Rhondda Heritage Park
Coedcae Road, Pontypridd, United Kingdom
www.tourism.rctcbc.gov.uk/en… - 01443 682036
Rhondda Heritage Park Pontypridd Reviews
Lament for a bygone age Aug 20, 2016
The South Wales Valleys were, once upon a time, the industrial heartbeat that powered Wales. This was almost entirely down to the rich natural resources of coal that lay underground, which effectively created a boom period for the industry in the region, and for a time Wales was the biggest supplier of coal in the world.
All this came to an end – at first gradually with a decline in demand for coal, and then more rapidly when Margaret Thatcher notoriously shut down the majority of collieries, an action which led to a failed UK-wide miner’s strike and, ultimately, ripped the heart out of the valleys community. The knock on effect of mass unemployment is still being felt to this day, with just one deep coal mine now in operation in the Cynon Valley, and a once booming area is now struggling.
The Valleys are still a well-visited area as they are undeniably picturesque, as rolling green scenery, complete with terraced houses lining the hillsides, effectively remain the definitive valleys image (perhaps lionised by such movies as the Oscar-winning How Green Was My Valley). It’s the imposing disused collieries that tower in to the horizon that are the biggest draw, however, and the one in Trehafod, near Pontypridd, in the Rhondda Valley is the base for an exhibit that sets out to tell the story of coal mining in the Valleys.
The visitor centre here has a recreated high street town from the boom period of the South Wales valleys, and does a good job of detailing the history of the region through a couple of shops, a house – complete with dummies! – and, most informatively, information boards on the history of coal mining. Proper context is given via individual stories of the typical life of the miner and his family, and the dramatic story of a rescue of some trapped miners is most illuminating.
It’s out in the main courtyard, where you get to see the obsolete machinery in all its disused glory, where the place comes to life. That’s where the free part comes to an end, though, as you have to then pay to get the underground tour from a former miner, who will show you the old tunnels and tell the what, who, why and when of coal mining from its earliest days right up until when it was closed down.
Undeniably interesting as this is, the tour is not as impressive as that of the Big Pit Colliery at Blaenavon (a UNESCO world heritage centre), which has more accessible, extensive and authentic-feeling tunnels, resulting in a much more satisfying experience than the one you get here.
A bit of a shame, really, as the Rhondda is the most famous of the valleys, quite probably due to the legendary ‘Cwm Rhondda’ (better known as ‘Bread of Heaven’ outside of Wales) hymn. A monument to this exists on the edge of Trehafod, and there are some walking routes nearby from which you can enjoy some fine views of the area.
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