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Aberafan - Port Talbot

It is amazing how the environment reasserts itself in a partly-post-industrial landscape. This page describes a few of the wonders of Aberafan and the area around Port Talbot, the surrounding countryside, and around the bay to Swansea and the Mumbles. The smell of sulphur lingers around the steel works, but the air in the valleys is mainly fresh these days, and there is plenty to do outdoors..

See also

 

 




  Things to do in and around Aberafan-Port Talbot   
  "With drizzle on the slates and the smoke down from the chimneys…  and the higgledy – piggledy streets and crescents and closes, which seen  from the top of the mountain is a kind of geometrical Euclidian nightmare.  To that town, Aberavon and its rugby team, I pledge my continuing allegiance.  Until death."    
Richard Burton (1925 - 1984)
Richard Burton 
 
 
 
  A little bit of history

In the late 1970s, with a big balance of payments problem, the Government ran a big campaign to persuade people to take their holidays in the UK.  The evening news programme Nationwide ran a spoof holiday documentary about the joys of a holiday in... industrial Port Talbot.  A massive joke.

Air pollution was a very big problem - made worse on the weekly clean-out of the blast furnaces, when a layer of soot would cover the town. Max Boyce would tell audiences that he'd asked a man whether the globe shining in the sky was the sun or the moon. "I don't know" he replied "I'm from Port Talbot".

How times have changed.  It is amazing how the environment reasserts itself in a partly-post-industrial landscape. This page describes a few of the wonders of Aberafan and the area around Port Talbot, the surrounding countryside, and around the bay to Swansea and the Mumbles. The smell of sulphur lingers around the steel works, but the air in the valleys is mainly fresh these days, and there is plenty to do outdoors.

Aberafan
     
  Margam Park 

www.neath-porttalbot.gov.uk/margampark

 

 
  Margam Park is a stunning country estate founded in the early 19th century by the Talbot family.  It is famous for its Orangery, but also a 19th century gothic castle, and the ruins of the Cistercian Margam Abbey, partly reconstructed in the 18th century.  The park has a mixture of several 19th century formal gardens and open park and woodland.  The Japanese garden was founded in the 1920s.  Recent work includes the creation of a Tudor-style 'grey' garden.  Margam Park
     
  Kenfig Pool and National Nature Reserve

www.bridgend.gov.uk/english/tourism
 
     
  One of the most important sites in Britain for nature conservation, Kenfig is one of the last remnants of a huge dune system that once stretched along the coast of South Wales from the River Ogmore to the Gower peninsula. 

The site of the nature reserve was once a thriving town. In late medieval times huge storms took their toll and the town of Kenfig was engulfed beneath thousands of tons of sand. For the last 700 years, nature has colonised the sand and the area is now the home for thousands of species of animals and plants including the rare Fen Orchid, for which the site is internationally famous. What was once a thriving medieval borough is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The only trace left today of the ancient Borough is the castle keep, which rises out of the northern dunes.

Kenfig has a good Information Centre with , which has a "hands on" exhibition for children of all ages. There are bird hides overlooking the 70-acre freshwater pool, a favourite refuge for wildfowl at all times of the year, and generally wardens are around to answer questions.

 
Kenfig nature reserve 
  River Ogmore, Ogmore Castle, Merthyr Mawr  

www.bridgend.gov.uk/english/tourism
 
  Riverside paths, woodlands and ancient stones are featured in this fascinating walk through the scenic beauty and history of the Merthyr Mawr area. Merthyr Mawr village is an outstanding collection of thatched cottages surrounded by meadows and woodlands. Stepping stones take you across the river to Ogmore Castle built by the Normans, it commands a strategic crossing point on the River Ewenny.  Ogmore Castle 
     
  Afan Argoed Countryside Centre 
and South Wales Miners' Museum
 
www.neath-porttalbot.gov.uk/afanforestpark/visitor_centre.html
 
  The focal point of this network of forest park walks and bike tracks is the
Countryside Centre and South Wales Miners Museum, where you can learn about the history, wildlife and woodlands of Afan Forest Park. 

The South Wales Miners Museum is situated in the Visitor Centre which illustrates the history of the Afan Valley. The social history of the valleys mining communities does not just end there, there are even outdoor exhibits, such as a blacksmith shop, to help take you back in time. 

Afan Forest Park is rich in cultural heritage, from Roman remains, numerous cairns, remnants of Iron and Bronze Age settlements. The strong heritage of the Afan Valleys is what binds the communities together, through a remembered past.

 
Aberafan 
  Ewenny Priory, Church and Pottery
www.bridgend.gov.uk/english/tourism/index.asp
 
 
 
  A delightful walk through countryside characterised by woodlands, fields and hilltop views around the pretty rural settlement of Ewenny. Ewenny Priory and Church was founded in 1141 and is widely regarded as one of the finest fortified religious buildings in Britain.   Ewenny Priory 
     
     
  The Mumbles pier and beach  
www.enjoygower.com
 
  A beautiful seaside town and castle on the outskirts of Swansea, on the other side of  the bay from Port Talbot.  There is also a fabulous Italian ice cream parlour with views across the bay.   Mumbles Pier 
     
  Aberavon Rugby Football Club - The Wizards
www.aberavonwizards.co.uk

 
  Though much of the attention and money has switched to the local regional rugby side, The Ospreys, in neighbouring Swansea, Port Talbot Athletic Ground is probably the place to get a  feel for the heart of the community as the town's beloved Aberavon RFC take to the pitch for one of their gritty home games.    Abaravon RFC 
     
  Countryside Walks in Glamorgan
www.glamorganwalks.com 
 
   Mumbles Pier
   
  Why do you keep calling it Aberafan - and why with an 'f'?

Good question. Port Talbot is the usual name for the town, which encompasses several areas including the original medieval town of Aberafan, and villages which grew and were absorbed in the industrial era, such as Taibach, Margam and Baglan.  Port Talbot originally referred to the docks, funded by local landowners and industrialists the Talbot family. Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot, landowner and Liberal politician, founded the iron works in 1831 in Margam, and from 1834 developed a port and railway system (the Port Talbot Railway) to serve it. The port was named for the Talbot  family, and the name was steadily applied to the surrounding district. The Talbot family subsequently supported many local causes with their new industrial wealth - including the reconstruction of Margam castle and restoration of Margam Abbey.  

Isn't it a bit ungracious not to reflect all this beneficence in the town's name? 

We think not. No other town (as far as we can tell) in the UK is named for a person or family.  Nor should an individual's identity be stamped on an entire community.  We favour the original Aberafan as the name for the area as a whole (rather than the anglicised 'Aberavon').  Strictly this is the name of the medieval centre of the town, but it seems reasonable to apply it to the whole in preference to using the name of the local aristocrat. 

Will you please stop it, and call it the same as everyone else?

No.  The Local Authority briefly renamed itself 'Borough of Afan' in the 1970s.  Perhaps its time will come again.  Then again, perhaps there are bigger things to worry about.



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