The goings on in and around Bridgend

Archive for tag: Garw

Digital Bridgend, Pontycymer

The Pontycymer Trail in the Garw Valley

#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.

This week, it's another visit to 'the Garw' to review one of three available #DigitalBridgend trails in the valley, and as I'm starting to get to know my way around these days, I'm confident to kick off my morning with a visit to Bryngarw Country Park. The trail I'm following today is the Pontcymer trail, a village that I normally pass through but honestly know hardly anything of its history, so this should be a good one for me.

Bryngarw Country Park

Bryngarw Country Park is not the first point of interest on the trail, but it marks the beginning of the Garw Valley cycle path, that takes you to Pontcymer and beyond to Blaengarw if you wish. So the excellent new café in the park is ideal for a quick 'cuppa', before heading off by bike or car! I chose the latter, but it's just as easy and probably more pleasant on two wheels rather than four if I'm honest.

So. I launch the #DigitalBridgend app on my iphone, select the Garw Valley (the railway icon on the homescreen) and then the axe symbol (which is the Pontcymer trail). Fortunately, I've already downloaded all the additional content that I need for the Garw Valley previously, so pressing the big 'play' button on the Pontcymer page on the app, I'm straight into action, and I'm told the first place I must find is a chapel, about 5 km away.

Pontycymer 1

Following the directions given on the app, that always pop up for all points of interest as soon as you start the trail, it's a short drive up 'the Garw' and I must keep my eyes peeled for the first bridge that I come across on the left hand side. I find it, park up on the side of the road and there in front of me is Tylagwyn Chapel. I walk towards it, and right on cue, the commentary pays on the app. It tells me that this baptist chapel was the first in the valley and the river nearby (even when it was frozen over) was used to baptise the local congregation. Sounds quite the opposite to a baptism of fire to me I must admit.

The second point of interest is only around 150 metres away so we can leave the car parked on the side of the road near the chapel, and continue on foot to find the Pont-Y-Rhil Junction. This time, the commentary is activated by the app, just as you walk over the bridge that crosses over the railway line and junction that played such a major part in the industrialisation of the valley and in particular the transport of coal to the docks in Cardiff. Interestingly ,a railway station was built for passengers but instead of purpose built carriages, initially, they'd wash out the open top coal wagons, put benches in them and offer passengers a ride to Maesteg (including a 1km long tunnel ride too!).

Pontycymer 3

We press the play button again, and continue our journey up the valley until we reach the site of the Lluest colliery. Once again, this is on the side of the main road through the Garw Valley, so it easy to park and indeed, there's a convenient lay-by around 100 metres from our next point of interest. It's quite sad to discover yet another local mining accident had cost lives in the Lluest Colliery, with 19 men and boys being victims of an explosion on this site in 1899. Today, it is poignantly commemorated by a coal dram positioned at the site where you can also see on the hillside remains from the stone arches that once formed part of this colliery.

Onwards to the next point in the trail, so its back to the car (or the bike) and continue along the main road (or cycle path) only a km or so to find a chapel made of tin! The delightfully named Pant-Y-Gog Chapel is also visible from the side of the road so it's easy to park outside and its an interesting place to take a quick look around. The commentary at this stage tells us that this unique place of worship is one of the few remaining corrugated prefabricated chapels that once populated the valleys throughout Wales to meet the demand for non-conformism. The tin chapels and building were a quick and convenient way to erect a building after the method of galvinising zinc with iron reduced corrosion significantly. However, over the years, rust has eventually started to get the better of the building as can be seen today by viewing this remarkable relic from the main road through the valley.

Pontycymer 4

Before leaving the tin chapel, the app has a nice surprise challenge for the user to complete, where you must use your finger on the screen of your phone to drag the prefabricated parts onto a template of the tin chapel in order to erect the building as quickly as possible. Ingenious really, and one of the easier games on the app to enjoy! Even I completed it. It cleverly illustrates the point that these prefabricated tin chapels could be erected very quickly, were springing up all over the valley sides and because of that, and their basic appearance, it's fair to say that they were not everyone's cup of tea.

Next stop, we become aware about a local character, called Merlin, a recent renown Welsh harp maker who I was told by a local who I stopped to talk to that he used to recently ride a penny-farthing through the village much to the amazement and amusement of passers-by in this day and age. That's what I love about this place, there's a wealth of local quirks and facts that are hidden and sometimes only unearthed in conversation with people in the know. So, pop into a café and talk away, this is the Garw Valley, very friendly, and they do like to chat up here that's for sure!

The Ffaldau Workmens Institute and the Pontycymer Square provided an interesting lesson in local history before I moved on to what I think was the best part of this trail, the Garw Valley Railway. For the Square, and all the remaining points in this trail, I found the best place to park was near the local supermarket 'the co-op', as the last stage is all within walking distance of this point.

