Blaenavon and close by valleys of South Wales had been as soon as the powerhouse of the commercial revolution, mining coal and iron ore, that was transported by canal to Newport. The distinctive heritage of this former mining valley has been preserved within the Blaenavon Industrial Panorama, with fascinating sights akin to Large Pit Nationwide Coal Museum, Blaenavon Ironworks, Blaenavon World Heritage Centre and Blaenavon Heritage Railway. Now the hillsides are inexperienced once more and may be loved in quite a few walks, just like the one we made on Blorenge mountain inside the Brecon Beacon Nationwide Park. Learn on for our information to visiting Large Pit and the Blaenavon World Heritage Panorama in South Wales.
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Large Pit Nationwide Coal Museum
The Large Pit Nationwide Coal Museum is one of the best recognized attraction inside the Blaenavon Industrial Panorama, which was designated by UNESCO in 2000. It was a working coal mine for 100 years from 1880 to 1980, using as much as 1300 miners working underground. The primary operation within the space was open forged mining of coal and iron ore, which may merely be dug out of the hillside.
However within the first half of the nineteenth century the Blaenavon Iron and Coal Firm was established and sunk deeper shafts to succeed in the coal seams additional underground. The pit lastly closed in 1980 with a lack of 250 jobs, however re-opened as a museum in 1983 to showcase to a brand new era the mining historical past of Wales. Large Pit is free to go to, though there’s a parking cost and it’s essential pre-book the underground tour.
The Underground Tour at Large Pit
The spotlight of our go to to Large Pit was the underground tour, which took us 300 ft underground, with guides who had been initially miners within the South Wales coal mines. We first donned our helmets with security lamps and handed in any ‘contraband’ that may trigger an explosion. Large Pit is classed as a working mine, so security continues to be a prime precedence. The contraband gadgets included apparent hearth dangers akin to matches or cigarettes but additionally cell phones or cameras with a battery – sadly no images then!
Our pack to sling over the shoulder included a battery for the torch and a respiration masks that may filter foul air within the occasion of a fuel leak, permitting an hour of respiration time to flee from the mine. Our information Andy described how he as soon as encountered a hearth within the mine and used the masks to keep away from respiration within the smoke, permitting him to flee unhurt – a fairly scary expertise which we hoped we wouldn’t encounter!
Down the mine in Large Pit
We descended within the cage raise and took the tour by way of the completely different passage methods, which had been largely lit solely by our personal head torches. We listened to accounts of how youngsters had been initially used within the mine to open doorways and lead the horses, and the way males hacked the coal out by hand risking rockfalls, fuel leaks and fires. It was apparent how crucial and vital the commerce union motion had been in bettering pay and circumstances.
A whole lot of pit ponies additionally labored underground to tug the carts of coal, solely seeing daylight yearly after they had a 2 week vacation within the fields. The tunnels had been slippery underfoot and surprisingly low in locations inflicting us to stoop (these helmets obtained just a few knocks!), so I used to be fairly happy to succeed in the floor once more on the finish of the hour.
Blaenavon Underground Excursions info
- The underground tour takes round 50 minutes
- Solely 6 folks per tour plus information
- Youngsters should be over 1 metre tall and accompanied by somebody over 16
- Put on heat clothes and smart footwear. Security tools is supplied.
- Excursions are free however should be pre-booked. You’ll additionally must e book a free common ticket for Large Pit.
King Coal: The Mining Galleries at Large Pit
If the underground tour isn’t for you or is already booked up, a fantastic various is the “King Coal” audiovisual expertise. The 20 minute present takes place in mining galleries reduce into the hillside, beginning with a video explaining how the Welsh Mining trade developed. We walked by way of three completely different show areas, with sound and lighting to focus on the underground workings and rock chopping machines.
In every place the miner on the video display screen defined what occurred at completely different phases of the mining course of, accompanied by the sounds of the mine at work. It was a enjoyable presentation and we loved the jokes and humour from the on-screen miner, which appeared to encapsulate the camaraderie that developed within the mines within the face of such darkish, soiled and arduous circumstances.
