This is the oldest settlement in the Dulais valley. Around 1500, Llangatwg parish church opened a daughter church, or chapel of ease, at Creunant to serve the needs of the Dulais Valley. By the 1840’s Creunant had developed into a small hamlet consisting of the church, non-conformist chapel, an inn, a mill, and about a dozen dwellings. The opening of the Neath and Brecon Railway in 1863 led to increased coal mining activity in the valley. At Creunant several new mines were opened including the Crynant Colliery, Brynteg Colliery 1904, Llwynon Colliery 1905, Dillwyn Colliery, and Cefn Coed Colliery 1930. These mines led to the expansion of the village.
Work began on the first pit here in 1872. The mine owner, Evan Evans-Bevan, named the pit after his own sisters. The village grew up around the pit and took the same name. The first houses for the workers were the single storey terrace in Brick Row. More collieries opened as the demand for coal increased. Nant-y-Cafn or Dillwyn Colliery in 1884, Brynteg Colliery and brickworks 1885 and Henllan Colliery 1911. All the housing in the new village prior to the 1930’s was for coal miners, brick workers and railway employees.
This was the first industrial village in the Dulais Valley. Coal mining on a commercial scale started at the Drum Colliery in 1823, followed by Onllwyn Colliery in 1841. An iron works was also established in 1844 by London speculators. 44 workers dwellings were erected to house the colliers and iron workers - known as Front Row and Back Row. Brickworks and foundries were also erected, forming the nucleus of the village of Onllwyn.
Iron making and coal mining created this settlement soon after the Onllwyn enterprises. Banwen colliery opened in 1845 together with the erection of the colliery houses. A later development was the opening of the larger Maesmarchog mine and more workers housing. Banwen ironworks was established in 1847 but only lasted until 1854.
This area was very isolated before the Neath and Brecon Railway opened in 1863. Until then the only means of conveying the coal and iron out of the valley from Onllwyn and Banwen was by a horse-drawn tramroad westwards to the Swansea Canal near Ystradgynlais.
This walk marks the route of a Roman military road, Sarn Helen, which ran the length of Wales from Neath (Nidum) in the south to Caernarfon (Segontium) in the north. A section of this road connecting the forts at Neath and Coelbren traverses the ridge of Hirfynydd where walkers can follow in the sandaled footsteps of Roman soldiers.
A bridleway is a highway over which the public can travel on foot or on horseback. Bridleway 9 is about 6.5 km long, starting on Onllwyn Road passing through Heol Hen, Seven Sisters and ending at Path 4 at the old Crynant Colliery, Creunant.
St Illtyd lived in the late fifth and early sixth centuries, and was held in high veneration in Wales, where many churches were dedicated to him in Glamorgan. St. Illtyd’s Way also forms part of the modern, St. Illtyd’s Walk - extending 64 miles from Margam (in Glamorgan) to Pembrey (in Carmarthenshire). This section links the Neath Valley with the Swansea Valley.
The Brecon Forest Tramroad linked collieries around Onllwyn to limestone quarries at Penwyllt, and carried lime north to Sennybridge to improve the land in the upper Usk valley. When the rural market for coal and lime proved to be limited, the line was extended southwards to the Swansea Canal enabling a more profitable line in coal exports to be pursued. Joseph Claypon took over the tramroad in 1827 and extended it southwards to Gurnos. The line continued to function until 1863 when the Neath to Brecon Railway was opened.
This was the deepest anthracite mine in Europe when it opened in 1926, and also one of the most dangerous. It was nicknamed ‘the slaughterhouse’. The museum housed in the old colliery buildings tells the fascinating story of the mine.
The existing chapel was built in 1856 to replace an earlier one founded in 1754 by the Rev Henry Thomas. It is an unusual circular design, with small gates at the ends of the pews. Howell Harris the famous 18th century Methodist preacher was a frequent visitor to the original chapel.
In 1947, a local farmer donated an area of land for the benefit of local residents. This land has since become the Ynysdawley Playing Fields and now includes a community hall, children's playground, teenage play facilities, all weather sports wall and a woodland walk. The area also includes open green spaces with designated conservation areas to encourage wild habitat.
From Romans and Celtic saints to farmers and colliers, the Dulais Valley has a rich and varied heritage.
The trails on this site will help you to learn more about the valley and its history. Explore the links below and along the top of the page to see school trails, village trails, a time line and other useful information.
A Heritage Trail leaflet highlighting some of the main sites throughout the valley has been produced and is available to download below.
Look out for information in local bus shelters throughout the Dulais Valley and three interpretation panels located at Crynant Business Park, Millennium Gardens and Khartoum Park. Versions of these panels can also be found on our Downloads page.
Please click the red symbols on the map for more information. You can click most images on the site to see larger versions.