Page last updated at 12:26 GMT, Monday, 10 January 2011
Rough Guide author picks his Valleys Essentials
Sebastien Boyesen's Guardian memorial at Six Bells
The Guardian mining memorial is one of the newer suggestions

Residents and visitors are invited to vote for their favourite attractions in the south Wales valleys from an expert's list.

The Valleys Heart and Soul campaign has teamed up with Rough Guide author Mike Parker to create a list of the top 50 Valleys Essentials.

These include heritage attractions, cafes, events and scenic walks.

The top ten chosen by the public in an online vote will each be honoured with a Valleys Essentials plaque.

Parker, who is co-author on all five Rough Guides to Wales, has selected well-known attractions including Caerphilly Castle and the Blaenavon World Heritage Site as well as new additions such as Guardian, a statue of a miner which commemorates the Six Bells disaster near Abertillery.

"Fifty was a good number of sights to pick, for it gave me chance to highlight all of the many aspects that make the valleys such a rewarding place to visit," said Parker.

Mike Parker
Mike Parker suggests hidden treats alongside well-known attractions

"There's raw natural beauty in the shape of hulking mountains, glorious upland commons and thundering waterfalls.

"Or industrial heritage at some imposing remnants of the coal and iron industries, as well as many of the region's best little nuggets tucked away well off the beaten track.

"There's physical activity of all sorts, be it walking, running, mountain biking, swimming, climbing or caving.

"Eating and drinking too, of course - it would be churlish to ignore the area's many fine options, from home-made Italian ice-cream to prize-winning whisky.

"Best of all, there was space for the quirky and the unexpected, traits in which the Valleys excel.

"Whether witnessing the venerable Welsh New Year tradition of the Mari Lwyd, or digging around the places associated with revolutionary Victorian druid Dr William Price, there are plenty of things to tick the box marked 'weird and wonderful.'

Blaenavon's Iron Mountain trail
The Iron Mountain trail celebrates the industrial heritage of Blaenavon

Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones said: "There is a wealth of wonderful attractions, activities and experiences that deserve to be celebrated in The Valleys and this campaign aims to bring a sense of pride to communities where they have a local Valleys Essential.

"And attractions, activities, our natural environment and heritage are key to attracting more tourism, with obvious benefits to the local economy."

Any attraction or experience missing from the list of suggestions can be nominated for a special People's Choice award.

Voting and nominations are open via The Valleys Heart and Soul website until 1 February with the winners to be revealed in March.

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