Different Historic buildings at Large Pit
After our underground tour, we had a go searching the remainder of the commercial buildings that supported the coal mine at Large Pit. The Blacksmith’s Yard dates again to the earliest days of the mine within the 1870s, with a forge and welding store that had been used to keep up and restore something from horseshoes and instruments, to elements of the railway.
In the Stockyard we may see stacks of timber that had been introduced right here by prepare and reduce to measurement within the noticed mill. They had been used as pit props to assist the underground tunnels of the coal mine.
One of many largest options of the positioning is the Winding Home with its wheels and cables to decrease the cages into the mine, carrying coal, miners, provides and now guests. The engineman working the Winder has one of the vital vital jobs within the working of the mine to maintain issues working safely.
The Pit Head Baths constructing
For the ultimate a part of our go to, we headed as much as the highest of the hill, the place the pit head baths, museum and miner’s cafe had been positioned. The Miner’s baths had been launched within the Thirties, enabling the miners to scrub up earlier than going residence, in order that their wives didn’t must consistently boil water for them to have a shower within the yard.
Every miner had a ‘soiled locker’ and a ‘clear locker’ in several elements of the tub, enabling them to vary out of their clear residence garments into their soiled working garments firstly of the shift, after which change again having showered on the finish. Though the bathe had been a communal ‘no frills’ affair, we may think about what a reduction it could be to get clear and heat after a shift, with the camaraderie of miners chatting and enjoyable after the dust and hazard of the mine.
The miner’s baths leads into into the Large Pit museum space, with shows of apparatus and details about how coal mining developed within the Welsh Valleys and the way it declined resulting in closures within the Nineteen Eighties with a devastating impact on the native economic system.
The Miner’s Canteen at Large Pit
After visiting the baths and museum, we ended up with a cuppa and enormous wedge of cake within the Miner’s Canteen. That is the place the miners may chill out and chat with their mates on the finish of a shift. It now operates as a restaurant for guests the place you should purchase drinks, desserts and a few scorching dishes with a Welsh flavour. There are nice views from the home windows over the Large Pit web site and the city of Blaenavon within the valley under.
Uncover extra on this article about scenic walks within the South Wales Valleys
Plan your go to to Large Pit
The Large Pit Nationwide Coal Museum is open day by day 10am – 5pm. The Museum is free to go to and underground excursions are additionally free. Nonetheless to handle customer numbers, free tickets should be booked upfront. There’s a £5 cost for automobile parking, with machines that take money or card.
Different coal mines in Wales to go to
One other coal mining museum in Wales that covers the commercial heritage of this space is the Rhondda Heritage Park within the former Lewis Merthyr Colliery. The Black Gold Underground Tour is led by former miners and presents the expertise of going underground into the pit, with different on web site sights such because the Caffe Bracchi and an arcade of retailers with a heritage theme. I’ve visited the Rhondda Heritage Park on a earlier journey – you may examine my expertise there on this article – 16 enjoyable issues to do within the South Wales Valleys.
Blaenavon Heritage Railway
Proper by Large Pit, you may catch the Heritage prepare that runs for 3.5 miles by way of the Blaenavon World Heritage Panorama. The prepare wasn’t working on the day we had been there, so we needed to content material ourselves with admiring a few of the locomotives that had been on show exterior Large Pit.
Steam trains primarily run on weekends between April and September in addition to some particular providers for Halloween and Christmas. In the event you’re a railway fanatics, additionally go to the Railway Store in Blaenavon City which shares mannequin railway tools, books and toys, with earnings going to assist the railway.
This Heritage Railway is run by volunteers and the spherical journey lasts round an hour. The route runs between Large Pit, previous the primary station at Furnace Sidings, to the Whistle Halt Inn and Garn Lakes, then on to the previous mainline station of Pontypool. Tickets are legitimate all day, so you may break your prepare journey with a stroll round Garn Lakes or a go to to Large Pit.
For working occasions, check out the Blaenavon Heritage Railway web site
Inbuilt 1789, the Blaenavon Ironworks are one other vital a part of the Blaenavon industrial panorama. They had been closed on the day we visited, however we had been capable of take some images and look by way of the railings to see one thing of the positioning.
