Getting out and about


Mountain biking


If it's cycling you want, it's cycling you'll get. The hills surrounding Blaengawney are a mountain biker's playground, offering serene scenic cycle paths as well as white-knuckle tracks. Cwmcarn Forest is only a 10 minute drive from the farm and was built by the gods of thrill-seekers themselves. With 15.5km of heart-in-mouth, arse-on-floor trails to choose from, you're given a fantastic range of opportunities to career straight into a larch tree. Bike hire is available at the trail centre from PS Cycles.


If that doesn't sound like your sort of thing, don't fret - there's also the option of a peaceful forest drive, as well as guided walks, camping, fishing and bird watching.


BikePark Wales in Gethin Wood, about 30 minutes from Blaengawney, is the UK's first full scale mountain bike park, 'built by riders for riders', so says the website. Their massive network of trails caters to riders of all abilities and even includes a family-specific loop. They also offer a handy mini bus service that ferries you and your bike to the top of the mountain, relieving you of the bothersome task of cycling up it. A day pass is just £6 a head.



The course at Bryn Meadows is just 5 minutes down the A472 in the beautiful Sirhowy Valley and was designed in part by Welsh golfing legend Craig Defoy. Remember him? Anyone? Well anyway, apparently he's made this championship course one of the most diverse and challenging there is, enjoyed by all abilities and handicaps. A round of 18 costs £30 per golfer.


Outdoor adventure


Built on a disused drift mine, climbing school Rock UK Summit Centre, is steeped in a rich history of people doing dangerous stuff. If you'd like to continue this tradition, take the A470 towards Merthyr Tydfil, come off at Treharris, and scale one of the centre's 18 metre high climbing walls. If you survive that and feel like pushing your luck, you can also try abseiling, archery, bouldering, caving or kayaking.


Forest Jump at The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport is fantastic fun for the family - the mental family who actually enjoys 30ft-high rope swings. They'll also enjoy the treetop obstacle course and something called the 'Power Fan Descender', which is essentially a colonic at 18 metres. Admission to the High Ropes Adventure is £20 per person.


Llandegfedd Reservoir and Country Park features a state-of-the-art Watersports and Visitor Centre, and is just a few short minutes from Blaengawney near Pontypool. It's set against some stunning Welsh countryside making it ideal for a lazy sunny Sunday, and the rane of waterborne activities will keep the adrenalin junkies suitably dosed as well. You can take courses in sailing, windsurfing, power boating, paddle-boarding, kayaking and more. Most of the reservoir you can enjoy for free but to give you a gauge on watersport prices, a one-day canoe and kayaking course is £75 per person.


Other activities local to Blaengawney include Parc Penallta, Mountain View Ranch, Rockwood Riding Centre, Supakart, Pontypridd Lido and South Wales 2000 Shooting.



The Big Pit National Coal Museum is one of the few mining museums that allows visitors to climb into a cage, descend 300ft under the ground, and walk along the dark and dangerous tunnels in which Welsh Miners used to toil and, quite often, perish. I know this sounds terrifying but the website assures me it's 'educational'. People of all ages can enjoy a multi-media tour of a modern coalmine, exhibitions in the Pithead Baths and a stroll around historic colliery buildings. The museum is open daily from 9.30am to 5pm and is just outside Blaenavon, less than 30 minutes from the farm.

St Fagans National History Museum is Wales' most popular heritage attraction and one of Europe's leading open air museums. It's essentially a village of re-erected Welsh buildings dating back to around 1100, so a day spent here is a day spent wandering through the ages. Plus, it's free.




If you're one of those history buffs who loves a castle then you'll do a lot worse than South Wales. Within 30-40 minutes of Blaengawney you've got Cardiff Castle, Caerphilly Castle, Usk Castle, Caldicot Castle (which hosts an annual international cider festival in May, fyi) and my favourite, Raglan Castle. The history books say that even though Raglan Castle fought off Oliver Cromwell and his parliamentarian forces for 13 straight weeks before being captured during the English Civil Wars, it was only really built for show. I reckon that says a lot about that era's inherent dedication to craft and workmanship, much like Cwmbran's Mecca Bingo Hall does about today's. Also, the 12th-century Tintern Abbey, a few minutes outside Chepstow in Monmouthshire is as pretty an historical site as you'll find anywhere in Wales.




For quintessential Wales, head up to the Brecon Beacons National Park where you'll find dramatic panoramics of undulating horizons, big skies and sinuous valleys covered in moss-green trees and lawn-like fields. And, I can personally attest that a photo from the top of Pen Y Fan will guarantee you at least 30 likes on Instagram. The national park is massive with almost too much going on to mention, but it all centres around mountains, castles, waterfalls, villages and all the other lovely cultural Welshy stuff. It's a little over an hour north of Blaengawney but you can easily spend a day or two taking it all in.


Other places to visit include Ancre Hill Estates and Vineyards, Tredegar House, Llancaiach Fawr Manor and Sirhowy Valley Country Park as well as the beautiful towns of Abergavenny, Crickhowell and Usk.

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