This walk took us to Bargoed Woodland Park, which was created on land formerly occupied by Bargoed, Britannia and Gilfach collieries. The country park has been created from barren waste ground left after the closure of the last mine in 1985. 90,000 new trees, 6500 bulbs and 8000 wildflowers have been planted. This was once part of the largest colliery tip in Europe and LS Lowry immortalised it in his 1965 painting ‘Bargoed’.
We started from the Pengam car park, south of Bargoed, where a wooden sign was carved with leaves of holly, hawthorn, oak, and sycamore each with its flower or fruit. As we got out of the cars, we all shivered and put on extra clothes, if we had them; although it was a sunny morning it was several degrees cooler here than it had been in Wenvoe.
We kept to the west of the river Rhymney following it and then the Nant Bargod Rymni upstream, towards Parc Cwm Darren. It was easy walking on a tarmac path and most of the morning we climbed steadily on a disused railway track.
As we passed Bargoed town we saw a couple of the sculptures installed as part of a Bargoed public art project. Funded by the European Union there are 4 sculptures totalling £200,000. At the northern entrance to Bargoed’s High St is ‘The Angel of Bargoed’ with open arms inspired by the statue’s proximity to Angel Way, the War Memorial and the church overlooking the site. As we by passed the town, we saw ‘The Daffodil’. There are three large painted steel daffodils, near Bargoed station, welcoming people to this valley. It is so tall that you can see it from distant hillsides.
It was lovely to walk in sunshine with the sound of running water; we were in a steep sided valley and water rushed down it. Many bricks had been used in impressive arched tunnels and steps funnelling the water and there was a huge brick wall reinforcing the hillside.
As we entered Parc Cwm Darren, we spotted a display of bright scarlet elf cap on rotting wood covered in bright green moss. We looked down at a wooden bridge and continued walking across a tarmacadamed bridge. A stone sign told us we were at ‘Caradoc’s Bridge’. Caradoc was a Silurian leader who fought against the Roman occupation in Wales but was eventually captured and taken to Rome. It is believed that this bridge near Deri has been called Caradoc’s Bridge in his memory.
Another memorial stone recorded more recent events ‘In memory of those whose lives were touched by the tragic events at the Darren Colliery, October 29 1909’. The 27 names of those who died are listed.
At the northern part of the walk, we turned back on ourselves climbing the steep hill side to reach the ridge. Just before the top we spotted a concrete bunker below the path and clambered on top of it, to rest and eat our lunch. Within moments we were treated to not one but two red kites soaring above us, so close we could clearly see their colouring. In no time they were out of sight as they flew off up the valley and we were left with the memory and magnificent views.
The day had warmed up and we enjoyed blue skies and open landscapes, our route often following tarmac paths. One field was covered in green mossy humps, none of us knew how they had occurred. In the hedge alongside a road, we spotted bird feeders. Someone had made them from toilet rolls, with the outside coated in fat and then rolled in bird seed (or was the seed melted in the fat before rolling the toilet rolls in it?), so simple but very effective.
Returning to Pengam towering over us was a statue placed over an old ash tip. This statue is 40ft and called the Lady of the Stream, it depicts a woman watching over children in the area, supposedly in reference to Pengam folklore of youngsters drowning in a stream.
Arriving back to the cars we saw poetry (having missed it when we drove in) cut into metal at the entrance to the carpark
‘When the children come here to plant primroses and violets
let us tell them about the old tree and the fact of its joy
let us teach them about change
let us show them a future…’
Our route had enticed us with a dipper in the river, tadpoles, coltsfoot, showing its yellow flowers before the leaves and of course those wonderful red kites and most of it had been on solid paths but no spring lambs yet. Afterwards we went to Caerphilly Garden Centre, where we sat outside in sunshine for drinks.
Walk 7.75 miles, 1300ft. Map OS 166