The Glynneath Gunpowder Works Pontneddfechan were established in 1857 to produce black powder for use in mining and quarrying and operated until the early 1930’s. Since that time the site slowly disintegrated as many of the buildings had to be demolished because of the risk of accidental explosion they posed. The site was taken over by the Brecon Beacons Park authority and has undergone a major restoration project to preserve what remains. When finished you will be able to start your tour in the Pontneddfechan Village Hall and walk along the line of the old tramroad which takes you through the works and past the remains of each of the factory buildings. There will be interpretative boards along the way to help you imagine it in its heyday when 60-70 people were working there.
St Fagans National Museum of History showcases the history of Wales through the people’s everyday lives. The museum is just outside Cardiff and is free to enter though there is a small parking fee.
The main conference building holds two museums with hosehold memorabilia and workplace tools. They even have an early touring caravan with all the latest mod cons? There is a large restaurant in this building as well
The main attractions are outside in the extensive grounds of the original house which still stands and parts are open to visitors. They have gathered up houses from many different eras and transplanted them to the museum. This includes farmhouses, workmen cottages and barns. There is even a high street complete with shops selling Welsh produce. A terrace of houses has been furnished to show how they were modernised throughout several eras.
Several of the buidings such as the mill have live demonstrations during the day and there are also volunteers in the cottages to explain how the people lived.
It is very popular with school groups and can get a little crouded in the tiny cottages. You need to allow a good few hours to do the place justice.
The Brecon Beacons has a number of castles some grander than others. My favourite has to be Tretower Court and Castle, not far from the coach house. It combines a 900 year old tower with a grand Elizabethan court. The setting is a quiet meadow far from the crouds and no better time to visit than late in the day when everyone else has gone home.
The tower was a muster point for the Welsh longbow fighters that went to victory at Agincourt. Their adventures were well recorded and there is a full list of their names as most returned and were paid for their service. The Cadw curator if available can give you a tour that really brings to live what living in the tower was like.
The Elizabethan court came about because the Picards and Vaughans who lived there were rich influential Welsh families out to impress others. The building was added to over time to reflect the current style.
When they departed the court became a farm and all the fineary was replaced with animals.
The court has been returned to about 1470 though with only a few trappings, leaving most to your imagination. Mainly the banquet hall is laid out to a feast and the kitchen contains the latest utensils of the 15th century.
They hold various events throughout the year including re enactors on certain weekends. A must if you like stepping back into history.
Once again I was organising the Hay Winter Festival 2018 stewards. The festival this year was held in the marquee in the cattle market. It was festively decorated and had a selection of stalls selling wreaths, art, drink, reading lights and of cause books by the authors giving the talks. The events were well received and the weather was quite kind. Also there was the Christmas lights ceremony, a food festival on Saturday and a vintage festival on Sunday. The events were rounded off by a community performance of the Messiah in St Mary’s church. If you are thinking of attending next year it will be on 28 November to 1 December 2019.
As part of our Brecon Beacons Ambassador scheme we visited Big Pit National Coal Museum at Blaenafon. When the mine closed over 100 years of coal mining came to an end. It was decided to preserve and share the experience of the Welsh miner in a museum. Real miners take you 90 metres underground in the same cage as they used though thankfully quite a bit slower. Oue guide Steve had worked in the mines for 35 years and as you can imagine had a few tall tales to tell . He made you feel like his first guests of the day and that he was really pleased to see you. Afterwards we went on a tour of the bath house. This facility is now a museum but still retains many of the major improvements of a miner’s life that it brought like showers , clean clothes and a canteen. It even has a water bottle fill station which is quite ironic considering our current move away from bottled water. So proves we can still learn from the past. Entry is free which is another bonus.