The Ironworks had been used to course of the wealthy seams of coals and iron ore that might be mined from the hillside, smelting the ore within the steam powered blast furnaces. The stays of the furnaces constructed into the hillside may be seen together with the water stability tower that raised wagons 80 toes into the air.
The small stone employee’s cottages on the positioning have been restored to point out what life would have been like for the households of foundry staff. Stack Sq., the place the cottages are constructed, additionally housed the supervisor’s workplace and firm store the place the employees may spend their wages, with the earnings going to the foundry homeowners. The legislation modified in 1842, making it unlawful for youngsters below 10 to work within the mines. Till then it was widespread for youngsters as younger as 5 to be put to work within the foundry, with women and boys put to work to interrupt up the iron ore by hand.
The Ironworks are run by CADW and are open Mon-Solar (Apr-Oct) and Fri-Solar (Nov-Mar) – for extra particulars and entry fees go to the Blaenavon Foundry Web site.
Blaenavon World Heritage Centre
On the sting of Blaenavon city is the Blaenavon World Heritage Centre, the place we stopped for lunch. St Peter’s College was opened in 1816, by Sarah Hopkins, the daughter of one of many founders of the Blaenavon Ironworks. She and her brother Samual, who was an Ironmaster on the foundry, took a eager curiosity within the welfare of native youngsters. The varsity was capable of educate 120 pupils from native households, at a time when younger youngsters had been nonetheless being put to work within the iron and coal trade.
The excessive ceilinged college home is now an exhibition house, that tells the story of the event of trade inside the Blaenavon Industrial panorama. There’s an old style room to think about the life of a kid of the Victorian period being taught right here. The centre additionally doubles as a library and vacationer info hub, with loads of leaflets out there on issues to do within the space.
We loved our lunch within the fashionable cafe in the back of the centre, which has giant glass home windows and an outdoor seating space, overlooking the St Peter’s churchyard with views over the inexperienced hillside. The cafe serves drinks, desserts, sandwiches and a few hearty scorching dishes and costs are very cheap. It’s open day by day besides Monday with free admission – extra info on the Blaenavon World Heritage Centre web site
Blaenavon Heritage City – extra issues to see
Though we didn’t have time on this go to, you may simply stroll down from the Blaenavon World Heritage Centre into the small city of Blaenavon, to get a really feel for the way it prospered on the again of the iron and coal trade within the valley. There’s a Blaenavon City Path out there with a 2 mile round stroll and leaflet to obtain displaying you factors of curiosity such because the Workman’s Corridor which was funded by subscriptions and supplied a social centre for the group. Additionally value a go to are:
Blaenavon Neighborhood Museum – primarily based within the Workmen’s Corridor, this museum is run by volunteers and celebrates the cultural heritage of Blaenavon. Yow will discover out in regards to the work of Alexander Cordell, writer of the bestselling novel “Rape of the Truthful Nation” which is about within the Blaenavon Iron working group and explores the tensions of life within the 1820s when the motion for higher employee’s circumstances was beginning to develop.
The Rhymney Brewery
Beer fanatics will get pleasure from a go to to the Rhymney Brewery Customer Centre, which is on street to Large Pit. Beer was in excessive demand to quench the thirst of males working within the iron and coal trade and within the early days of the Industrial Revolution, poor sanitation meant that beer was safer to drink than water. Cease by on the customer centre to purchase just a few bottles to attempt attempt at residence from the vary of six completely different bottled beers, or look out for it in native pubs within the space.
The place to eat in Blaenavon
We actually loved our lunch on the Blaenavon World Heritage Centre Cafe, which overlooks St Peter’s churchyard and has views down the hill. This small cafe, serves drinks, desserts, sandwiches and a variety of scorching and hearty meals, akin to Welsh rarebit, Miner’s breakfast, jacket potatoes or lasagne. The costs are modest and the service pleasant, so that is the place I’d counsel you head for lunch within the Blaenavon space.
Different choices embrace the Miner’s Canteen at Large Pit which serves an identical vary of scorching drinks, desserts and homely scorching dishes, however you’d have to be visiting the Large Pit Museum to get in right here (the museum is free however ticketed).