Pontycymer 5

First, I'm guided by the app over the bridge and down passed a leisure centre and on towards a modern yet basic industrial 'hanger-like' building where the commentary kicked in to tell me all about the significance and history of the local railway.  I was perhaps very fortunate to bump into one of the 85 volunteers who today are working hard to preserve, restore and hopefully reopen the railway line that once stretched the 4 miles from Pontcymer to Bryngarw. I was taken into the large 'hanger' which was in fact the engine shed that today houses the former engines and carriages that would have once been a frequent sight in these parts. This was a real unexpected find, and it's amazing to think that this incredible 'museum' and railway enthusiasm exists hidden away in a valley in the middle of South Wales. I found the app to be really useful here because it presents the user with a number of images of the rolling stock that you can see before you, and there is corresponding text informing us about the history and other facts surrounding each vessel.

I am now directed to the final few points nearby and discover that within yards of where I stand, there have been some quite famous feet standing here before me. The app tells me that the former theatre site known as the Rink once hosted Stan Laurel (of Laurel and Hardy fame) and the authentic Italian café called Station café just across the road was a recent film set featuring Welsh actors Ioan Gruffydd and Matthew Rhys, both Hollywood stars of course who were required to serve behind the counter! This café is definitely worth a visit, it has a story of its own and was once the centrepoint for the whole valley housing a jukebox and a giant brass Gaggia coffee machine. The final point in the trail is a short walk through a restored landscape that once bore the scars of the Fladau Colliery that once dominated the centre of Pontycymer.

In summary, a great little trail which hardly requires any walking at all if by car, and a very pleasant gentle cycle ride if you decide to go by bike from Bryngarw Country Park. Allow around 2 hours max for this, even though I could have easily spent all this time looking at the locomotives in  the Engine Shed. Another part of hidden Bridgend unearthed, I look forward to next week's adventure. Until then.   

The Big Bridgend Christmas blog 2014!

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 11.14.12Get set for an action-packed, Rock 'N' Roll Christmas in Bridgend! There's a huge array of exciting events, markets, entertainments and festive traditions going on this year, so get well and truly into the Christmas spirit and experience the best that festive Bridgend has to offer!
Bridgend Christmas market (29th and 30th November 2014)
Bridgend's streets will be filled with traders and stalls for their Christmas Market on Friday and Saturday, offering plenty of festive treats and goodies. But the real fun begins on Saturday at 11am when Santa will ride into town in style alongside biker Elves and Rudolph, kicking off a rocking Christmas season in Bridgend! He will then head down to the opening of Santa's Grotto in Bridgend Indoor Market, and will pop back again on 7th and 14th December to make sure all the kids (and the adults!) are behaving themselves. The festivities will peak with the switching on of the Christmas Lights at 4:30pm, really marking the beginning of the Christmas period!
Porthcawl Grand Pavillion's 12 Days of Christmas (2nd December 2014)
Don't miss out on the extra special 12 Days of Christmas at Porthcawl's Grand Pavillion on Monday 2nd December; traditional carols, choirs, dance, readings and enactments and the evening will conclude with a rousing rendition of 'The Twelve days of Christmas' - audience participation a must!

Even Elvis has been getting into the Christmas spirit...

Even Elvis has been getting into the Christmas spirit...

Porthcawl Christmas Tree Festival (3rd to 8th December 2014)
As December gets going, All Saints Church will be the setting for the Porthcawl Christmas Tree Festival from 3rd-8th December and there will be carol and choral services all week culminating in the Cancer Research Annual Candle Service on 8th December, so come along for a sing-along, fill yourself with festive cheer and really embrace the spirit of Christmas by raising money for a good cause.
DSC_0035Santa Express street train and Christmas Fayre (7th to 14th December 2014)
On Saturday 7th December, families will be able to ride the Santa Express street train around Bridgend Town Centre to take in the Christmas lights and decorations, visit the annual Christmas Fayre in Maesteg Town Hall. The Maesteg Market Square Ice Rink will open until 14th so you can have a festive day out and get in some of that all important christmas shopping.
Snow White at the Grand Pavillion (11th December to 5th January 2014)
Panto season is in full swing (oh yes it is!) and The Grand Pavillion will present Snow White, opening Wednesday 11th December until Sunday 5th January - and there will be a special video appearance from CBeebies superstar, Justin Fletcher!
209The famous Bridgend Elfsteddfod! (14th December 2014)
Now let's not forget Bridgend's famous annual Elf-steddfod, taking place on Saturday 14th December! There will be activities and entertainment from 12pm to 3pm including a 'snowball on the spoon' competition, igloo building, music from 'Rockin Dave' and a chance to make your own reindeer food, with the Elfsteddfod count in Adare Street at 2pm.
This weekend also sees traditional yuletide cheer at Bryngarw House and Country Park as they host a Victorian Christmas event featuring a christmas market, victorian fair-ground rides, story-telling, street theatre and Santa's Bryngarw Grotto - with a special appearance from Reindeer who will fly in on Sunday afternoon.
Adran and Aelwyd Yr Urdd Porthcawl Carol Service (18th December 2014)
Embrace tradition with the Adran and Aelwyd Yr Urdd Porthcawl Carol Service, at Tabernacle Chapel on Wednesday 18th December, and take a break from the stress and chaos of the pre-Christmas preparations!
The big Christmas Morning Swim!
And finally, as Christmas arrives, don't miss out on an exhilarating tradition - the Annual Christmas Morning Swim! Meet at the Hi Tide Inn from 10:30am with the swim commencing at 11:45 - work up a healthy appetite for the Christmas dinner cooking away at home!

