The goings on in and around Bridgend

Archive for tag: Ogmore Valley

Digital Bridgend – The Nantymoel Trail

#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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

Digital Bridgend, The Ogmore Vale Trail

#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.

Today, we unearth the heritage of the Ogmore Valley, one of the three great valleys that stretch north from the M4 near Bridgend. Once you exit the motorway at Junction 36 (the Designer Outlet in Bridgend), it's straight forward. The signage is excellent, you just select the valley of your choice from the roundabout, and off you go.

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On the Digital Bridgend app, from the homescreen, click on the icon that best depicts the Ogmore Valley, and that's the one in the top left hand side showing a river meandering through scenic hills. Once done, you will then be presented with three trails in this area, select 'the bell' icon which is the trail through the village of Ogmore Vale, about 5 miles north of the M4. The app reveals the significance of the bell during the trail, so more about that later.

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I'm instructed to head north to the site of the former coal washeries in Ogmore Vale. Easy to find, and a pleasant drive through a wooden valley. Arriving in the village, I'm taken alongside the rugby field, double backing along the valley slightly, until the commentary for this first point of interest eventually triggers as I approach the picnic spot. I'm at the base of the valley floor in a spot that feels quite secluded but you can clearly see despite the scenic setting, that the land all around here was once scarred by heavy industry. There's a timeline on the app at this stage that allows us to select different periods in the mining history of this valley. Given the beauty and greenery today, it's difficult to imagine that this area was once blackened by the coal that the Ogmore Valley was famed for.

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Having been fully briefed on the significance of this site and the role that the Valley played industrial South Wales, I decide to leave the car near the rugby filed (as there's plenty of room to park) and head off on foot along a community cycle and pedestrian route into the village itself. The next point I'm looking for is 2km away and is actually a former outdoor swimming baths!

As I follow the icon on the screen towards the swimming baths site, I realise that this trail could easily be done by bicycle, the route is great, it's flat, paved and well maintained. The walk takes me across the main road and around the back of the houses that line this typical linear Welsh valley village until I arrive at a point in the heart of Ogmore Vale where the swimming baths once stood.  Should I have stumbled across this place by chance, I probably would not have realised that this was once a focal point for the whole valley during the early 20th Century. The popular baths were actually fed by the mountain stream and the app shows some excellent photographs of how this area once looked in its heyday. The tin structure was actually built over the River Ogmore and the village even hosted diving competitions many years ago. Perhaps more surprising is the fact that these baths only closed in 1998!  The app now launches into a quiz about some of the other leisure activities that would have been enjoyed locally alongside the swimming. You have to complete this before heading off to the next point - the Aber Colliery.

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For the Aber Colliery, I'm directed towards the site of the fire station on the valley side. You have to follow the footpath behind the station which offers commanding views of the valley and the village below, so is worth the walk just for the vantage points. The commentary and image slideshow of the former colliery 'kicks in' as you walk along the path and you can clearly see where the workings were once located. I learn from the app that Aber was one of the oldest mines in the valley (first sunk as a drift mine in 1865) but sadly the colliery is remembered for yet another local mining tragedy when 5 men lost their lives through an explosion on 1888.

From this point, the app now invites us to explore Cwm y Fuwch, further along the path, up the side of the valley. A pleasant stroll along a footpath that takes us a few hundred metres behind the fire station. The apps tells us that this small tributary valley translated into English actually means 'Valley of the Cow' which is typical of ancient Wales where valleys were once named after animals, perhaps signifying the connection with a Celtic deity. At the site where the commentary starts playing, we learn that there was once possibly an ancient medieval settlement in Cwm Y Fuwch, as there are remains of dry stone walls scattered throughout the area. You can also see the remains of buildings and workings of yet another colliery that was sunk at this site, which quite remarkably used a rope and horse powered tramway to transport the coal down the valley for processing. 