There are just a few different pubs and cafes in and round Blaenavon city, however we didn’t go to them ourselves. In case you are staying within the space and desire a extensive selection of wonderful eating places, Abergavenny might be one of the best place to move for a night meal – learn my restaurant suggestions on this article about our go to to Abergavenny.
Strolling round Blaenavon
One a part of the Blaenavon World Heritage Panorama that shocked me was the gorgeous walks and views of the encompassing hills and valleys, making an allowance for that this was as soon as a closely industrialised space. The northern a part of the Blaenavon Heritage Panorama falls inside the boundary of the Brecon Beacon Nationwide Park, and it was right here that we had an opportunity to stroll on Blorenge Mountain with our glorious information Huw from Treads and Trails.
Strolling on Blorenge Mountain
Our stroll began at Keeper’s Pond, a man-made pond on the hillside above Blaenavon that was dug out within the early nineteenth century to supply a water feed for the forge close by. There’s a helpful automobile park beside the pond and we loved watching the group of girls braving the chilly for a swim within the pond, with their fluorescent orange floats. Apparently in the summertime, the pond is a magnet for swimmers, since there’s such a craze for wild swimming, though in November it’s solely essentially the most hardy regulars that swim right here.
As our time was restricted, we opted for the straightforward stroll as much as the crest of the Blorenge Mountain, following the gravel monitor as much as the second Foxhunter automobile park, then climbing gently up on the heather lined hillside to the trig level on the prime. Alongside the best way, we handed the grave of the showjumping champion horse, Foxhunter, who received a gold medal in 1952 Olympics, collectively together with his rider Sir Harry Llewellyn. If solely we may all have a resting place with such a view!
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The views from Blorenge Mountain
After a mild uphill stroll we reached the trig level, on the summit at 560m of Blorenge Mountain. From right here we had a panorama over the valleys under, with the neighbouring peaks of Sugarloaf and Skirrid within the distance and the city of Abergavenny simply hidden by the contours of the hill.
Had we extra time, we may have adopted the Iron Mountain path, down the hill to the Punchbowl pond, with views over Abergavenny. It’s from this a part of the mountain that hang-gliders take off to land on the meadows by the river under Abergavenny Citadel. The 12 mile Iron Mountain Path skirts across the facet of the Blorenge mountain and passes an outdated tram street that took coal and iron ore right down to the Monmouth and Brecon canal, the place it might be shipped to the coast at Newport.
We made a brief reduce down the western facet of the Blorenge, the place we met the tram street and adopted it again down the hill, returning to Keeper’s Pond. The clumps of Heather are residence to Crimson Grouse and canopy the hillside of Blorenge with a sheet of purple, when they’re in full flower in late August and September.
Extra walks round Blaenavon
There are numerous extra walks round Blaenavon to swimsuit all health ranges and you’ll obtain the strolling leaflets from the Go to Blaenavon web site or choose them up whenever you go to the Blaenavon World Heritage Centre.
There are a pair extra that begin at Keeper’s Pond:
Iron Mountain Path – I’ve already talked about this 12 mile round stroll that splits into two elements, every round 4 hours, ranging from Keeper’s Pond. The stroll round Blorenge mountain consists of outdated tram roads and different options of the Blaenavon industrial panorama. (leaflets out there to obtain)
Mynydd y Garn-Fawr stroll – Beginning at Keeper’s Pond, this 3 hour stroll takes you as much as the Foxhunter memorial and over the heather-clad mountain passing Bronze Age burial cairns. (leaflet out there to obtain)
Different walks begin from the Large Pit automobile park:
Whistle Cease Path: This 3 hour stroll runs alongside the heritage railway, previous the picturesque Garn Lakes Nature Reserve and dramatic coal ideas which were reclaimed by nature. (leaflet out there to obtain)
Coity Tip Path: A brief 15 minutes stroll round an outdated waste tip from the Coity Pit subsequent to Large Pit, to be taught in regards to the wildlife, crops and pure habitats of the positioning. (leaflet out there to obtain)
There are numerous extra walks for all talents, so check out the Go to Blaenavon web site for extra info or to obtain the leaflets.
