The goings on in and around Bridgend

Digital Bridgend, Short Trail No. 2

Industrial Times: The Bedford Park Trail

Another well kept local secret, Bedford Park Ironworks is a little out of the way from the main drag but is one of the best examples of an industrial heritage anywhere in Wales. It's also a well managed park in a beautiful natural setting alongside the route of the former Dyffryn Llynfi Porthcawl Railway that played such a significant role in the industrial success of this area.

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This tour begins just outside the car park, as the app tells me to walk west around 40m to the first point of interest. The commentary 'triggers' and I'm introduced to a gentleman from the past known as John Bedford. Mr Bedford was the business owner who experimented with some unusual ideas (to say the least!) to smelt iron ore in these parts in the late 1700s.

Next point to find is the aforementioned Dyffryn Llynfi Porthcawl Railway (DLPR). I'm guided around 150m along the former route which at this location is now a well maintained cycling and walking route. I came across the DLPR during the Porthcawl trail and the Bridgend trail previously, so it was obviously an important industrial asset at the time, and its great to see it remembered today and put to some other use too.

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John Bedford

The railway was used to transport raw materials to the ironworks in the 1800s and gave it a new lease of life under new ownership of William Bryant. At this stage before we even get to the ironworks site, the app challenges us with a game that shows the importance in getting the raw materials delivered in the process of iron smelting. It's a little bit more difficult this game, you have to tap the screen at the right time to ensure that the iron ore is delivered into the furnace when it should be. Nice graphics, and once again the app teaches us something without even knowing it - by playing a game on our smartphones!

After numerous attempts to beat my highest score, I decide to move on. Pressing the 'continue' button on the app takes me to the first industrial relic - the well preserved calcining kilns. From this point on, the app takes us on a journey throughout this remarkable site starting with an impressive view of the industrial ruin from the top of where the furnace would have been loaded. We are led through the process of iron smelting whilst given a local history lesson, and another game too - the Blast Furnace game. This one I liked more I think (as it was a little easier to complete!) and requires us to tap the screen on our phone to stoke the fires in the blast furnace. Again, it teaches us something - the importance of the right temperature for the smelting to be successful. Probably one of the best features of this app is its variety and its ability to inform and teach through instruction, listening, watching, engagement and play. Really enjoying it.

Anyway, when I get to the bottom of the site, I'm presented with a useful timeline reminding me of the key dates and events that happened in the history of this unique place. There's also a scavenger hunt that takes me back up the hill and eventually back to the car park where the app teaches me about the former brickworks that accompanied the ironworks. Without the app, I wouldn't have known they had even existed at this site. You can learn something new everyday.
The final part of the trail was a very pleasant surprise. Another scavenger hunt challenged me to find a place around 400 metres away, along the former DLPR route in the opposite direction to the ironworks. After a 5 minute walk I arrived at a perfectly preserved junction box, the likes I had only seen previously on model railways. Occasionally, you can be lucky to get a tour of this place but the app provides a very interesting insight into yet another little known historical asset in the county of Bridgend. Loved it. Great trail lasting a little over an hour on foot.

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