Next, the app takes us back down the valley into the village and a short walk to the former site of the Workman's Hall, on the corner of Commercial Street, which was partly funded by miners donations. Here we are presented with a timeline to explore the various dates in the history of what was once the most iconic and beloved buildings of the Ogmore Valley, the largest of its type in South Wales holding up to a 1000 people at one time. Sadly, we learn that the building was demolished in 1983. Some imagery on the app shows clearly how impressive and significant this building once was for local people. As well as boasting a library, billiards room, a bar and committee rooms, the Hall installed the famous bells in the tower in memory of those who had fallen during the two World Wars.

Completing the timeline, the icon appears on my screen and invites me to follow it to the former railway station site, another short walk away.  At this point, there's a scavenger hunt where the user has to follow the icon to find the various points of interest peppered around the former station. Each point reveals a short history and an image related to the station and its activity. Interesting to learn that the railway linked the valley with Porthcawl on the coast and was also a passenger line, which even offered third class tickets - selling 62,000 of them in 1868! Finishing the Scavenger Hunt, the app now directs us back towards Commercial Street and the site of the famous Gwalia Stores.

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We're told that the Gwalia stores was Ogmore's very own department store and the app challenges users to complete a short quiz about the items that were once sold from the stores which included a bakery, grocery, ironmongers and men's outfitters making it the Harrods of the valley, furnished in mahogany, white marble and plate glass.  On Friday nights, following the distribution of miners pay packers, this store became the hub of the valley marking the beginning of the weekend. Sadly, we learn of its closure in 1983 but fortunately, in 1991 it was re-erected at the Museum of Welsh Life in St Fagans. We are now lead further along the community route to discover yet more innovation form this part of the world and the Electric Light and Power Supply Company. Despite relying on candles, oil and coal for power, in 1891, Ogmore Vale became the first place in Wales to see electric streetlights! The plants closed in 1944 with all electricity after that being supplied via the National Grid.

This trail ends following a nice walk along the valley across the blue bridge over the river Ogmore and to the site of the former Penllwyngwent Colliery in what is today an Industrial Estate. This was a drift mine whereby the owners took full advantage of a quirk in the local geology to drive a drift over a thousand metres into the valley, to access a rich vein of high quality coal needed to fuel the blast furnaces and foundries of the region. The mining techniques used here were innovative at the time with huge investments into technology resulting in 100,000 tones of coal being extracted annually at its peak.

Once you complete this trail, it's a fair walk back to the car, which I parked near the rugby pitch, but walking back through the village there's ample opportunity for a quick bite to eat and to experience the natural warmth of the local people in a couple of the village's pubs and cafes. The highlight for me today was discovering the unique stream fed baths and the walk up the 'Valley of the Cow'. A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, but allow around 2-3 hours to take it all in. It has been a  fascinating insight into the hidden heritage of Ogmore Vale, the first place in Wales to boast electric street lights!  

Digital Bridgend: The Blackmill Trail

#Digital Bridgend 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.

Today's trip saw me take in one of the three valleys north of the M4 in Bridgend, known as the Ogmore Valley. There are three trials to enjoy in this neck of the woods, the first one I was sampling was the Blackmill trail, a village located in the heart of the valley around 8km away from Bridgend.

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The first location that the app was challenging me to find was the former railway station in the village, but first I had to park my car. When you arrive in Blackmill, there's a couple of pubs behind which there is plenty of room to park on the road and a car park that's adjacent to the famous sheep sale site that we'll learn a lot more about later I'm sure. So, car parked with ease, it's off to find the station.

The app leads me on a pleasant short walk around 500m away through the trees along the former railway line, which is now a well used community cycle and walking route. I arrive at the former site of the station where I can clearly see where the platforms once stood. The commentary kicked in for the app, and I learn that Blackmill as a village in 1865 only had 30 people living there, before the railway and industry arrived thereafter. In its heyday, Blackmill saw 5 trains a day and 7 on a Saturday but in 1958, the last passenger train left the station. A nice setting by the side of an ancient woodland, but the next stop for me was to go back towards my car and the site of the Blackmill Sheep Sales.