The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal
The Monmouthshire and Brecon canal or “Mon and Brec” was constructed within the early nineteenth century, to supply a path to convey coal, iron ore and different industrial items from the Welsh Valleys right down to Newport. It runs for 32 miles by way of the Brecon Beacon Nationwide Park with a piece inside the Blaenavon World Heritage Website. Tramways had been constructed alongside the hillsides, utilizing gravity to move the vehicles of coal and ore to wharfs, the place the barges could be stuffed and brought down the canal to Newport.
Walks alongside the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal
We stopped on the finish of the day for a fast take a look at the canal, which I’d visited earlier than for some strolling on the part that runs from Fourteen Locks Customer Centre to Newport – examine it in my Information to strolling the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal. This time we adopted the street from Keeper’s Pond to Govilon Wharf, the place there’s a small automobile park and you’ll see a variety of canal barges tied up.
Different locations to cease on the canal on this space embrace Goytre Wharf, the place you can also make the 8km stroll alongside the towpath to Llanfoist Wharf simply south of Aberganvenny (obtain the strolling leaflet on the Go to Blaenavon web site). There are parking spots near the entire wharfs, so you may simply make your individual stroll alongside the towpath beside the canal.
Cottages close to Blaenavon
Whereas visiting Blaenavon and touring round different elements of South Wales, we stayed at Roundhouse Farm close to Nantyglo. It’s about quarter-hour drive from Blaenavon and makes a wonderful base if you need self catering lodging that’s near a variety of sights, such because the Blaenarvon World Heritage panorama, Welsh Valleys, Abergavenny and Brecon Beacons.
One quirk of the farm is that it consists of one of many Spherical Towers, constructed by the native ironmasters, Joseph and Crawshay Bailey who owned the native ironworks. They constructed this and one other close by spherical tower in 1816, as a spot of refuge, when their staff rioted because of their wages being reduce. The towers had been fitted out with forged iron from the foundry and the Grade II listed cottages the place we stayed additionally had uncommon forged iron roof helps.
Spherical Home Farm Cottages at Nantyglo
There are three cottages in a terrace at Spherical Home Farm constituted of the unique barn that kinds one facet of an enclosed farm yard. Prior to now working ponies from the mines and foundries could be saved securely in farmyards like this, since with out them the works couldn’t operate.
Ours was a two bed room cottage, Henrietta, and it was a pleasure to remain in a Welsh cottage that was cosy and properly outfitted, however with contemporary, modern furnishings. The open plan floor ground with stone flags and areas of ornamental uncovered stone partitions, included loads of seating, a eating desk and a kitchen space.
Upstairs had been a double and single bed room that may be perfect for a household, styled with tasteful fashionable furnishings and a big rest room with bathe. We discovered it very enjoyable to look out on the inexperienced fields from our bed room to see the sheep and horses grazing close by.
Ebook right here for Roundhouse Farm Henrietta Cottage or their different cottages, Mary and William.
Extra motels and visitor homes close to Blaenavon
The market city of Abergavenny is a 15 minutes drive from Blaenavon and has a variety of locations to remain – take a look at:
The Angel Resort – a former teaching inn with 35 bedrooms that’s been renovated to make an expensive boutique lodge with two glorious eating places within the coronary heart of Abergavenny.
Kings Arms Resort – a sixteenth century inn with 8 bedrooms which were embellished in contemporary, modern fashion.
Hardwick Farm – a mattress and breakfast in a working dairy farm simply exterior Abergavenny, with elegant vintage furnished rooms.
Examine right here for extra motels and visitor homes in Abergavenny
Plan your go to to Blaenavon
Yow will discover info on all of the issues to see inside the Blaenavon Industrial Panorama on the Go to Blaenavon web site and for different issues to do within the surrounding space of Monmouthshire, check out the Go to Monmouthshire web site. On social media comply with the @SouthernWales, @VisitMonmouthshire and @Dargandecymru (Welsh language) instagram feeds for extra inspiration.
Map of Blaenavon sights
You’ll discover an interactive map of the primary Blaenavon sights inside the UNESCO World Heritage Panorama right here.
This text was sponsored* by Go to Monmouthshire and Southern Wales who supplied a few of the experiences and lodging talked about.
* Extra information on my insurance policies web page
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