My name is Rhys, a first time dad blogging about my adventures and experiences of being a parent. [email protected]

Can you help unravel the past of the ‘Fairy Doors’ country park?

Volunteers at a beautiful Neath country park which features rushing streams, strange rock formations, stunning views and relaxing woodland are trying to find out more about the area’s past as the site of a once thriving coal mine.

Craig Gwladus – a little known gem in Neath Port Talbot Council’s  country park portfolio – straddles Cadoxton and Cilfrew around two miles from Neath and is shrouded in ancient and re-planted forests.

A haven for flora, birds and other wildlife, Craig Gwladus features numerous trees fitted with “fairy doors” – tiny wooden entrances carved by local people to charm the children of visitors.

Now, the volunteer group Friends of Craig Gwladus (known as the FOCGers!) want to unravel the mysteries of the site’s industrial past with the aim of eventually establishing a heritage trail throughout the park.

Craig Gwladus was once the site of the old Gelliau Colliery – one of the many anthracite mines which were once worked in the area.

There are now just some ghostly remains of winding gear and other colliery buildings as a reminder of the mine, whose hard working horses once pulled heavy wagons full of coal to a nearby canal for dispatch to places like Swansea and Port Talbot Docks.

Working with the Friends, Swansea Neath Port Talbot Coed Cymru officer Lisa Kirman is appealing for local people to send her their “memories” of the site during its older days, including the time it hosted Gelliau Colliery.

The aim is to engage more local people in the park and gain information about the wildlife, geology, people and industrial background of the park.

The Friends of Craig Gwladus Country Park plan to launch the history project on the 10th of April at 10am (all are welcome) at the park with an informative walk around the area with heritage expert Mr Richard Keen and then a session afterwards to create a list of research questions the group can start working on. The group have no prior experience of research and are keen for more local people to join them in their quest to unravel the Park’s mysteries.

The Council is also applying for grants to help fund, among other things, oral history recording equipment and training.
Anyone who would like to be involved or has memories of the Craig Gwladus Country Park area, either directly or through friends and relatives, is asked to get in touch with Ian Davies of the Friends group on tel: 07813 856969 / [email protected] or Lisa Kirman at [email protected].

Local schools could become involved in the project and Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Sustainable Development Annette Wingrave hopes it will raise the profile of the park.

She said: “It would be wonderful to build up a picture of what Craig Gwladus was like in decades gone by and in particular we’d like to have some pictures of the old mine during the days of ‘king coal’ in South Wales.

“I hope the project will let more people know about the park which is a wonderful place to visit, to take in views and simply to relax.”