Pontypool Park

Pontypool Park is around 250 acres of park land which was originally leased to the family  around 1655.  Further land (which became known as Pontypool Park) was purchased by Capel hanbury in 1689.  The Hanbury family built their home on the land around 1694 and the Park Gates were erected some years later in 1720.  You can still see the house, complete with stables and an Ice House today, the house now makes up part of St Alban’s R.C High School, the stables are now home to the towns museum and the Ice House remains virtually untouched and is sited opposite the museum. (The ice house is a double chamber building that is unique in its design and build and unlike any other of its kind!)

There is a lot of history in the park, commemorative stones placed in memory of the Pontypool and District Hospital which finally shut its doors and was demolished shortly after in 1994, the Italian Gardens and Fountain which are a short hop over the river, behind the bus station on the edge of town (added in 1924), the bandstand at the center of the park, an addition in 1931.

Further into the park is the Pontypool RFC pitch which was developed and laid out in 1925 (which the rugby team had to share with the cricket team!) with the addition of the grandstand almost 20 years later in 1945.  And keeping with the theme of sport from the path that runs along the top of the rugby pitch toward the leisure center you should be able to see the ski slope that was added in 1975!  The tennis courts that should be seen if you face toward the clock tower (added in 1952) were added to the park around 1924.  There is a bowling green set next to the tennis courts that was added in 1925 too.

If you venture even further into the park and up towards the ski slope you will come to Nant-y-Gollen ponds, originally a mill pond to feed a forge, it was remodeled back in the early 1990’s, there are lots of stories about the pond (a good starting point of research is here )

Then there is the proper heart of the park, for me that is the Shell Grotto and Folly Tower, the Shell Grotto is worth a visit when it is open, the inside is decorated with shells, animal teeth and bones, it was built as a summer get away/picnic area for the Hanbury family in the 1830’s.  The Folly tower was added earlier, around 1765 but later demolished in 1940, when World War 2 was taking place – it was feared that the tower would act as a reference point and guide for German aircraft.  The tower was finally rebuilt in 1994.

There is a walk called the Pontypool Park Circular which takes you past many of these landmarks and places of historical interest, the full walk takes around 4 hours and is moderate in its rating – there are some steep parts and muddy trails along with woodland and rough ground.  If you would like to do this walk then details for it can be found here.

 

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Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal

I am including this as a new series as I wanted to cover some historical points of interest in the walks that I take.  The first walk that I am looking at is the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal walk that can be started in Brecon and will lead you down through the valleys to Pontymoile and further along to Cwmbran where it breaks down and has been built over in places. So, without further ado…

I’m really lucky to live not far from part of the canal that makes up Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal. Taken from the website Canal River Trust the history can be explained as ”

What is nowadays popularly referred to as the Mon & Brec started life as two separate canals: the Brecknock & Abergavenny Canal, and the Monmouthshire Canal. The 35-mile navigable section seen today is mostly the former. In the 1790s, the Monmouthshire Canal Company received its Act of Parliament at the same time that the Brecknock & Abergavenny was being planned. Following discussions, it was decided to link the two at Pontymoile.

The Monmouthshire Canal, including a branch from Malpas to Crumlin, was opened in 1799 with the Brecknock & Abergavenny extending from Brecon to Gilwern by 1800, finally reaching Pontymoile by 1812.

Both canals were supported by horsedrawn tramroads that were mainly used to bring coal, limestone and iron ore from the hillsides. The canal played a significant part in our industrial heritage, connecting Hill’s tramroads to the iron works in Blaenavon and the forges at Garnddyrys.

Though originally constructed to transport coal, lime and agricultural products the canal was used extensively by ironmasters and industrialists as their main transport network, bringing the raw iron ore up the canal from Newport to Llanfoist Wharf and thence by tramroads to the iron works and returning with trams loaded with iron, the finished product. Remains of this heritage can still be viewed along the canal today these include wharfs and lime kilns.

The Blaenavon area and a section of the canal were granted World Heritage status in 2000 in recognition of its historical significance.
In 1880 the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canals were taken over by the Great Western Railway. Within 35 years, commercial carrying had all but ceased.”

I live not far from the Pontymoile part of the canal and this is where I usually join the canal.  You can see lots of different things along the canal including wildlife (different types of birds, fish and insects).  It’s a fab walk for many different energy fitness levels and is flat, tarmacked in many places and easy to navigate!  This walk is best to go on in daylight as much of the canal isn’t lit and can become hard to navigate once evening sets in but weather wise you can do this walk in any weather really, just make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear!!!

Here’s some photos that I have taken in the past of the canal walk!