Parc Cwm Darran
On a fine day at the end of June we travelled to Parc Cwm Darran, north of Bargoed. Even the drive here was interesting as we found ourselves driving across an area which none of us had ever visited before – a vast coal reclamation site. We are so lucky that the industrial sites of our valleys have been redeveloped into wonderful Nature Parks. Parc Cwm Darran was created on the land abandoned when the Ogilvie mine closed in 1975. It now takes some imagination to picture the landscape covered in gantries and pitheads with millions of tonnes of coal waste in huge black mounds. Trees and grass would have struggled to grow in the wasteland created by the coal industry.
Since 1975 most of the coal buildings have been demolished, debris buried, and mineshafts capped. The mounds of waste have been reshaped to blend into the hilltops, the colliery feeder pond is now a reed fringed lake, a pond has been created and trees and grasses have been planted to provide habitats for wildlife. The result looks like a natural landscape and walking through the area makes you realise just how much can be achieved with what industry left behind.
Most importantly for us it has a network of footpaths and parking at the visitor centre we were able to use their facilities before starting our walk. There are several trails recommended from a stroll around the lake(1Km) for those with health challenges, a couple of slightly longer routes (up to 3Km) and cycle trails. For younger visitors there is even an Ogilvie Olympics obstacle course.
Luckily, we had a booklet with a recommended route that would take us up onto the hills for a longer walk. After a short walk along the lake in morning sunshine, we headed into the wooded hills. We had only just started out when we spotted some results of the regeneration, large furry caterpillars, and swathes of orchids in the grass.
We found a large stone entitled ‘Marquis of Bute Stone’ with an engraving ‘The Romans first introduced boundary and road marker posts. Until this time ditches had traditionally been used. The Roman marker stones, such as along the Apian Way leading to Rome, showed the name of the emperor only. The Marquis of Bute boundary stones demarcating land under their control, continued this tradition so that the letters MB are shown.’. In two places, once on the edge of moorland and again at the edge of the country park, we spotted these marker stones which rather grandly showed a B beneath a stylised crown.
Out in the open, a kite soared overhead, a sight which is always thrilling even though it is becoming more common. The land around us was lush and dotted with groups of trees. We entered an atmospheric stretch of oak woodland where all the tree trunks and branches were gnarled, bent and twisted. Maybe they struggled to grow during the industrial period this land experienced.
We emerged onto extensive moorland where we could see the outline of Pen y Fan and its accompanying hills in the far distance. We decided to break for lunch while we had sunshine and such good views.
Continuing, we spotted some strange structures at the top of the ridge, which looked like a 1970’s idea of a spaceship. According to a passer-by (one of the few people we saw all day) they are listening stations. Now we had a wide track to walk along and were surrounded by hundreds of sheep. The farmer drove towards us on his tractor, we stepped off the track and he had soon disappeared in a cloud of dust. Some sheep grazed next to a pond, and we noted the murky waters.
We skirted the Fochriw forest with its tall bare trunked fir trees and tumbledown stone walls and came back towards the country park. A long wooden sign at Cwmllwydrew Meadows Nature Reserve depicted a goods train with a tree branch covered with leaves as an engine.
Returning to the lake we saw plenty of waterfowl and yellow water lilies.
In medieval France, the yellow water lily was described as ‘the destroyer of pleasure and the poison of love’, the opposite to an aphrodisiac. Stonemasons carved flowers of the water lily into the roof bosses of Westminster Abbey to encourage celibacy.
Arriving back at the visitor centre we quickly changed out of our boots and sat in the shade enjoying tea and ice-creams whilst cooling down. By the time we left it was school chuck out time and the roads through the valleys were chock-a-block with parents trying to collect children. Avoiding the industrial route, we came by and the narrow valley roads with cars parked both sides some of us enjoyed a picturesque drive along a narrow mountain top road to pick up the main road to Cardiff, which rounded off the day nicely. Walk 7 miles, 800ft. Map 166