Volunteer work helping to transform Merthyr Tydfil’s most popular tourist attraction is to continue after completion of a major redevelopment programme later this month.
The Grade II* listed Cyfarthfa Park has seen an investment of £3.3m million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Welsh Government, CADW and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council over the past four years through a project which comes to an end on December 31.
More than 120 local volunteers have contributed over £100,000 worth of their time to the Cyfarthfa Parks for People project, working alongside apprentices and staff from Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council and Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust (MTLT).
From the New Year, management of the volunteer programme will pass from the Council to MTLT and the vital maintenance and conservation work will continue.
The team has helped bring back to life disused structures such as the Icehouse, which was used to store foodstuffs, and original features such as the walled kitchen garden, glasshouses and buggy store. The ‘Bothy’ – an old shelter – now provides accommodation for staff and meeting and classroom facilities, and will shortly house a new shop.
There have also been improvements to Cyfarthfa Ponds, the bandstand, bowls pavilion and tennis courts, enhancement of the lake and park landscape and the installation of new pathways to improve access.
Earlier this year, the Park won a prestigious Green Flag Award in recognition of the high standards achieved by staff and volunteers to ensure a safe and welcoming facility for visitors.
Merthyr Tydfil Mayor Councillor Margaret Davies presented the volunteers with certificates to mark their time on the scheme.
“They have worked on landscaping and drainage, grown and sold produce from the park and helped with administration and events,” she said. “In truth, their efforts have been at the heart of what has made this Parks for People Programme such a success.”
Last year, the volunteers and staff won the 2015 NIACE Cymru Inspire Award in recognition of their physical involvement in restoring the balancing ponds in Cyfarthfa woods, an area which has become a prime feature of the park.
“The volunteers have given us a significant amount of their time and enthusiasm, and winning the Inspire reward was a fantastic achievement,” said Cllr Davies.
“In the next few weeks, we’ll see the completion of the programme’s remaining projects: the lakeside landing area, the bandstand roof and the Icehouse. But, while we look forward to seeing these physical structures completed, we are even more pleased to announce that our volunteers will continue.”
The largest public park in the county borough, Cyfarthfa covers 65 hectares and occupies a prominent position overlooking the town and what remains of the historic Cyfarthfa Ironworks. It provides the backdrop to the Grade I listed Cyfarthfa Castle, home of Ironmaster William Crawshay II, which was built in 1825 and is the best example of a 19th century ironmaster’s residence to have survived in South Wales.
The park and castle attracted more than 500,000 visitors last year and was the third most popular free attraction in Wales, according to a Visit Wales survey in 2014.
There are two other projects aimed at ensuring protection of the area’s historical assets, with plans are in place to redevelop a large proportion of Cyfarthfa Castle to incorporate a new Museum Learning Zone, collections store, research centre and enterprise centre.
The £1.6m Cyfarthfa Leat and Old Gurnos Tramway scheme, meanwhile, has restored the Leat ancient watercourse structure, preventing its collapse and ensuring the ancient watercourse continues to supply water to Cyfarthfa Lake. The attraction is recognised as being a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), providing habitat for plants and animal life. The project was successfully launched in 2013 and received over 30,000 visitors in its first year.