged for its breathtaking …