The vil­lage aban­doned

Cynon Valley - - YOUR NEWS - GERAINT THOMAS news­desk@waleson­

ON THE sur­face it’s just a wooded walk along a se­cluded stretch of hillside but look more closely and the signs are there.

How many foot­paths are this broad and have pave­ments on ei­ther side?

Look more closely and you will see steps lead­ing up through a gap in the stone walls, dis­ap­pear­ing into a sea of bram­ble­choked un­der­growth, a stretch of rust­ing wrought iron rail­ings and a stranded gatepost with no gate to cra­dle.

Now and then, crum­bling, ivy-clad re­tain­ing walls peek out at you and the odd frag­ment of a build­ing leaves you in no doubt – peo­ple once lived here. In fact, this was the once the heart of a thriv­ing com­mu­nity, marked on some older maps as Pan­ty­fyn­non.

To­day, Google Maps doesn’t reg­is­ter it at all.

The fear now, as Neath Port Tal­bot coun­cil or­ders the evac­u­a­tion of fur­ther houses in the neigh­bour­ing vil­lage, is that his­tory is re­peat­ing it­self.

The for­got­ten vil­lage branched off Graig Road, which runs be­tween Go­dr­ergraig and Ystalyfera, and was once part of the main high­way be­tween Swansea and Brecon... un­til the moun­tain had its say in the mat­ter.

Go back half a cen­tury and chil­dren would be play­ing in the street, smoke would rise from the chim­neys of rows of houses and men would till the now wild soil and plant seeds in their veg­etable gardens.

One per­son who knows this only too well is Ros­alyn Davies, who grew up in the area be­fore Mynydd Allt Y Grug, dubbed “the Mov­ing Moun­tain”, started to slide into it.

She said: “There was a whole com­mu­nity here; this was my home and al­ways will be my home. There must have been around 100 houses lost in all. It’s an aw­ful thing; you not only lose a house, you lose a home. I had happy times here; it was a fab­u­lous place to grow up as a child.

“When I walk along to­day mem­o­ries come flood­ing back but at least they are happy mem­o­ries. It is also very sad as well. We lost a com­mu­nity. Peo­ple scat­tered. To­day it’s a ghost vil­lage; It’s quite eerie, as I remember it as it was. It’s sad, so very sad. It was a very happy com­mu­nity. Very close-knit­ted.”

Mem­o­ries resur­faced for Mrs Davies fol­low­ing the most re­cent land­slip in the area which saw fam­i­lies or­dered to leave their homes for their own safety. A de­mo­li­tion or­der has been served on one of 10 houses af­fected in Cy­fyng Road, Pan­teg, a neigh­bour­ing area which has seen four sep­a­rate land­slip events in the last 12 months.

The ma­jor­ity of the prop­er­ties to the north­west of the road have been aban­doned and or de­mol­ished due to the series of land­slides that have hit the area in the last 60 years. Sur­veys are be­ing car­ried out to see whether a fur­ther 150 homes could be af­fected.

Mrs Davies said she knew the feel­ing only too well as it hap­pened to her fam­ily not once but twice.

She said: “When I was eight or nine, we lived in Church Road and I can remember the moun­tain com­ing down.”

It was the first ma­jor land­slide to hit the area in liv­ing mem­ory.

The 69-year-old added: “I can remember hear­ing a noise and walk­ing out the front door and see­ing a dou­ble decker bus re­vers­ing back down the hill and all the mud was com­ing to meet it.

“We were for­tu­nate that we didn’t have a gate in the wall at the back of our gar­den, next door wasn’t so lucky and it went right through the house. It took a long time to clean it all up; the road was closed for quite a while.”

Not want­ing to re­main in the shadow of the land­slide, the fam­ily moved a short dis­tance to Graig Road but the moun­tain, it would ap­pear, fol­lowed them.

Mrs Davies said: “A few years later we moved to a bun­ga­low on Graig Road but we even­tu­ally had to move out again be­cause there were huge cracks in the road. When we started hear­ing the moun­tain move in the night we thought it’s time for us to go. It broke my heart hav­ing to move but you could hear what sounded like fine stones trick­ling down the moun­tain­side. It wasn’t good.

“I was quite scared but, be­ing a lit­tle girl, it was also quite an ad­ven­ture.”

The in­evitable land­slide which ul­ti­mately led to the clo­sure of the road came in 1960.

Walk­ing around the area now, Mrs Davies, who has been a lo­cal coun­cil­lor for many years, points out the ghosts of de­mol­ished build­ings – the Bird in the Hand pub­lic house, then The Golden Lion and “op­po­site was the Work­ing­men’s Club”.

Next “there was a lit­tle Pen­te­costal church, Pe­niel, on the moun­tain­side above and over there was the bil­liard hall”.

A butch­ers, a fish and chip shop and a shop “that made its own ice cream and ice lollies where we went for the gos­sip” and rows of for­got­ten houses where the ex­cited shouts of long gone child­hood friends still float in the air for Mrs Davies.

She said: “When it hap­pened the peo­ple were scat­tered ev­ery­where – some were sent down to Tre­banos, which was a long way in those days – and they never came back to the area. I lost quite a lot of school friends be­cause they moved away. They had to move; they didn’t have a choice.”

The way ahead be­comes blocked to any ve­hi­cles with a wall that re­sem­bles a WWII tank trap.

“This was once the main road from Swansea to Brecon. When the moun­tain came down and there were huge cracks in the road, they stopped the buses. What they used to do was; a bus came as far as the Cil­br­wyn pub­lic house and you had to walk across to where there was an­other bus wait­ing.

“It was still the only road un­til the by­pass was built on the val­ley floor. It’s been there over 50 years and is still called the new road.”

Other mem­o­ries come back, the grav­ity of which still make her shud­der.

“I remember one woman, Gwyn­neth, had been pre­par­ing food in the kitchen and she walked into the liv­ing room and, by the time she went back in the kitchen, the moun­tain had come down and into it.”

She passed the site of the for­mer home of the Ystalyfera Pub­lic Band and an­other mem­ory tum­bles out.

“I remember them telling me that the win­dow frames in The Bird in the Hand were all off kil­ter and you couldn’t throw a straight a dart be­cause the floor was slop­ing so much.”

And when she reached an­other she says: “In 1965, on a Sun­day af­ter­noon, Lewis Jenk­ins and his fam­ily were told to move out; they had only just left the house and it col­lapsed into the ground and buried a coun­cil lorry in the process. It’s still down there some­where to­day.

“My sis­ter and her fi­ance were out walk­ing lower down the val­ley and they ac­tu­ally saw the house dis­ap­pear.”

Mer­ci­fully, no-one was killed dur­ing the land­slides but an un­cle of Mrs Davies’ was in­jured... in­di­rectly as a con­se­quence.

“They had to check the main wa­ter pipe, it came from Cray and supplied Swansea, and a num­ber of trenches were dug.

“My un­cle had been in the pub and when it came

The row of houses in Go­dr­ergraig af­fected by the land­slide ear­lier this year

Councillor Ros­alyn Davies

Aban­doned homes book­end the ter­race of Ty Bo­lars, Craig Road, Go­dr­ergraig

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