About the Woodlands
The map to the left shows the boundaries (In RED) of the area which contains the Beaufort Hill Woodlands.
The site, which lies at approximately 1300-1350 feet above sea level is primarily upland in nature, is located immediately to the south of the A465 ‘Heads of the Valleys’ Road, close to the northern border of the former county of Gwent, and comprises approximately 81 hectares of gently-sloping land lying at the edge of the Clydach Valley, the main course of which flows to the north-east and east of the site. The site also lies at the heads of two parallel, steep-sided valleys which run away to the south, following the courses of the rivers Ebbw and Ebbw Fach respectively.
The village of Beaufort and the town of Brynmawr lie to the south of the site, and the south-western and western site boundaries lie immediately adjacent to the developed edges of the former, which comprise mainly rural-suburban residential streets of medium to low density houses with gardens etc. To the south and south-east there are a series of enclosed farm pastures and hay meadows which lie between the site and the settlement of Brynmawr to the south and east.
Beyond the A465, which forms the northern and north-eastern site boundaries, lies the open country of the Brecon Beacons National Park, which in this area comprises an extensive area of grazed upland moorland habitats with small areas of coniferous plantation.
In the late 18th and 19th Centuries the agricultural landscape of the region was transformed by the development of the coal and iron industries. The majority of the site was exploited for these resources, resulting in a landscape of coal levels, quarries and spoil heaps, the latter commonly comprising the distinctive ‘finger-spoil’ pattern.
Most of this landscape was subsequently levelled and re-landscaped in the 1960s during the construction of the A465 Heads of the Valleys road. Two major areas of the industrial landscape survive, however, on the eastern side of the site, including a large quarry and associated ‘scouring ponds’ and a large area of quarrying/mining and finger-spoil.
These areas are the most historically significant parts of the present landscape.
Due to the site being adjacent to the moorland tops of the Llangattock and Llangynidr mountains, there is little shelter and harsh winter conditions. The mountains are within the Brecon Beacons National Park although the site itself is not within the Park’s boundaries.
The site as a whole is of great biodiversity value, supporting a mosaic of habitats such as acid grasslands, hay meadows, wet heath mire, swamp and open water. The two former reservoirs known as Upper Boat and Lower Boat Ponds and the mire and swamp communities surround them are particularly important. Part of the site also includes Mynydd Llangattock Common which is important for notable species such as snipe and breeding lapwing. It is also a valuable site for the local community and popular for walking, angling, bird watching and other forms of informal recreation.
History of the ponds
ORDNANCE SURVEY MAP OF 1888
The map was obtained from the Ebbw Vale Works Archival Trust and shows the Upper and Lower Boat Ponds and Parfitts Pond (left)
Parfitts Pond was drained and filled in circa 1980, as part of the Beaufort North land reclamation scheme.
1929 AERIAL PHOTO OF THE PONDS
This was taken from the 'Britain From Above' website - link below.
The ponds were partly drained when the photgraph was taken, and Parfitts Pond can be seen in the top left hand corner.
The airshaft from an old coal mine, can be clearly seen, marked A.
It is also marked on the 1888 map.
Two ponds are adjacent to the woodland area, these ponds are linked to the early days of the industrial revolution. The map above, dated 1888 shows the existence of the ponds which were built to supply water down to the Nantyglo Ironworks approximately 2 miles distant, the ironworks were built in 1780. After the closure of the Nantyglo Ironworks, water was diverted to supply a new works being built in Ebbw Vale.
In 1937,when the new Richard Thomas and Baldwins Steelworks opened in Ebbw Vale, a new reservoir was constructed at nearby Blaen-Y- Cwm and the ponds were kept full by water being released from this reservoir.
Since the closure of the Corus Steelworks at Ebbw Vale in 2002, the reservoir has been acquired by Welsh Water and the ponds now rely entirely on their own small water catchment area.
The Ebbw Vale Works Archival Trust recently published a book entitled - " Ebbw Vale The Works" and a chapter of the book was dedicated to the Works Water Resources and shows the importance of having large water supplies in running the works.
Sections of this chapter have been reproduced, including maps of ponds in the Beaufort area, and a PDF file can be viewed/downloaded, by clicking on the link below
The photographs below, show the Upper and Lower Boat Ponds in 1985, when they had been drained, note the lack of trees compared to today. These photographs were supplied by Society Member Mrs Margaret Penny.