What we hope to show with this short series of features is that, hidden within ‘Our South Wales’ there are some little gems we may not have seen or even heard of. And within Cwmbran that certainly is the case.

There are those of us who enjoy a bit of shopping in Cwmbran and the SOUTH WALES LIFE team count ourselves among them. We love a cuppa in town, a trip to the Congress or even a wander around the Retail Park. As a visitor though it’s easy to forget that a minute or two away from the shops, there is a whole new world and on a nice day it really is the perfect place to visit.

Cwmbran itself is a new town that was designated just over 70 years ago, with the intention of providing new employment opportunities in the south eastern portion of the South Wales Coalfield. Cwmbran means Crow Valley.

It is actually a place used by our long, and we mean very long lost relatives. There’s evidence that Neolithic and Bronze Age people used the area, with the Iron Age Silures tribe also occupying the region before being subdued by the Roman legions based at nearby Usk and Caerleon.

Around 1179, Hywel, Lord of Caerleon gave a gift of money and land to found the Cistercian Abbey at Llantarnam. At the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII the abbey was closed and was bought by a succession of wealthy landowners. By the 18th century the abbey had passed into the ownership of the Blewitt family, who were to become key figures in the early industrialisation of Cwmbran. Brick making, lime kilns, iron ore mining, quarrying and coal mining were established during this period, along with a canal to transport goods to the docks at Newport.

In 1833 the Ordnance Survey map of Monmouthshire shows Cwmbran as a farm situated in the area now known as Upper Cwmbran, in the valley named Cwm Brân. Cwmbran now covers about 3,000 acres and has a population of around 50,000.

Following some investigation by local residents Richard Davies and Mike Price, the Ancient Cwmbran & The Cistercian project was created and a £48,000 grant has been provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund to explore some previously unrecorded sites of interest in the Greenmeadow and Thornhill areas.

If you want to read more about the area, the society site is definitely worth investigating, and you can do that here. ANCIENT

Before we tell you what’s great about Cwmbran, take a look at our recent visit to the town. One look and you’ll be packing your shopping bag, along with a picnic, to enjoy all they have on offer.

The Boating Lake is only a few minutes walk from Cwmbran Town Centre. You can enjoy a stroll around the lake and feed the geese and ducks; have an ice cream in the café, picnic in the park or have fun in the children’s play area. It really does have something for everyone. Best of all, of course, it’s FREE to go into the grounds.

The reviews of the lake are excellent from locals and visitors alike…..

We come here regularly with the kids. It’s a great place to run, ride bikes, scooters etc. The cafe is great and well priced. The ice cream selection is excellent.

Visited with my four year old grandson. The place is well maintained with plenty to entertain a young child on a boiing hot day. We joined the long line for an ice cream, £2.30 for a cone. Well it was nearly as big as his face.’

The lake is easy to find, it’s on Llanfrechfa Way in Cwmbran. The postcode (if you’re driving) is NP44 3EU. If you want to know more check out the Torfaen link HERE. Otherwise just head long there, enjoy the walks and the lake and obviously one of those massive ice creams.

The fishing is really good there too by all accounts, for more details, go here. FISHING

The CWMBRAN CENTRE has pretty much everything your shopping needs desires, supermarkets, high street retailers, banks, theatre, cinema, bowling alley, restaurants, creche, trampoline park, gym, pub, library, arts centre and office space. We just want to congratulate the team at the Centre for the work they’ve put in to making it Covid Friendly, if there’s such a phrase. The layout around the centre is well managed.

They have everything from Primark to a great little indoor market, where you can get yourself some nice ‘Welsh’ gifts. There are so many places to eat and drink, with a new Boswells making an appearance in the centre. We also understand a new M&S Food Hall is about to open in WH Smith next week.

Close to the Bus Station you’ll find more restaurants, VUE Cinema and Hollywood Bowl. To see what is on offer in the centre, go here. SHOPPING

Image: Tiia Monto

They have lots of activities in the centre, especially for kids. In the past they’ve even had a full-on beach, we kid you not, it’s brilliant.

The shopping doesn’t stop there however. A short walk, or drive from the centre is Cwmbran Retail Park, a place packed with all the big names we know and love. Everything from B&Q, Next, Currys PC World, TK Maxx, Halfords, Pets At Home and so much more. If you are driving, the postcode is NP44 3JQ. We actually enjoy the short walk from the Cwmbran Centre, through Sainsbury’s car park and over to the retail park.

If you are looking for the best parking, maybe this will help.

So here’s a few other things which are definitely worth checking out in Cwmbran.

GREENMEADOWS COMMUNITY FARM: They’ve been a working farm for over 250 years and in the late 1980s were saved by a group who loved farming. Almost 30 years on and they are still fulfilling that mission!

Set in over 120 acres, they have a wide range of pedigree and rare breed animals which you can come and meet up close. Daily activities include milking demonstrations and tractor and trailer rides and they have lots of additional activities during school holidays as well as seasonal events throughout the year.

Unfortuately, the farm has been hit really badly by the pandemic, rather than us go through all the details here, take a look at their FACEBOOK page and the good/bad news message HERE. We of course wish them every success through this.

LLANYRAFON MANOR: Described as Cwmbran’s hidden treasure, the Manor really is all that. It is a beautifully refurbished grade II listed building and one of Cwmbran’s most historic venues. A Heritage Centre and Museum with a Tea Room, situated in lovely grounds an ideal location for Wedding’s, Private & Corporate Events. A Hidden Gem in Torfaen. Best of all, it is FREE ENTRY TO HOUSE & GROUND.

When it’s open, the house is well worth a visit, the grounds are stunning too. Well done on your apple crop this year by the way, looks good. For more information on the house, go here. LLANYRAFON.

The FOOD AND CRAFT MARKET is at the end of the month (last Sunday 30th). There will be plenty of traders looking forward to tempt you with their wares. Whether, it’s cakes for you, a treat for your pets, or something special for a gift.

There are some many things to do in Cwmbran, we’ve linked a few other suggestions below.