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Wales101 - Blaenau Gwent

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Tucked up to the southern edge of Brecon Beacons National Park, Blaenau Gwent is a dream for keen hikers and lovers of the great outdoors. This is the heart of the South Wales Valleys, where – alongside rugged mountains and glistening lakes – you’ll come across evidence of the county’s industrial past.

Start a trip to Blaenau Gwent with a visit to Guardian (also known as Guardian of the Valleys), a statue in Abertillery that commemorates the mining disaster of 1960 that claimed the lives of 45 men on this very site. From a distance, the shimmering steel sculpture appears transparent, but the closer you get the more solid it seems. Visit the nearby volunteer-run Abertillery and District Museum to learn more about the region’s mining heritage and local history from other eras including the Stone Age and World War II.

 

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On the northern outskirts of town, a rural idyll awaits in the form of Cwmtillery Lakes. You might be surprised to find out that this is actually the site of a former coal mine – the reservoir also once fed the Cwmtillery Colliery. The mine opened in 1850 and is said to have produced over 30 million tonnes of coal, but you would not guess that seeing how beautiful the place is now. 

In the mood for more nature? Head to Silent Valley, a 50-hectare nature reserve made up of two ancient woodlands, which are home to the highest beeches in Britain and the most westerly in Europe. Two walking trails traverse the park – come in May to witness a carpet of bluebells bursting into life. A 10-minute drive away you’ll find Festival Park Owl Sanctuary, a free, family-friendly attraction that cares for over 50 birds of prey, including hawks, eagles, buzzards and of course, a variety of owls.

If it’s more mining history you’re looking for, head north to the town of Ebbw Vale’s General Offices. With a prior appointment, you can visit the rooms that host the small Ebbw Vale Works Museum, which features a plethora of interesting artefacts related to the region’s industrial heritage, including maps and plans, newspaper cuttings, memorabilia and photographs from the period. 

Ebbw Vale is known for being the former constituency of Aneurin Bevan, the wartime MP and eventual deputy leader of the Labour Party who is famed for his role in establishing the UK’s much-loved National Health Service (NHS). His contribution to society is acknowledged at the Aneurin Bevan Memorial Stones north west of Ebbw Vale. The four monoliths mark the spot where he would address his constituents at public meetings, and represent Bevan himself, as well as the three local towns of Tredegar, Ebbw Vale and Rhymney. The stones also represent the starting point of the Sirhowy Valley Walk, which meanders south all the way to Newport. 

Save time for a trip to Bedwellty House and Park in Tredegar. The grade II-listed Regency villa was originally built as a home in 1818 for Samuel Homfrey, the ironmaster of Tredegar Iron Company. Today it sits within a 26-acre public park where guests can roam before enjoying cake and sandwiches in the tearooms. Aneurin Bevan spent much of his early political career here, during his work on the Tredegar Urban District Council. There is a war memorial on display honouring the men who fought in the Battle of Tredegar in Burma, as well as a huge 15-tonne block of coal retrieved by local coal miners for the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Save time for a trip to Bedwellty House and Park in Tredegar. The grade II-listed Regency villa was originally built as a home in 1818 for Samuel Homfrey, the ironmaster of Tredegar Iron Company. Today it sits within a 26-acre public park where guests can roam before enjoying cake and sandwiches in the tearooms. Aneurin Bevan spent much of his early political career here, during his work on the Tredegar Urban District Council. There is a war memorial on display honouring the men who fought in the Battle of Tredegar in Burma, as well as a huge 15-tonne block of coal retrieved by local coal miners for the Great Exhibition of 1851.

101 Must-Do’ ways to live your regional connection.

Our 101 team have been working with local tourism, business, community and Council initiatives to bring you some of the best ways for you to live your connection to Blaenau_gwent.

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