5 Reasons Why Kids LOVE Bridgend

If you're the kind of person who goes on holiday because the children won't stop needling you to go to an amusement park, we have got a treat for you. There are some places (surprisingly), where kids can have a blast, and you don't have to sway sickeningly on a roller-coaster!
Children love to visit Bridgend, and for good reason - it can be a fun, relaxing or crazy day - and no matter where they go, parents can be guaranteed a great day!

Bryngarw Country Park © Bridgend Bites

Bryngarw Country Park © Bridgend Bites

5. Reconnect with nature at Bryngarw Country Park
Spend some good old-fashioned time outside at The Bryngarw Park doing anything from playing hide-and-go-seek or climbing around the adventure playground. It's even perfect for families with several BBQ sites spaced around the outdoors!
4. Dive into the Trecco Bay Holiday Park  or Trecco Bay in Porthcawl!
Fun indoor swimming complex, Splashland, is a great place for kids to slide all around in the pool and for adults to relax on pool-side chairs. It's open the public and perfect for those days where all the kids want to do is swim around playing Marco Polo! P.S. There's a waterslide. If you're feeling daring - Go out to Trecco Bay to catch a wave!

Wiggleys Fun Farm

Wiggleys Fun Farm

3. Run around and play at Wiggley's Fun Farm
Relive your childhood with your kids at Wiggley's Fun Farm at a great indoor and outdoor adventure play areas. Everything from Babies Barnyard to a Mini Racetrack, your kids will be busy for hours. There's even a coffee shop to recharge your batteries!
2. Take a family trip to Cwm Tawel for yurt camping! 
Ever thought you'd like to spend some time outside... but couldn't think of what you'd do? Solution: Cwm Tawel. Learn traditional crafting, and eat local food that tastes just like Wales while you enjoy the countryside. There's no better way to have a great weekend.

Methyr Mawr Sand Dunes © Bridgend Bites

Methyr Mawr Sand Dunes © Bridgend Bites

1. Visit the Merthyr Mawr Sand Dunes for a great day!
Take a day away from all the attractions and walk along the best sand dunes in the UK. Simply walk along the dunes to visit fantastic Ogmore Castle. If you're feeling particularly daring, go "sledging" down some dunes to get your adrenaline rush.

Bryngarw Bushwaka

Bryngarw Bushwaka

Bryngarw Bushwaka

This year sees the introduction of an exciting new programme for Bryngarw, with a series of specialist Bushcraft courses running throughout the year. To launch this programme, we are holding our first ever Bryngarw Bushwaka event on Saturday 13th April 11am - 5pm.
Go native and explore the world of bushcraft and experience traditional wilderness living skills at this family event. Bushcraft demonstrations and workshops will be on going throughout the day.  Activities to include Friction Fire Lighting, Willow Weaving, Foraging Walks, Campfire Cooking, Shelter Building, Falconry Display, Chainsaw Carving, Story Telling in a giant Tipi and many more. There will also be bushcraft related stalls and if you are interested in the natural environment and traditional skills there will also be an opportunity to meet local craft and conservation groups. Admission: Free (£2.50 car parking)
For further information tel. 01656 815332
t: @BridgendBites
f: Bridgend-Bites

Victorian Christmas at Bryngarw Country Park

Victorian Christmas

Victorian Christmas


Victorian Christmas at Bryngarw Country Park, originally uploaded by Tourism Bridgend.


Saturday 17 & Sunday 18 December, 2011
10am - 5pm Free admission
Traditional fairground rides, Craft and food stalls,
Barrel organ, Carol singing, Victorian storytelling
and lots more!
Plus a special visit from Father Christmas this weekend only
Charge for rides and stall items
Tel: 01656 725155