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#DigitalBridgend is a new and innovative smartphone application that challenges users to find almost 300 places of historical interest throughout the County of Bridgend. Using augmented reality to find your way around, there are no less than 17 trails to follow, games to play, quizzes and scavenger hunts to unearth the unique heritage of this fascinating part of Wales. This series of blog posts reviews each trail in turn on location. The app is now available on Apple and Android platforms.
Now that the rain has finally stopped after much of Britain caught the tail end of 'Storm Barney', I can continue my journey through the Digital Bridgend app, and today, it's back up the Ogmore Valley to the village of Nantymoel.
I start once again in the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet just off the M4, yet another coffee and of course wifi (although my iphone already has the information downloaded as I have previously completed an Ogmore Valley trail some weeks ago). It's great that that information once downloaded remains on the phone so no need for wifi this morning after all. Coffee, I do need though.
From the Designer Outlet, it's easy to select one of the three valleys heading north from here. The valleys are all well signposted so I follow the brown signs to the Ogmore Valley, but not before activating the trail on the app which tells me that the first place I need to find is over 12km away.
It takes about 20 minutes through familiar territory for me, including passing through Ogmore Vale, which we covered previously. Arriving at Nantymoel, a useful tip, don't follow the signs to the village when you get to the clock tower in the middle of the road, take the mountain road to the right and head up towards the valley head. It's a lovely drive taking in some great scenery and waterfall features before zig-zagging your way to the top of what is known locally as 'the Bwlch'. There's a parking stop at the top, where usually you will be greeted by some ice-cream loving sheep (the ice cream van is not there today though!), and in front of you, there is a spectacular and typical Welsh valley view taking in the community of Treorchy in the world famous Rhondda Valley.
This view point has to be one of the must visit places in Wales, and parking the car I'm directed up a path looking for the first point in the trail 'Bwlch Y Clwdd'. It's quite a steep walk and about 400m from the layby, but worth it when you get there - as well as the view of the Rhondda, in front of you now, if it's clear, you can see the entire Ogmore Valley and in the distance, the sea at Porthcawl. An amazing 360 panorama.
Despite the pleasant view, the commentary on the app eventually triggers at what must be one of the highest points in Bridgend County, we learn about a tragic event where two military planes crashed at the summit here within 90 minutes of each other in 1940. There is a memorial stone on the side of the road commemorating this sad event.
For the next point, we head back down the valley to Nantymoel itself and search for the 'Miners Federation Memorial'. I park the car on the side of the road near the Clock Tower, and head off on foot passing the rugby field along a well maintained path through a park. After a very pleasant walk, I soon find the memorial that marks the tragic fact that 308 men and children have lost their lives in local collieries. The memorial also lies over the shaft of the former Wyndham colliery, which today has been reclaimed by the valley and is now a popular community walk and park.
From this point on, the app tells me to find Dinam Street which is around 350 metres away back into the village. Once I get there, I'm told (via an interactive timeline on the app) of the fascinating commercial history of this street. The mine owners also owned the stores here, and as in other parts of industrial Wales, would have paid their workers in tokens only to be redeemed in these premises forcefully retaining the spend and profits. This led to the founding of the Nantymoel Industrial Cooperative Society which eventually acquired property in the street, opened stores of their own, including the very first self service grocery store in 1951, which at its peak grossed £1m per annum!
Leaving Dinam Street, I'm guided by the app back towards the Clock Tower, and to a landscaped vacant plot in the centre of the village where once stood the famous Berwyn Centre, the former miners institute funded by the generous contributions from local miners, this became the centre of all political and leisure activity in Nantymoel and it even included a 1000 seater auditorium.
The next challenge is to find the Ocean / Western Colliery. Another short walk away where I encounter a treasure hunt in the app, which provides us with a quick and brief history of the colliery. It explains the role that this colliery played in the development of the valley and the village of Nantymoel at its head.
Onwards, now the app instructs me to find 'Station Road' which was a bit of a challenge if I'm honest (but that's only because I didn't read the text instructions on the app. It clearly says to bear right but I went left!). Anyway, the icon on the viewfinder that we must follow soon told me that 'Station Road' was within 50m, but what was confusing me was the fact that I had to walk up a steep path to the road looking down on the river and valley floor. I got there in the end and discovered why the icon for this trail is indeed a running shoe - Station Road was the birthplace of famous Olympian Welsh Athlete and World Record Holder 'Lyn the Leep' Davies. It was great to learn that all Nantymoel children were given a free commemorative mug in honour of the achievement of their local hero, whose world record long jump in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics stood for over 30 years!
The final two points in this trail take us back down the steep path to an interesting treasure hunt on the green valley floor below Station Road. This was once the site of the old station, and finishing up on another street of terraced houses called Nantymoel Row, where the app recalls a story of another local hero, James Llewelyn Davies who lived at number 8. He was a WW1 hero who due to his brave efforts in France, where he was sadly killed in action, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery.
This trail provided yet another insight into the history and culture of this proud valley. Allow yourself around 2-3 hours maximum, and it is best done by car for the first point, and then easily achieved on foot for the Nantymoel section once you return down the valley after visiting the spectacular viewpoint from the Bwlch.
Name: John Spanswick
Where are you from: Brackla (but originally from Nantymoel)
What do you do: Area Parks Manager at Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC (part -time) and also Cabinet Member Communities at Bridgend County Borough Council.
Favourite local place and why: Anywhere out and about on the mountains surrounding the county of Bridgend.
Where do you like to eat locally: Any good Chinese or Indian restaurant.
If you like, tell us 1 thing about yourself / or tell us something interesting: I am planning on undetaking a charity trek to the base camp of Mt. Everest in October this year. This will be my second attempt as 4 years ago I undertook the same trek and reached 5,000 metres when I had to turn back due to being severely dehydrated. Base camp is 5,500 metres and this time I am determined to make it.