In the Taff Fechan Gorge between Cyfarthfa and the Heads of the Valleys lies the Old Gurnos Tramway and the Cyfarthfa Leat. These structures are scheduled ancient monuments which date from 1792 and 1825 respectively and have been recognised as very important artefacts in the history and heritage of Merthyr Tydfil linked to the Crawshays. Both the Old Tramway and Leat water system were key factors in making Cyfarthfa Ironworks the largest in the world at its peak!
Led by Merthyr Tydfil County Borough's Regeneration Team, a large construction project to conserve, restore and enhance these major historic monuments has been completed to make the site more accessible for the benefit of both the local community and visitors.
In accordance with CADW guidelines, the project has restored the actual leat structure to prevent its collapse and ensured that the ancient watercourse supplies a continuous flow of water to the Cyfarthfa lake, situated in the main grounds of Cyfarthfa Castle and Park.
The project received funding to the equivalent of £1,6 million from the Valleys Regional Park ERDF project, CADW, the Heads of the Valleys Programme and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council.
Key features of the completed works include:
• Repairs and restorative works to the ancient watercourse that supplies water to Cyfarthfa Lake, including the substantial rebuilding of a 500 metre section.
• Rebuilding of collapsed sections of retaining walls throughout the site.
• Selective tree removal and site clearance to improve access and to protect the structures.
• Repairs to the Old Tramway including resurfacing and drainage.
• New access and footbridge to Lakeside Gardens.
• Footbridge and viewing platform at the Leat Waterfall.
• New walkway to link the Leat and the Old Tramway which forms part of a new heritage trail between Cyfarthfa and the Taff Fechan Nature Reserve.
• Improved footpaths with access suitable for wheelchair users.
• Extra site parking for disabled visitors.
• New safer access to the site with a light controlled puffin crossing.
• An imposing site entrance including landscaping, a replica tram and a symbolic gateway structure with visitor information boards.
These works will assist with continued longevity of the structures and help preserve these attractions for the enjoyment of future generations!
Not only does the attraction excel with rich heritage but also has the bonus of been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which provides a varied habitant for a profusion of plant and animal life. Many of the original stone sleepers on the tramroad remain in situ with visible imprints of where the rest of the tramway system once existed making it also a significant site of archaeological interest!
When walking along the route, you will come across a refreshing waterfall cascading from the Leat to the Taff Fechan River and the splendour of the masonry walls, a testimony to the skill of Watkin George, Crawshay’s engineer, majestic rock features.
If you really look around, you may come across some rare species of mosses and lichen. You can also see the arch bridge construction personified by the Old Cefn Bridge (1715), the Pont Cefn Bridge (1911) designed by the eminent French pioneer Francois Hennebique and the magnificent Taff Fechan Viaduct (1965).