“ South Wales „
Living in Cwmcarn, South Wales I've grown up looking out of my bedroom to see trees, mountains, more trees and more mountains lol. There isn't really much to do in the area as it's such a small village, yet it still seems to have hundreds of visitors a year from all around the world. The reason for this being the Cwmcarn Forest Drive and Visitor Centre.
The Forest drive is a 7 mile long road around twisting woodland roads. It has 7 car parks and themed picnic areas along its length, in these wonderful areas you will find hand carved wooden statues (which I actually took photos of for my photography college course work), play areas to please the children, a fishing lake, and even BBQ areas so you can make a day of it and not have to worry about leaving to have food.
******** Opening Times ********
March 11am - 5pm
April - June 11am - 7pm
July - August (weekdays) 11am - 7pm
July - August (weekends) 11am - 9pm
September 11am - 6pm
October 11am - 5pm
November - February 11am - 4pm (weekends only)
February half term 11am - 4pm (subject to weather (call before visiting)
NOTE: Last entry 1 hour before closing time.
To visit the information centre and the lake is 100% free, if you then wish to drive around the woodland the prices are as follows:-
MOTORBIKE - £ 3.00
CAR - £ 5.00
MINIBUS - £10.00
SEASON TICKET - £20.00
At the very top of the mountain you have Twmbarlwm walk, to local people it's called 'The Twmbarlwm tump' or simply just 'the tump'. A statement about 'the tump' says:-
"At 414 metres above sea level, it is easy to see why this site has been such a popular settlement over the centuries. It is thought to have been a Bronze Age hill fort, which has been adapted by other cultures through history. With panoramic views over the Bristol Channel and surrounding area, this site would have provided an ideal vantage point, as you will see when you reach the top of the tump."
Distance - 10.5 km / 6.5 miles
Approximate walk time - 4 ½ hours
Difficulty - Strenuous
Climb - 900 feet / 270 meters
Start Point - Visitor centre
Finish Point - Visitor Centre
As you can see by the above facts, this is a long walk from start to finish, but is definitely worth it, the views from the tump are absolutely incredible.
Now the reason for many people coming here is not just the breath taking walks and scenery but also the camping facilities, on the campsite you will find accommodation for 40 tents or caravans, modern toilet and shower facilities, as well as chemical waste disposal point and electric hook up.
******** Prices ********
January - June / September - December (off Peak)
Caravan, Motor home, trailer tent £9.50 + £2.50 electric hook up
Small Tent (up to 3 man) £7.00
Medium Tent (up to 6 man) £8.50
Large tent (up to 9 man) £13.00
all prices are per night
July and August (Peak)
Caravan, Motor home, trailer tent £11.50 + £2.50 electric hook up
Small Tent (up to 3 man) £8.50
Medium Tent (up to 6 man) £10.00
Large tent (up to 9 man) £16.00
The Visitor Centre has not long been refurbished; inside you will find a cafe that sells gorgeous food, a gift shop selling many keepsakes, stationary, small toys, books, etc. Public toilets and also an upstairs Conference room for any functions held, at Christmas they do it out as a winter wonderland where you can take your child to visit Santa.
All year round you will find there are activities for children, at Easter they do an Easter egg hunt, I've not actually joined this before but I'm sure I'll take my son on it when he gets a little older. During the summer I like to take a walk up and around the lake, I've done it for many years, the fresh air and gorgeous view is calming.
******** Opening times ********
2nd January - 10th April 9:00am - 5:00pm
11th April - 30th September 9:00am - 5:00pm (6:00pm Fri-Sun)
1st October - 23rd December 9:00am - 5:00pm
24th - 27th December Closed
28th - 30th December 9:00am - 5:00pm
31st December & 1st January Closed
Some History Facts
* The Iron Age hill fort of Twmbarlwm was at the heart of the territory of the Silurian Celts, the dominant Celtic tribe of South East Wales.
* The story of Prince Madoc inspired John Evans to set off to find a tribe of First National Americans whom he was sure would be speaking Welsh
* At its peak Cwmcarn Colliery employed 700 men yielding 1,000 tons of coal per day
Information I've taken from a leaflet:-
Significant settlement at Cwmcarn came with Bronze Age migration of local tribes from the Gwent levels to the uplands of Mynydd y Grug, Mynydd Machen and Mynydd Maen (Twmbarlwm) and led to a later Iron Age (900-55 BC) hill fort to be constructed by the Silures on Twmbarlwm.
The name of Cwmcarn came about in 942 when Llywarch ap Cadogan gave Villa Treficarn Pont (estate near the bridge over the Carn) to Bishop Wulfrith with King Cadell's guarantee i.e. the place where the Carn meets the Ebbw (now Cwmcarn).
Following the Norman invasion of Wales the separate townships of Abercarn, Cwmcarn and Newbridge were given a manorial title of Abercarn. The three townships were also within the boundaries of the ancient parish of Mynyddislwyn and remained therein up until comparatively recent times.
Cwmcarn lies at the south-eastern edge of the South Wales coalfield. The Cwmcarn Colliery development started in 1836 as a single 180 ft down shaft for the nearby Prince of Wales Colliery at Abercarn operated by the Monmouthshire Iron and Coal Company.
The Cwmcarn Forest Drive now runs over the shafts of the colliery and relics of colliery buildings can still be seen on the slope above the old shaft. The present day lake that is stocked by the Cwmcarn Angling Association was originally downstream of the colliery's washery.
