Pontypool Park to Blaenavon
A strenuous climb up onto the mountain ridge, with breath-taking views
Start: Pontypool Park Museum
Finish: Llanover Road, Blaenavon
Parking: Riverside Car Park, Pontypool
Approximate Distance: 9kms / 5.5 miles
Time Allowance: 3.5 hours
St Cadoc’s Church contains a lot of history. Legend had it that St Cattwg set to build the church, but what he put up in the day, the Devil would pull down in the night ‘till at last, Cattwg made a great bell (cloch in welsh) which he rang, causing the devil to drop the stones out of his apron falling further up the mountain at Garn Clochdy (which translates as the heap stones of the belfry).
In the church yard at St Cadoc’s there is a tomb bearing an inscription to the memory of William Summerfield who died March 16th 1855 aged 38 years. This gentleman kept the Yew Tree Inn, the pub opposite the church. He was famous in his day as he was enormously stout and at times travelled on show. Even at home, crowds flocked to visit his inn just to get a look at him. At a height of 5 foot 10, he weighed 32 stone with a waist measurement of 67 inches.
Lasgarn Woods is possibly so named after the bluish stone once quarried there. The woods were used for many years to supply timber for making charcoal, essential for iron making until coal became a viable substitute. (Glas = blue, carn = stone)
The Old Packhorse Trail dates from Medieval times. Pigs or ingots of iron would have to be transported by mule or packhorses, carrying up to 150 kgs each in panniers slung either side of their bodies. Teams of up to 100 animals may have made up a train that would have transported the metal down the valley from Blaenavon to Newport, from where it could then be transported by water.
Capel Newydd is the site of an old chapel, marked by a small simple iron cross. This chapel once served the valley around Blaenavon as the chapel of ease for Llanofer Church. At the time it was constructed, possibly in the late 1500’s, Blaenafon was only a small and scattered community. With the opening of the Ironworks, the chapel could not cope with the influx of worshippers and its services, being in welsh, would not have been understood by the miners and ironworkers from England. In 1805 the Ironmasters built a new church, St Peters, in the centre of Blaenavon and the small chapel slowly lost its congregation and fell into disrepair. In 1860 it was abandoned and its stone was quietly robbed to repair other buildings in the area. At the end the last of its stone was used to build St Paul’s church and its small alter table was installed in the new church. The site has not been completely abandoned as occasional open-air services are still held at the cross.
There is a legend that the church was built by 3 sisters who lived in Kenricks House at the Varteg. Another twist to this story is that the sisters had saved a lot of silver and decided to use this to have bells made for the church. The bells were cast in Cwmavon (one version says from the very silver the sisters had saved) and that once they were installed the bells gave out the sweetest sound that could be heard for miles around. But they were stolen and the grief-stricken benefactors died bereft of the sound of their beloved bells. There is a record that the church benefited from a grant from “Queen Anne’s Bounty” in the mid 1760’s, could this have started the legend? Another less fulsome legend is that the faeries danced in a ring at Capel Newydd and one day a Blaenavon man was caught up in the dance and disappeared, returning a long time after with no memory of where he had been.
Download a copy of the Torfaen Trail - Figure of 8 Leaflet which includes the Pontypool Park to Blaenavon here.
Last Modified: 25/10/2021
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