"World Heritage comes to the valleys: Blaenavon" Top 5 Page for this destination Brecon Beacons National Park Off The Beaten Path Tip by Spincat

  Big Pit, Blaenavon
by Spincat

I have included Blaenavon in the 'Off the Beaten track', simply because it falls outside the National Park. An easy day trip from any part of the Beacons.

It will be through films like Brassed Off & Billy Elliott that many VT visitors will know of the struggle between titan Scargill's NUM & titaness Margaret Thatcher and her plans to close the pits across Britian. There are accounts of 1984-85 coal miner's strike on the BBC website Some happy endings in the sad story of how the strike was lost and the pits closed: the story of Tower Colliery and how workers used edundancy money to buy shares in the pit & keep it open.

And then there is Blaenavon, one of the birthplaces of the industrial revolution and now a major tourist attraction & World Heritage Site; an extraordinary and imaginative project which has used the industry scarred landscape of this mining valley to create a unique landscape, including 2 award winning museums, the Mining Museum & the Old Ironworks.

Most famous attraction is Big Pit: 300 ft underground (I did, Mr Spincat didn't) into a disused mine. Winner of the Gulbenkein Arts prize and, one of the judges, Victoria Hislop, said, "To be shown round 300ft below ground by somebody who was a miner was one of the top 20 experiences of my life."

The disused colliery buildings, including the pithead baths, that echo with the sounds of the past. The bath house is both funny - the naked miner images in the showers - and touching: the stories of colliery workers in the locker rooms.

The guides were extraordinary. Mr Williams sensitively evoked the stories and times long gone, when (before Lord Shaftesbury's reforms) women & children worked down the mines for long hours; the stories of the pit ponies - stables preserved - who went blind because they never saw the sun - or, more terribly, saw the sun for only 2 weeks a year before being dragged into darkness.

Phone: + 44 (0) 1495 792615
Website: http://www.world-heritage-blaenavon.org.uk/

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Nov 5, 2006
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