Brynna and Llanharan
Brynna and Llanharan, Rhondda Cynon Taf, South Wales
This is where I live.
Well, I'm just over the hill....in a manner of speaking.
Not so much a town as a pair of small ex-mining villages, sitting between the famous Rhondda Valley and the picturesque Vale of Glamorgan. It's hard to separate the two as one leads directly into the other and I have lived in both, but each has its own character. Here is my definitive guide to this not-to-be-missed travel destination :-)
This photo was taken on the hills up above where we live.
I want to say a huge thank you to Alan, who has so very kindly agreed to let me use some of his glorious photos. More of Alan's work can be seen here: AJ Scapes. Please take a look at them - they'll make your toes curl! But then come back and read the rest of this page.
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Llanharan and Brynna
Where are they?
Llanharan and Brynna are two conjoined villages which, together, form a 'crab's claw' - see Google Earth image. Llanharan forms the apex and lower part of the claw, while Brynna forms the higher. They are situated at the edge of the Unitary Authority of Rhondda Cynon Taf, formally called Mid Glamorgan, in South Wales, UK.
Use the controls to zoom out and see where we are in relation to the UK as a whole.
I found this photo a long time ago on the web. Couldn't find out who took it but thank you to whoever you are. We live just out of sight to the left. Right in the middle you can see a longish light-coloured building. That's the local community centre and play park. I expect one, or both, of my kids are over there right now.
The area has a fascinating history but not much is known before coal mining arrived in the early 1880s. This photograph shows the remains of an old church, situated way up in the hills away from the present day villages. Originally dating from the 12th century, it was re-built in the 17th century, and abandoned in the 19th. My feeling is that it is so remote and high up that it was originally a pagan or Celtic place of worship, built on by Christians as are so many of our churches in Britain. There were very few small cottages within walking distance of this church and there is no road at all.
Update: Not confirmed, but I have read recently that there was a church on this site from the 1st century. One local historian has claimed that this could be the resting place of King Arthur, after a cross bearing his name was discovered.
Another view of the ruined church of Peterston-super-Montem
Between the years 1736 and 1740, fourteen marriages were performed at the isolated church - amazing - how did they get everyone up there?
It's hard to believe now, walking up on the tranquil hills above the villages, but both Llanharan and Brynna were thriving mining towns. The South Rhondda colliery opened in the 1880s and there was a population explosion in 1901; there were at least 600 people living in Brynna in 100 dwellings... of which our house was one. Colliers came from surrounding areas and also from England to work the coal seams and there are many descendants of those miners living in the village today.
The new Eagle public house was opened (replacing the old, small Eagle) to serve the thirsty men after their shifts and a Methodist chapel was built in 1908.
Unfortunately the Eagle closed last year, as the economic downturn took its toll on so many small businesses in these villages. However, it has been purchased and another small business is nesting there manufacturing coops for the growing trend in domestic chicken-keeping.
The building in the photo is part of the remains of the South Rhondda colliery.
The Meiros colliery up above Llanharan was opened around the same time as the South Rhondda near Brynna. Tragedy struck on the 11th November 1891 when two miners and a 15 yr old boy, 'a collier's helper' were killed in a gas explosion.
At its most productive, the mine employed 622 men. The mine was closed around 1938, when it became too expensive and difficult to mine the seam. The land has returned to nature, being wild and open with interspersing clefts of woodland. There is barely anything to indicate that there was ever a mine there.
When we bought our first house, a new property built on a small development on the side of Meiros, we had to have a mining survey done to make sure that there were no tunnels beneath that could cause subsidence.
The best thing to do here is WALK!
It does take a bit of effort to get up there but there are so many walks up on our hills to enjoy. The views are breathtaking - on one side you can see right across the Bristol Channel to the North Devonshire and Somerset coastline.
Some people don't like our wind turbines...
You can see the sea from up here
No wonder the men of the valleys want to sing!
Dragon International Film Studios (Valleywood)
We are hoping for another attraction to come soon - Valleywood! Since 2002, the local population has been holding its collective breath for the completion of Dragon Studios - a project headed up by Sir Richard Attenborough - and to be the largest film studio complex in Europe. The studios are to be built on the site of another coal mine, this time the huge open tract of land that was once Llanilid Open Cast on the south side of Llanharan. Building work commenced and several sound studios, the access road and other facilities were completed. Unfortunately it all seems to have ground to a halt and the company, Dragon Studios International have gone into receivership. We are all hoping that it will get sorted out very soon. The area could really do with an economic boost like this and, as the land was being reclaimed, it would certainly not be a blight on the landscape.
The image shows the proposed layout for the studios, covering 1800 acres of former open cast mine.
UPDATE: Spring 2010 Although the studios are not in full use yet, they are currently being leased out to independent production companies. The first film is about to be released, "Ironclad", which dramatises the siege of Rochester Castle - one of the longest and bloodiest battles in English history.
UPDATE: Autumn 2011 All is quiet in Valleywood.
Llanharan isn't famous for much these days but its rugby club, Llanharan RFC; the 'Black and Blues', is quite renowned.
This is how the club describes the symbolism of their badge:
"The badge is symbolic of the village's history and culture. The four quarters show:
1) A sheaf of corn - pre coal mining Llanharan was very much a pretty agricultural village with its picturesque stone cottages clustered around important buildings such as the church, corn mill and blacksmith, much of the economy related to the needs of the Llanharan House estate.
2) A Llanharan spaniel reputed to be a distinctive breed at a time when the estate also boasted its own pack of hunting hounds.
3) The parish church of St Julius and Aaron, an ancient foundation that boasts a Tudor chalice.
4) A pit head winding gear, reflecting the coal mining that dominated the village for almost a century.
The quarters are separated by a black cross commemorating the Llandow air disaster of March 12th 1950 when eight club members were in the plane returning from the Dublin international, seven of them losing their lives as it crashed on landing. Only Mel Thomas survived and he still lives in the village in Chapel Road. A special memorial adorns the wall of the bar."
Photo: Rumney - 5 Llanharan - 43.