For many Bridgend county borough residents, daily exercise has become an essential tool for helping them to cope with life during lockdown.
Whether it’s a chance to escape home schooling for a while or to move around after sitting down at your desk all day, exercise offers physical, mental and emotional benefits.
Welsh Government regulations state that you must take your outdoor exercise locally. It should start and finish from your home unless you have a specific mobility issue.
You can leave home as often as you like to exercise alone, with members of your household or support bubble and/or a carer and, from Saturday 30 January, the rules changed to allow people to exercise with one person from another household.
With plenty of beautiful places to explore in Bridgend county borough, there are many green spaces across the local area for you to explore from your front door while following lockdown rules.
And as part of the Nature Keeper Project, there’s even more to look out for with oak sculptures and accompanying poetry having been placed across the county borough.
Five are located at Bryngarw Park with another 10 scattered in other beauty spots, including Wilderness Lakes, Tremains Wood Local Nature Reserve and Parc Calon Lan. If you want to discover the statue nearest your home, a full list can be found at the council’s Nature Keeper webpage.
The county borough also has some wildlife havens in places you might not expect.
Frog Pond Wood Local Nature Reserve is a hidden gem which backs onto Village Farm Industrial Estate.
Perfect for short walks, you’ll feel that you’re in the heart of the Welsh countryside despite the site’s surroundings. The wood is mainly mixed oak/ash woodland, with a pond and some wetland areas.
In the Ogmore Valley, there are footpaths around Aber Fields, which is overseen by ‘The Keeper of the Fields’, while Bedford Park in Cefn Cribwr has about 18 hectares of green space and the ruins of the 18th Century Cefn Cribwr Ironworks to discover.
Maesteg Welfare Park has wildlife ponds and paths, and in Blaengarw, Parc Calon Lân, which has been created from reclaimed coal works has sculptures, woodland and footpaths that lead through the mountains.
The Spirit of Llynfi Woodland, located at a former industrial site on the eastern slopes of the Upper Llynfi Valley, has footpaths, running and cycle trails, and bridleways. The varied landscape includes ponds, marshland and heathland.
Even Bridgend town centre has its own nature reserve. Situated along the River Ogmore, Craig y Parcau Local Nature Reserve is a haven for wildlife with several footpaths. Newbridge Fields is also nearby.
In Brackla, Tremains Wood local nature reserve is an accessible woodland in the middle of the town with meandering pathways to explore.
Wilderness Lakes in Porthcawl offers about nine hectares of amenity parkland and several semi-natural habitats around the lake. Broadleaved semi-natural woodland has been established on the lake’s islands with scrub around the margins and broadleaved woodland plantation along its shores.
Through joint working with several organisations and local user groups like the local allotment society, the park has won Green Flag status for several years.
Meanwhile, a new Coychurch walking route has been created after Ramblers Cymru teamed up with Coychurch Lower Community Council and Bridgend County Borough Council.
The new circular ‘Healthy & Active Route’ is 2.5 miles long and offers walkers a chance to see rolling countryside and small pockets of woodland that many may have never explored.
To find out more about the project visit the Coychurch Lower Community Council or download a map at: https://www.ramblers.org.uk/coychurchlowe
Further recreational paths can be found on the council website featuring walks that residents can enjoy in if they live in places such as the Garw Valley, Cornelly, Llynfi Valley, Nottage, Tondu and Pyle.
Council leader Huw David said: “We’re very lucky in Bridgend county borough to have such a wealth of green spaces around us – you don’t need to get in your car to enjoy the nature and wildlife around us.
“Exercise plays an important part in keeping all of us physically and mentally healthy but under the current alert level four restrictions, it should start and finish from your home.
“Please do not drive to exercise unless you have a specific health or mobility issue. In these circumstances the journey should be to the nearest convenient accessible location and no long journeys should be undertaken unless absolutely necessary. Police are continuing to stop vehicles to carry out spot checks and issuing fines if people are breaking the rules.
“Coronavirus is still circulating in our communities and we all have a duty to keep ourselves and our families, friends and neighbours as safe as possible.
“When lockdown restrictions are lifted, there will be a chance to safely explore other parts of our beautiful county borough.”
To find your nearest green space, visit the council’s nature reserves webpage.