Inside Rhondda’s new glamping pods on the site of a legendary cowboy town

There is no doubt that the South Wales Valleys have some of the most breathtaking walking routes and scenery and the last decade has seen them blossom from the scars of mining, an industry which at one time has made the region its most famous and lucrative.

These days, a new appreciation for the area has gone hand in hand with brand new tourist attractions like the Zip World Tower as well as days of pandemic lockdown – the latter has given us time to explore our home landscape like never before. previously.

One of the Rhondda Chapter’s most recent developments, as part of the wider Welsh tourism story, is a brand new glamping pod site in Blaenrhondda.

Read more:Rhondda Tunnel Could Become Europe’s Longest Underground Cycle Path

Fernhill Valley Farm has four cozy, cute and cozy glamping pods on what was the site of the Fernhill Colliery, hence its name, and what was a short-lived Wild West theme park that is part of the folklore recent from Rhondda. You can read more about it here.

There is still work going on at the site, but visitors were impressed

Its location just atop Rhondda Fawr, nestled between the looming mountains of Rhigos and Pen Pych, is not quite remote but is a good hop from the village of Blaenrhondda at the end of the valley. The scenery and the silence, however, are incomparable.

The site is now owned by the Batten family and father Andy along with his sons Gavin and Lee have been working to develop the area since they bought it at auction in 2017.

Gavin Batten, Lee Batten and Andy Batten

Along with the initial four modules, which opened to visitors in October, the trio hope to add more modules and five slots for touring caravans.

Since October they have been regularly rented out to those wishing to get away from the hustle and bustle. Walkers and nature lovers can gaze at the stars in front of a fire at night or enjoy all the mod cons after a day of exploring the magnificent waterfall and forests or even take the zipline to the new Zip World Tower just down the street. above the Rhigos.

Andy, Gavin and Lee have worked together for a decade renovating properties for their business Transform a Home and Andy, along with his wife Christine, a former school cook, live on the property and now run a farm on the site with visitors waking up to the sight of sheep, cows and donkeys in nearby fields.

Although there is still plenty of work to be done in Fernhill, the three spoke to WalesOnline about taking the chance to build a glamping site in Blaenrhondda.

“We were buying houses, renovating them and then renting them out and that land came up for auction,” said Gavin, 38.

“We’ve always been in the market looking for a property or land, so when it happened, we bought it, knowing we could do something with it. We didn’t really no plan for the terrain, but then we walked around and saw all the waterfalls in the back and places to walk, and thought that part of the Rhondda was completely different from the part we live in , where you have the row houses and the town, so that’s where the tourism part of it came in. Then we went to the council to discuss the plans and they asked us to develop a master plan. put something together, which was half homes and then half tourism, and they seem to like the idea.

“So we just moved on to the glamping pods. It was a gamble, but we’ve taken people around the site and they’re blown away by the scenery.”

Pods are booked most weekends

At first they were going to build a glamping pod for visitors, but it became clear that it was just as much work to build one as it was to build four. Luckily for those looking to book for a weekend, all four were built and opened in October 2021 with most weekends sold out.

“We’ve had people from Kent, Manchester and many foreigners staying in the UK, visiting here,” added Gavin. “We didn’t know what to expect when we started taking bookings, we stayed here too and were worried what people would think. But the reviews have been really good. They all talked about the view, from the proximity to the walks here Pen Pych and the waterfalls and up to Pen y Fan.And at first as soon as we knew Zip World was coming it gave us the confidence to continue with the touristy side here.

Inside one of the pods

With positive feedback from visitors enjoying the Fernhill area, what has been the local feedback – local walkers who regularly use the valley for their walks.

“Most people think it’s great,” said Gavin, who quit his job as a quantity surveyor two years ago to start the Fernhill project with his father and brother.

“You will have the strange person who will say” glamping in Blaenrhondda, what is that? but they probably didn’t go all the way to the waterfalls, they just didn’t see that element. But most people think it’s awesome, especially when the Zip World came up on the radar and so did the Rhondda Tunnel. People can start to see that we can sell tourism here.”

Lee, a carpenter and plumber as well as a renovator with his father, added: “Other people can also see the value of the place, people in the know are starting to come here and develop properties for tourism too.

The view towards nearby Blaenrhonda

There is also another element to Fernhill, which brings Andy full circle – he says he is currently living the dream of having a farm and in the near future he will start building a farm on the site. The carpenter was a regular at the site some 40 years ago and worked on the Western World park, which closed just weeks after it opened.

“They [people who ran the park] came from Birmingham and they wanted all the local labor and they paid cash, which was a good thing in the 80s,” Andy said.

“So from Penygraig up to here, everyone was building the buildings. And yes, when they came to pay us, they brought a shotgun, the herdsmen brought down all the equipment, brought the cattle and they brought the money, with a guard and would pay everyone.”

Despite reservations, Andy said, the owners didn’t get the place ready in time. “It started to pear around then and they couldn’t catch up,” he added. “They owed the building dealers a lot of money, so they went bankrupt.”

But Fernhill’s mixed fortunes in the past don’t dictate what happens to the site in the future. With quick reservations and more attractions and activities nearby, the glamping site is another Rhondda bowstring, run by a local family.

Gavin said: “I never thought we would be running tourist accommodation.” And Lee added, “We know next to nothing about almost everything we’ve done, but we’re still learning and just trying. That’s all you can do.”

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