Page last updated at 10:09 GMT, Wednesday, 22 July 2009 11:09 UK
Trails and Tales in Torfaen

Torfaen Trails and Tales: The Hanburys in Torfaen (Courtesy Torfaen CBC)

A new initiative launched in Torfaen is designed to get local people to explore the history on their doorstep and raise the area's profile to visitors.

The trails are centered north of Pontypool around Varteg, Abersychan and Trevethin.

The three walks are all 3.5 miles long and take around an hour and a half.

In addition to more familiar landmarks such as the Folly Tower and Shell Grotto the walks take in local churches, chapels, houses and schools.

Local people are also encouraged to add their own stories and memories of the area via the trails' interactive website.

Torfaen Tourism and Marketing manager Bogda Smreczak says that this initiative is so important because there's a need to capture these first person stories and memories and record them for future generations.

St Cadoc's Church
St Cadoc's Church in Trevethin was the Hanbury family's place of worship

People can access the Torfaen Trails and Tales website and watch a video of each of the three walks.

Audio interviews on the website include Sir Richard Hanbury talking about the history of his family in the area, and John Fulgoni who talks about his family and the cafes and ice cream parlours they ran in the area.

Brochures and an audio guides of each of the walks are also available for download alongside additional historical information on the area.

Characters appear in a 'ghosted' form at various locations on each of the walks videos. Their stories and reminiscences bring to life the history of the area and give us an insight into what life was like for people back in the early 19th century.

One of the walks focuses on the role and influence of the Hanbury family in Torfaen. The Hanburys developed the manufacture of Japanware, a highly prized lacquered and decorated tinplate. At St Cadoc's church, which was the church of the Hanbury family, we meet 'Bleddyn' who tells us a bit more about the processes involved in its manufacture.

Later Capel Hanbury Leigh tells us a bit more about the Folly Tower which was built by John Hanbury in 1765 . It provides spectacular views across several counties. According to Capel Hanbury Leigh it's a great place for a picnic, the servants of course carry all the provisions up the hill.

We also meet Bessie Morgan, one of the upper handmaids of the Hanburys who tells us a bit about life below stairs.

Bessie Morgan

The final character we meet in the walk video is Lady Molly Hanbury Leigh. She was responsible for the quirky and unusual interior design of the the Shell Grotto in Pontypool Park.

The grotto was originally constructed by John Hanbury. However Lady Molly supervised the interior design work which included shells and stalactites brought in from caves in the locality. Animal bones and teeth also featured in patterns on the floor of the grotto.

The other two walks in the series are entitled Abersychan - power and prayer and A Welcome in the Hillside.

The walk around Abersychan focuses on the influence of religion in the area and churches and chapels built around the 18th and 19th century. A Welcome in the Hillside explores the Varteg area and the impact of heavy industry in that community.

In addition to taking the walks at your own leisure, guided trails are also being organised. The first guided trail will take place on 31st August at 2.30pm from the White Hart pub in Abersychan. There's a chance to meet some of the characters from the past and find out more about life from their perspective.

Celebration of Torfaen's heritage
02 Mar 09 |  History
Video: The Hanburys in Torfaen
21 Jul 09 |  History
Audio: Torfaen Trails and Tales
22 Jul 09 |  History




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