Local authority, tourism and university partners in an international tourism and environmental initiative travelled to Merthyr Tydfil to progress plans for the project – as well as to visit some of the county borough’s most beautiful and historic attractions.
The EU-funded Atlantic Area Project, ‘the Trail Gazers Bid’, was set up to encourage people in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and France ‘off the paths and into the surrounding local and rural communities to immerse themselves in new cultural, culinary and life experiences’.
Trail Gazers aims to investigate the impact of significant investment that has been made over the years in developing walking and recreational trails across the Atlantic Area on sustaining rural communities and how that impact can be enhanced.
The County Borough Council hosted partners from Ireland, Northern Ireland and Spain to discuss developing community trail plans and providing a model of best practice for how these trails can become catalysts for the long-term development of small rural communities in the EU Atlantic Area.
The Council leads on the ‘Knowledge Share’ element of the project and has developed a ‘virtual tourism toolkit, a template for the development of each partner’s Community Trail Plan, and tourism promotional materials such as leaflets, trails maps, town centre banners and the ‘Virtual Merthyr 360’ project.
During their visit to Merthyr Tydfil, the partners enjoyed trips to Pontsarn Viaduct, Cyfarthfa Furnaces and a walk from Ffynnon Dwyn to Town on the Taff Trail with guide, local historian Huw Williams.
Trail Gazers is supported by the European Regional Development Fund and has 10 partners from the different Atlantic regions. These include Donegal County Council, Municipio de Viana do Castelo (Portugal), Dirección General de Protección de la Naturaleza (General Directorate for the Fight against Climate Change and the Environment, Canary Islands), Glasgow Caledonian University, Ulster University, Ville de Louvigné du Désert (Commune, France), Navarra De Suelo Y Vivienda SAU (sustainable development company, Spain), Sligo County Council, and the University of Algarve (Portugal).
Project Manager Mary Mc Bride, from Lead Partner Donegal County Council, said: “The trip to Merthyr Tydfil proved to be an invaluable experience, presenting opportunities of engaging and collaborating with associated Trail Gazers team members from other Atlantic Area regions and key stakeholders.
“The Taff Trail is such an incredible asset and I hope that you will have many more opportunities ahead to grow and expand on its capabilities.
County Borough Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Public Protection Cllr Geraint Thomas said: “Recent years have seen a growth in the number of people preferring to spend their holidays enjoying more meaningful and personal experiences in beautiful locations that are often perceived as off the beaten track, rather than in conventional or popular holiday destinations.
“Our aim in Merthyr Tydfil is to particularly focus on the Taff Trail and the myriad opportunities it presents – not only for people to enjoy its stunning scenery, but also to help local businesses take advantage of the increase in visitor traffic.”