I hope this review has Done Cwmcarns Scenic area proud and tempts some of you to try it out/
thanks for reading
The visitor centre is excellent, the mountainbiking superb.. BUT..DO NOT USE THE CAMPSITE !!The site is situated close the the local town and attract both serious and petty criminals. When we stayed there, there were two very expensive mountainbikes stolen from the site - one taken by thieves breaking into a locked car.The site requires an overnight security guard to help prevent crime, but it still goes on. Cam somewhere else and enjoy a lovely day out at Cwmcarn during the hours of daylight.
What's Up In The Forest?
~~ Introduction to South Wales.~~
South Wales is an area covering several counties and, as it suggests, it's in the southern region of Wales. However, people tend to think of Wales as just North and South, when in actual fact there is a middle ground, though it's not generally referred to as such. I imagine some people even think of Wales as that "piece" tagged onto England.
For the purpose of this review I'm just counting the coastal areas of south Wales and the areas of Glamorgan and the famous Welsh Valleys. These valleys snake down between the mountains in what looks like a line of parallel roads. Mining in South Wales changed the entire landscape with its pits and the ravages this caused to mountains and forests alike. Yet much of this land has now been reclaimed and the beauty of the countryside is fast regaining its old heritage. To the east of the main valleys just bordering onto the county of Gwent is the town of Caerphilly and the ridge of mountains that form a line from east to west.
There is a point to this as several years back the boundaries and the names of the counties changed, causing some confusion when looking places up on the map.
~~ Cwmcarn Forest Drive ~~
This is an area of outstanding natural beauty and a great place for a day out, or as a base for touring. You might also find it on maps labelled as Cwmcarn Scenic Drive. Either name makes no difference, you can get to it the same way. From the M4 take junction 28 and follow the A467 for Cwmcarn, passing through the small town of Crosskeys on the way. It's roughly eight miles from the city of Newport, which is the easiest route. Once you turn into the road towards the Forest drive and centre, the turning for the drive itself is about half a mile from the main road. Passing through the visitor centre and the amenities you come to the drive itself. This is a seven mile drive up through the mountains on a one-way system, the road traverses the mountain on a specially made route designed to allow the driver to enjoy the drive and views along with their passengers.
The route is quite steep but not so difficult that even the smallest of engines can reach the top. Along the way are seven car parks with plenty of room to get out and enjoy the spectacular views. On the one side the views face back towards the forest of Ebbw Vale and farther afield the distant mountains of the Breacon Beacons. From the side of the drive that faces towards the Bristol Channel, it is possible to glimpse the Mendips. Each of the car parks has viewing points that can be accessed by a moderate walk. It really is worth the walk to see so many different counties in one drive. It's hard to believe that parts of the mountains were once mining areas, since the forests of mature larch and pine now cover the slopes.
The parking areas have several amenities with picnic areas, BBQ , play equipment and in some places forest sculptures. With plenty of parking spaces its possible to spend the whole day on the drive, though it's best to check the closing times. This time of year is an excellent time to visit with the longer nights allowing for longer opening hours. With the one-way system there are no traffic jams either!
Another plus is that disabled or elderly people can stay in the car and still enjoy the stupendous views. Not many places offer that experience and believe me, it's an experience to be enjoyed. The car parks are fairly level, so will allow for some disabled access. Now I'm getting older and more unsteady on my feet I appreciate knowing that I can still get my fresh air and the wonderful experience of being high above the clouds and watching as kestrels and hawks dip and sway in the thermals. Just standing by the car and feeling the fresh air on your face is a tonic. Walking in the woods and eventually coming to a viewpoint is an added bonus.
~~ The Visitor Centre ~~
If you can tear yourself away from the delights of the forest drive, then the visitor centre is worth a look around and stop for a snack or a meal. At this point the amenities are still suitable for disabled people with ramps leading up to the restaurant and shops. The gift shops are reasonable, but expect higher prices as a lot of the goods are locally crafted. From here the Nantcarn stream meanders towards a working water wheel and fishing is available at certain places along the banks if you purchase a permit. Many people just like to walk along the stream and enjoy the peace and quiet though.
Also near to the stream is the camping site which caters for up to 40 caravans and tents. There are modern toilets and shower blocks with electric hook-up points. As part of the National Forestry site the area is kept clean and it's wise to enquire about bookings well in advance. This is a popular site with it's peaceful position and yet so near to many local areas of interest.
~~ Other Interests.~~
These include mountain biking, horse riding and special occasions. An example of this is the Summer Solstice Sunset walk to TwmBarlum, a local high point where there was once an Iron Age fort. I've never been to one of these events, but in my youth I walked to TwmBarlum many times.
Although the forest drive is run by Caerphilly council, the actual site of Cwmcarn is much nearer to the border of Gwent, and might be found under that county on some maps.
Prices are as follows:
I don't know the cost of camping here but I imagine the cost to be reasonable. You can find links to more information by accessing the website
This is one of my own personal favourites, not just to visit myself, but for showing friends around and giving them a taste of the Welsh countryside. Perhaps I'll see you there sometime?
©Lisa Fuller. May 2008.
Be enchanted while driving through the 7-mile scenic route of the rolling hills and green mountains of one of Wales' largest urban forests.