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During my time working in Bridgend, the Blackmill Sheep Sales is something that I heard people often speak about so was intrigued to find out more. As I arrived at the site, just behind the two pubs, the commentary is once activated as I walk within 20 metres of the icon on my screen, that I've become so used to following on the app. I discover that the Sheep Sale at Blackmill was a massive event, more like a festival with music, dancing and lots of drinking in the nearby pubs no doubt. It's the oldest and probably one of the most famous in South Wales. The app also challenges you to a scavenger hunt at this point, there are three points to find so I'm led all over the site to unearth more information. Really interesting to learn that sheep stealing was rife in the 1700s and a law was passed to help curb the crime, the penalty for which was death! More than a 1000 people were sentenced to death in the UK for sheep stealing in 6 years between 1825-31. Fascinating. Next stop, the Fox and Hounds Pub, around 100 metres away.

I pass my car once again, and arrive at 'the Fox'. Just outside the front door, the commentary plays and tells me that this Georgian building has been a pub since the 18th Century and was the meeting point for the Llangeinor Hunt since 1895, hence the name of the establishment.

Onwards and upwards. There's a short walk up a gentle hill to the next site, which is something I'm ashamed to admit, I didn't know existed in the area (despite having driven through here so many times over the years!)…..the impressive Blackmill Viaduct. This construction is almost hidden from the road but worth a visit as you can walk around the base of some of the 7 dominant pillars that were built to take coal by rail to the new docks in Barry that were developed so that extortionate fees and tolls could be avoided through Cardiff. The line from Nantymoel to Barry was open in 1876 and closed in the 1930s. The viaduct is very much intact today and another example of a great feat of engineering of the industrial era in this part of South Wales.

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Up to this point, I've been able to tap into Blackmill's past on foot but I think I need the car, as the next point, St Tyfodwg Church is around 2km away. So, back to the vehicle, and I head up the Ogmore Fach valley to find this ancient church. When I get there, it's on the main road so not difficult to spot at all. On-street parking is easy too. Once again, the commentary plays on schedule and I'm told the history of the church as I walk around the graveyard and immediately observe some ornate carvings in the walls and a medieval fortress like tower. There is certainly an air of history about this place and I'm not surprised to learn that there was probably a church on this site as early as the 6th Century. A mini scavenger hunt takes me on a walk through the grounds and the church itself and I discover a rare Pilgrim effigy dating back to the 14th Century. Incredible place, and once again, way off the beaten track and somewhere that I would have never have known about if it wasn't for this app.

Returning to the car, I'm directed back down the valley to Blackmill again, and this time to Paran Chapel, just opposite the viaduct. Non conformism was of course dominant in these parts and such was the popularity that this chapel, built in 1825, was extended numerous times in the 19th Century increasing its capacity to 200. Being a Baptist chapel, records show that baptisms took place in the nearby river Ogmore and on some occasions even having to break the ice in the middle of Winter! Great to hear that that this chapel is still used today though, conducting services in Welsh.

I re-park my car behind the pubs once again, and set off on foot to find the last two points of interest on what has thus far been an incredibly interesting journey through the Ogmore Valley. The next point I have to find is an ancient bridge, and I'm told by the app that its quite difficult to find, nevertheless, it points me in the right direction and tells me it's around 600m away. I walk along the former railway route, and realise that I could have taken my bike on this trail as most of the trigger points are minutes from the cycle path. Maybe next time.

