Dulais Valley Heritage Trail


300,000,000 years ago

Carboniferous Period
Coal formed from layers of dead vegetation building up in tropical swamps.

Fossil Trees
FossilIn 2001 a set of very well preserved tree fossils were discovered at Darrell Open Cast Mine, Nant-y-Cafn. Fragments of more than 40 trees and bushes were uncovered. The condition of the fossilised forest, preserved in mud stone, makes it an extremely rare discovery. The fossils are preserved at the National Botanic Garden of Wales and it is hoped to display replicas in the valley soon.

1st century AD

Iron Age & The Romans
Local Celtic tribes were conquered by the invading Roman army. Forts, such the Gaer near Coelbren, and roads, such as Sarn Helen, helped them to control the area.

Seven Sisters Hoard
Seven Sisters HoardA mixture of Celtic and Roman material, such as tankard handles and pieces of harness. Found in 1875 by a local farmer. They were kept as children’s playthings until their historical importance was recognized in the early 20th century by the local doctor. The originals are now in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff and replicas are held at Neath Antiquarian Institute.

Roman Tombstone
This tombstone stood on the mountain one mile south of the fort at Coelbren, on the route of Sarn Helen. Local legend says that the stone stood in a circle where fairies danced. In 1686 Sir Humphrey Mackworth moved the stone to his home in Neath. Soon after the grotto was struck by lightning - the fairies revenge for moving the stone? Now in Swansea Museum, a replica stands on the mountain above Banwen.



St Patrick
St PatrickLegend has it that St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland was born in Banwen. His Welsh name was said to be Maewyn Succat and that his father Caiphurnius was a Roman official based at the Roman marching fort at nearby Coelbren. Maewyn was kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave.

11th century


Celtic Cross Stone
The Gnoll StoneThe Gnoll Stone (Cefn Hirfynydd) is part of a Celtic wheel cross. It shows a Celtic priest, in a short pleated kilt, with his hands raised in prayer. It represents Christian tradition brought to Wales by monks from Ireland. It is not known where the stone originally stood but the cross may have been used as a boundary marker while it was up on the mountain. The original is now in Swansea Museum and a replica stands on the mountain above Banwen.

19th century

Industrial Revolution
Coal was the main fuel of the industrial revolution and the south Wales coalfield produced some of the best in the world. The coal attracted other industries to the area. Tramroads and railways carried the coal and other products down to Neath and Swansea from where they were exported around the world.

Evan Evans-Bevan

Banwen Ironworks
Banwen IronworksThe most complete ironworks to survive on the anthracite coalfield. Built in l845-48 and may only have produced some 80 tons of pig iron. The cowhouse next to Tonypurddyn Farm was the carpenter’s shop and smithy for the works, and a pond to supply water to the blast engine remains to the rear. To the south are the foundations and ruins of Tai-Garreg, workers’ houses. Between the farm and the River Pyrddin is a huge masonry charging bank with two substantially intact furnaces and a crumbling blast-engine house.

20th century


1936 - Spanish Civil War
118 men from the South Wales coalfield enlisted in the International Brigades; 34 were killed.

Last passengers on the Neath & Brecon Railway
In its heyday there were 8 stations and halts from Cefn Coed to Onllwyn: Cefn Coed Halt, Crynant Station, New Crynant (Jebbs), Colliery Halt, Brynteg Colliery Halt, Seven Sisters Station, Pantyffordd Halt and Onllwyn Station. In 1964, the centenary year, the passenger service ceased to operate. But today it is still used to convey coal from the opencast site at Banwen to Neath.

21st century


Today and the future
Some industry still continues in the valley, while the scars of others are gently fading. Local people are working to restore the natural beauty whilst preserving the area’s fascinating history.

Khartoum Tip
Khartoum TipThe tip contains spoil from Onllwyn No.1 Colliery, worked from 1856 to 1964. In 2008 the tip was reseeded and planted to become a natural beauty spot and a facility for outdoor activities such as walking.