About the project
Grid Ref SO 03545 08468
Back in 2011-2012 British Institute for Geological Conservation started scoping out new projects and turned our attention to the Merthyr Tydfil area. As we looked for likely geological projects and spoke to stakeholders in the Merthyr area the name Taf Fechan cropped up repeatedly. Intrigued by the prospect of finding somewhere really rather special we sent our project manager Ben Evans out to investigate the much hyped locality.
Our initial visits confirmed we had indeed unearthed a hidden gem. Unbelievably the Taf Fechan valley starts a stone’s throw from the popular Cyfarthfa Castle. Just north of the castle the Taf Fechan river has cuts a deep narrow gorge through and impressive thickness of 350 million year old Carboniferous Limestone that lies right on the margin of the South Wales Coalfield.
The Taf Fechan valley is an important site for nature and wildlife. The site is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for the important Bryophytes (liverworts, mosses and hornworts) that grow on the wet limestone ravines, rocks and old stone walls alongside the river and Cyfarthfa Leat. Over 100 species of bryophyte have been recorded at here.
Not only is Taf Fechan a beautiful place but it has a fantastically rich history associated with it. In the lower sections vast areas have been quarried for limestone in the upper reaches of the valley there is evidence of old agriculture and milling. Castles have been built on rocky limestone promontories and even the romans made the most of the narrow valley, bridging the river at Pont Sarn.
Even though the Carboniferous Limestone was technically outside of our Coalfield remit we realised immediately that Taf Fechan should be included in our network of geological sites in order to complete the geological story of the Coalfield.
Our initial discussions with the Local Authority were rather disheartening and we heard tails of previous, failed attempts at installing interpretation at Taf Fechan. So over the next few months we set about developing plans for a virtual geology trail, a trail that would have little or no physical presence on the ground. There would be nothing to vandalise or replace and no unsightly panels to detract from the scenic vistas.
We soon came to the conclusion that technology now offered the best way forward and we began to plan a virtual trail guide that would be available on your phone or tablet. Over the next twelve months BIGC started looking for advice and expertise on mobile digital interpretation was going to be new to us too. We found partners in the Local Authority and the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and came across a wonderful array of local people with specialist local knowledge of the areas industrial and social history.
The result of all this work is that the gathered histories, facts and images have been packaged together in our very own IOS App. The App is free and available to download from the App Store. For non IOS devices a mobile web version of the App is available here on the following pages.
Although all the interpretation has a strong Geological underpinning, there is something interesting for everyone, whether you’re interested in ecology and industry, or caves and castles somehow we’ve managed to squeeze everything in!
About the site
The Taf Fechan Geology Trail App will take you on a 3.5 mile circular walk starting and finishing at Cyfarthfa Castle. There is ample parking at Cyfarthfa Castle. The walk is fairly easy going and flat with the exception of one short section. Although this trail is paved initially the majority of the route uses natural countryside trails.