The Bridge 'Pont Y Frithau' was a little difficult to find but I got there in the end. The arch dates back to the early 18th Century and was the old crossing of the River Ogmore, and there was probably a wooden construction or a ford here predating the bridge that we can see today. You can view it from the road but carry on along the cycle path and there's a convenient gap in the fence that will take you straight to Pont Y Frithau where you can observe it at close quarters. Just above this bridge, there was once a millstream that ran off the Ogmore to power a water wheel of the mill owned by a certain Ifan Ddu ap Gryffydd Goch, which gave the mill its name, Melin Ifan Ddu (or in English, Ifan's Black Mill). So having discovered how the village was named, we now head off on a short walk up the hill to the final point on the trial - the former Blackmill Isolation Hospital.

Bit of a climb this, and be careful as you have to cross a busy highway and walk up another road where there's no pavement (at least on the side I was walking anyway!). Just before the top of the hill on the corner, the commentary starts outside the former hospital. It is hear that I learn about a dark year for Wales in recent history, the 1962 outbreak of the killer and highly contagious disease smallpox. The app displays a timeline at this point where you can click on each of the dates shown in 1962 to find out more about the outbreak and how this building that we are standing outside was used as an isolation hospital. 19 died in the 1962 epidemic and fortunately, smallpox was eradicated in 1980.

OK, trail completed, back to the car. Very enjoyable, interesting and revealing. I learned a lot more about this part of Wales and visited places that I would otherwise not have known existed. Highly recommended, takes about 2-3 hours max and can be enjoyed by bike too.

How to make Bike Week bike-worthy!

As Bike Week rounds into the weekend, the chance to really give yourself over to a day ride in the beautiful summer weather becomes more and more real. Healthy, cost-efficient, and fun, cycling has always been a popular activity along the coast in Bridgend. As for trails in this beautiful county, there is no shortage. Whether you are looking for something challenging like the Darren Fawr Trails or a little more leisurely - Bridgend has it all!
Trails For Family, Friends, and Adventurers 

Beautiful Biking © By

Beautiful Biking © By

The Cefn Cribwr Trail, a section of the Celtic Trail from Tondu to Pyle, is an excellent trail for beginner bikers. It's short distance of only 4.5km and traffic-free surroundings make it lovely for those looking for a calm and relaxing ride. The trail itself takes you through the Parc Slip Nature Park, giving you a chance to see the recorded 28 Butterfly species that exist there!
The Ogmor e Valley Trail stretches from Nant-y-Moel to Aberkenfig. It's 11 miles are calm, safe, and fit for those seeking something a bit on the longer side or as a family outing. It passes some well-known landmarks for a tourist as well, such as the Devil's Pulpit and beautiful views like the one from Llangeintor Church.

Bike Routes © By

Bike Routes © By

The Darren Fawr Mountain Bike Trails opened this past January and beckon with their gorgeous scenery and challenging topography. The two trails, the blue Glengarw trail for intermediate riders and the black Gellideg trail for experienced riders, are approximately 3km each, and combined 6km.
If you're looking for any local contacts - Bridgend has many different kinds of cycling clubs and opportunities to hire bikes. For Local clubs, the Ogmore Valley Wheelers and the Blackmill & District Mountain Bike Club are great for getting you started in meeting the local cycle community and learning about the different trails. Breakaway Cycling Holidays offers great bike hires, a great way to go cycling for a weekend holiday without having to cart your bike along with you.
Common Sense!
As always, use your common sense when you go out cycling! Don't go out on a long day trip without food, water, a mobile phone and a map. Always wear a helmet and keep your bike roadworthy. If you are going to be cycling on a road, remember to take care in riding downhill and watch for junctions and cars that may be dangerous to an unprotected cyclist.
For the off-roader, take care to give way to pedestrians and don't expect to cycle at high speeds. And always, no matter how safe you feel it is, lock your bike up when you leave it unattended! You don't want to loose your favorite transportation, do you?

Summer Bike Week © By

Summer Bike Week © By


Make Bike Week the most bike-worthy week yet!

Ogmore Valley,near Bridgend

Nantymoel, originally uploaded by fatdeeman.

Very picturesque valley, superb for walking and only 15 minutes from the M4 but not that you would know it. The first valley in Wales to have electrical street lighting.