The Ponds, The Pit and the Punch Bowl (Part II)

Big Pit - View from the Blorenge
View from the Blorenge – Abergavenny and the Heads of the Valley Road

Part 2 of my recent weekend trip to Wales. In Part 1 I talked you through a little ride I went on with an old friend of mine on some down hill trails near where my parents live in Pontypool. That was Saturday, on Sunday I rode solo around the industrial landscape and World Heritage Site of Blaenafon. Here’s a few words and pictures.

Big Pit - Blaenafon Iron Works
Blaenavon Ironworks is historically significant as during the early nineteenth century the ironworks was one of the most important producers of iron in the world.

Blaenavon (or Blaenafon in Welsh) is an important Welsh town, not just for the Welsh and the mining industry but its also a unique place in the UK’s history, as its an almost live demonstration of our industrial past. The town of Blaenafon itself hasn’t been updated with or improved by (or suffered from) new developments, new builds or huge supermarkets. Its still l stuck in its industrial past and a short journey around the town could depress you while simultaneously invoke some nostalgic feelings. Given World Heritage Site status in 2000 its proud past and dramatic landscape are being preserved through such initiatives as the Volunteer World Heritage Rangers and the Forgotten Landscapes Partnership. It really is a striking and impressive place to visit not just to ride a bike.

Big Pit - The Keepers Pond

The land has been changed forever by coal and iron industries and the industrial revolution has really left a permanent mark on this land.  You can visit Big Pit and even go under ground, down the old mine shaft and experience just a glimpse of what working in a coal mine might have been like. Or you can do what I did and you can take a ride around the landscape and marvel at the sites both man made and natural from your bike.

Big Pit - The Keepers Pond
The Keeper’s Pond car park is the ideal starting point for a walk on the Blorenge Mountain. For instance, if you follow the Iron Mountain Trail you will discover lots of reminders of the 19th century industry including tramways and tunnels.

The ponds and lakes in the area are man made and were used as part of the industrial process, in the case of the Keepers, and the Garn Lakes are made from reclaimed colliery land:

The Keeper’s Pond was built in the early 19th century to provide water for Garnddyrys Forge, which started production in about 1817. The forge was dismantled during the 1860s and whilst the pond no longer fulfilled an industrial purpose, it rapidly became a local beauty spot. It also acquired the name Keeper’s Pond because the gamekeeper of the grouse moors lived in a cottage nearby.

Garn Lakes used to be an area covered in spoil tips and old colliery workings but following an extensive land reclamation scheme it was officially opened in 1997 as a beautiful area for residents and visitors. It covers 40 hectares, and with lakes and grasslands it provides a diverse habitat and breeding grounds for a wide range of wildlife. So much so, that it has now been designated as a Local Nature Reserve.

Big Pit - Slag Heap
Slag Heap – A man-made mound or heap formed with the waste material (slag)

Everywhere there are signs of the past industrial activities . As you navigate your way around slag heaps and pedal on disused rail and tram lines, you are never far from something of interest, all set to the backdrop of the rugged Brecon Beacons National Park.

Big Pit - The Blorenge
Blorenge overlooks the market town of Abergavenny and the villages of Llanfoist and Govilon in the Usk Valley to the north. At the foot of the mountain lies the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal. It drops away steeply to the northwest into Cwm Llanwenarth. To the south, gentler slopes fall away to Blaenavon at the head of the Lwyd valley.

The nearby Blorenge mountain is a popular site for walkers and flyers! On a still day you will see paragliders in the sky as this is one of the most popular spots in the UK for this sport. The picture below was provided by a paragliding friend of mine – impressive views from up there!

Eye in the sky above the Blorenge

Anyway, the riding was pretty good with some testing climbs and interesting rocky sections to traverse. Topped off with some little descents and lots more to discover I think that I will be returning to the area very soon to explore further and define a route to take some other riders on.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures – even on a wet grey day in Wales, I think the results are pretty good…

For more information go to

Big Pit - Blaenafon

5 thoughts on “The Ponds, The Pit and the Punch Bowl (Part II)

  1. Great blog tim. From Pontypool myself and ride hafod, dasher/ Tyshon, cochy and blorenge regular, lots of great local trails in the area.

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