Mountain bike park plans for Garw Valley


Update 21/02/2013: I realise I’ve been getting a lot of interest here. As the Clerk to Garw Valley Community Council has noted in the comments section, the mountain bike trails are now open. They’re located off Railway Terrace, Blaengarw. There are visitor facilities available in the nearby park.

Garw Valley Community Council have put in a planning application for an upgrade to existing mountain bike paths in the Darren Fawr woodland at Blaengarw. The plans are for three trails totalling 8km graded “blue” for intermediate skilled mountain bikers and “black” for expert mountain bikers.

Visitors would be served by the existing visitor centre at Parc Calon Lan, which in itself is a large reclamation scheme on the site of the former Ocean Colliery.

I’m critical of community councils. I struggle to see what the point of them is most of the time and believe their functions should be folded into larger councils to create scale. However, Garw Valley Council are an example of one that takes ownership and pride in their community. This is exactly the kind of project I would expect other valley community councils to be thinking of.

In the recent Index of Multiple Deprivation, the Blaengarw and Pontycymmer wards have stayed amongst the lesser-deprived council wards, not only in Bridgend county but compared to most of the south Wales valleys. Considering the Bridgend Valleys – especially the Garw and Ogmore – are often overlooked, as well as the Garw being one of the more rural south Wales valleys, this is quite an achievement. No doubt thanks in part to the efforts of the community council.

The plans mirror, and would compliment, existing trails in the Afan Valley – widely regarded as amongst the best mountain bike trails in Europe.

Not wanting to stray too far off topic, but the Olympic organising committee missed a trick in deciding to host mountain biking events at an artificial course in Essex instead of the Afan Valley. A point raised numerous times before I’m sure. For all the debate about Team GB and diverting money from other causes, it’s this particular decision, in my opinion, that’s let Wales down.

A note of caution though. The Afan Valley might well be the template for attracting activity tourism and other tourist related activities, however, despite having globally recognised mountain bike trails, the investment has never followed. Plans for a tourist resort near Cymer are on-off, and there’s still a dearth of tourist facilities in Glyncorrwg – and more importantly – a dearth of jobs. The Afan Valley persistently remains amongst the most deprived parts of Wales.

Initiatives like Valleys: Heart and Soul of Wales and Leanne Wood’s (Plaid, South Wales Central) Greenprint for the Valleys are great. They semi-acknowledge that the kind of labour-intensive industry and grant-funded foreign investment that kept the Valleys afloat since the 1930’s is going to have to be replaced with community enterprise, environmental improvements, improved skills, greater self-reliance and self-confidence/resilience. That doesn’t always have to mean wind farms, it means good stewardship and ownership of the forested areas that could become one of Wales’ great green assets.

Mountain biking is a fantastic sport and health activity and Wales has a great – and often ignored – cycling heritage. We shouldn’t only be encouraging pan-valley mountain bike trails, walks and the associated tourist facilities. We should also remind the people living there that they have a potentially fantastic place to bring up an active young family and these facilities are as much for them as for visitors.

Schemes like this one in the Garw are essential for transforming the Valleys from often-portrayed decaying and depressed post-industrial wastelands, into more dynamic, environmentally conscious communities. Places that people will be proud to call home in addition to being a mini-Switzerland on our doorstep.


  • What's the latest on this development ? Any news ?

  • Planning permission for the new tracks was granted in December last year, and enjoyed some considerable support from the local community (which is a nice change).

    I can't give you any more updates other than that I'm afraid, but I doubt it will take that long to complete if work's started.

  • Anonymous

    They are being built as we speak and should be finished by the end of 2012

  • Anonymous

    I went up there on Saturday and had a look around, still not finished but some parts are ride-able. Fair play it looks like its going to be amazing!

    Some parts are very, very technical specifically the 'quarry' section and the descents are a lot of fun with pretty high banked corners being built in.

    Once completed and advertised I think this could be a real winner for the Garw, I think people will travel from a long distance to give it a go.

  • That's good news, Anon. I hope they can properly intergrate these trails into the Afan Valley ones.

  • Anonymous

    saw the end of the trail at park calon lan yesterday looks like it's going to be amazing, can only encourage people to keep off the trails until their surfaces have been put down otherwise there's going to be erosion damage before the project has even been finished.

    bmx track is underway aswell.

    going to be a big boost for the valley

  • Anonymous

    When will the trail be open? 1st dec or jan?

    i had not heard of the trail until i read in MBUK that they where being built and i live in blaengarw,i think this defently need to be advertised alot more.

    I can see the end of the trail from my house and can not wait to ride it. just hope that proper fencing will be put in place to keep moto cross bikes off them.

    Look forward to riding them


  • i have looked this week and the tracks are still not open .but when they do they will ba a credit to the valley. the tracks will offer a superb ride from beginers to the more expirenced .i'm not sure if all the tracks are built or if this is just the first of the three proposed tracks.either way i'm looking forward to the opening.

  • It's been generating a lot of interest and traffic to the blog, Alun. Hopefully that interest will translate into visitors for Pontycymer and Blaengarw down the line.

  • I have been on the tracks all this week andsome of last week and it is anoying because people take their dogs and that on the track and they stop on the burms and they say whatch it but their in the wrong

  • Im 15 and i have only been liveing in pontycymer for 2 months but i love it because of the track being so close and dont have 2 travle miles and miles just 2 gi mtbing, the bmx track needs better draining but on the whole it is good 🙂

  • I have been on the tracks all this week andsome of last week and it is anoying because people take their dogs and that on the track and they stop on the burms and they say whatch it but their in the wrong

  • Anonymous

    Can anyone give directions to the trail? I've been told

    “it's up at Blaengarw. Just drive up the valley and it's at the end on the left. Blue warm up with black extension”

    A road or co-ordinate to the start would be good.

    Many thanks.


  • I can't give you precise direction, Alan as I don't live in Blaengarw. However, I think the trails are linked to the park there, which is on Railway Terrace. I think there's a small visitors centre there too.

    Hopefully someone else will be able to clear it up better than I can.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Owen 😀


  • Hi all, the MTB Trails were supposed to be officially opened on Friday 18th January, but unfortunately, due to the heavy snowfall the event had to be postponed.

    The MTB Trails are open for riders and the Community Council is actively encouraging mountain bikers to use them.

    The Community Council has a website – with information about the trails. There is also a Facebook page – Darren Fawr Trails that has been set up which provides info.

    There is free car parking at Parc Calon Lan. The entrance to the car park is opposite Railway Terrace, CF32 8AT.

    Enjoy the trails!