The Clydach George


by John Van Laun

The Clydach Gorge, between Gilwern and Brynmawr, provides a clear illustration of the way in which economic and social factors produce continuous change in the landscape. In fact the Gorge retains surprising beauty despite its history: a lovely beechwood remnant on the south side is now protected as a National Nature Reserve, and high moorlands stretch away on the skyline in every direction.

But the special character of the gorge - which makes it well worth getting to know - is in part the result of the labours of men over a few generations: rocky amphitheatres left by quarrying, massive stone arches, chapels and humble cottage terraces, with the remains of successive lines of communication intricately engraved into the rock which forms the valley sides.

Ironmaking was often the motive behind the work which has left these features. Evidence remains here not just of the early production processes, harnessing water power and using timber for fuel, but also of later techniques developed with the exploitation of coal during the ‘industrial revolution’.

The history of South Wales is inextricably linked to that of the iron and coal industries. Less well-known, and today often less obvious, is the fact that some of the early industrial developments in Wales took place high up in the valleys, and even within the area now designated the Brecon Beacons National Park on account of its great beauty.

The story of much early industry is reflected here in microcosm. That we now seek to conserve relics of an enterprising but grim past is perhaps a comment on our own ‘post-industrial’ society.

The three trails (which follow the introductory sections of this book) have been devised to visit on foot sites and routes in the valley which still give some impression of their former significance.  This delightful little book reveals many a hidden gem.

‘The greatest gift is a passion for reading’
Elizabeth Hardwick