Top five free must do’s for the school holidays

30 July 2011


SCHOOL’S out for summer! But if the words “Mummy, Daddy, I’m bored!” fill you with dread, there’s no need to despair. With miles and miles of
beautiful countryside to explore, world-class mountain biking at Afan Forest Park, the seaside at Aberavon Beach and Waterfall Country on the doorstep, there’s no shortage of activities to keep everybody entertained – and it
needn’t cost you a penny! Here’s our quick guide to the top five fun (and free) days out for all the family.

Bouncy castle fun at Aberavon Beach. Picture: WordsmithForHire

Bouncy castle fun at Aberavon Beach. Picture: WordsmithForHire

1. Get on your bike!

The Afan Valley is, quite simply, a place of breathtaking natural beauty, and the perfect place for the whole family to relax and have fun! Feel free to unwind wandering through the secluded forest paths or spend an afternoon with the family cycling along the disused railway lines. Looking for something more challenging? If so, attempt one of the valley’s five world-class mountain bike trails.

Combining maximum thrills with breathtaking clifftop views, the trails, covering more than 100km, are among the most popular and highly rated in the UK. Afan Forest Park was the only UK trail destination to feature in What Mountain Bike magazine as one of the ten best places to ride “before you die”.

In 2008 it was also voted one of the top 10 public forests in the UK by the Sunday Telegraph. Whether your purpose is simply to relax, or to challenge yourself to the max, Afan Forest Park is the ideal place to get away from it all. Look out for the two visitor centres, Kanji woodland
garden, an outdoor amphitheatre and the South Wales Miners’ Museum.

2. Picnic in the park

On a sunny day, few things are more enjoyable than a family picnic, and where better to do so than the beautiful and historic Margam Park?
With its 850 acres of historic parkland, there’s plenty to keep all the family entertained and delighted. Children will love the Magical Fairytale village with its animated characters and small-scale but very realistic houses. A small castle and Tudor house are just two examples of the
buildings the kids will love to visit. Monty the train provides rides around the lake and grounds of Margam Park.

For grown-ups, there’s an impressive Gothic castle, monastic ruins and an 18th Century orangery to explore. The mountain views, gardens and woodland walks will lead you to lakes, deer parks and an enchanting, peaceful landscape.

Access is free but there is a £2 charge for parking.

3. Go underground

The weather can’t always be relied upon to play ball, so it’s worth having a couple of rainy-day activities up your sleeve.

One such is a trip to Cefn Coed Colliery Museum. Located near the village of Crynant in the Dulais Valley five miles north of Neath, the museum tells the story of coal mining at Cefn Coed pit, once the deepest anthracite coal mine in the world. It was also one of the most dangerous in Wales, gaining the nickname “The Slaughterhouse”. The story of the thousands of men who worked at Cefn Coed and at other pits in the anthracite coalmines of South West Wales is brought dramatically to life via an authentic underground gallery, which allows visitors to experience for themselves the harsh, damp and dark conditions in which the colliers toiled in order to produce “black gold”.

The museum also houses a unique gas tram, which ran in Neath until 1920. The gift shop sells a wide selection of coal figures, Welsh souvenirs, books and the best selection of original mining lamps in South Wales. Admission is free.

Cefn Coed Colliery Museum, Neath Road, Creunant. Open 10.30am-5pm daily.

Tel. 01639 750556

4. Hit the beach!
Summer just wouldn’t be summer without a trip to the beach, and thankfully Port Talbot has one of the best in Wales right on its doorstep!

The three-mile (5km) long sandy Aberavon Beach offers everything you need for the perfect family day – beautiful sand, sparkling water, a delightful promenade, and seaside shops selling buckets and spades a-plenty! As well as being a great place for the kids to splash and play, it is also a popular watersports destination, attracting surfers, jetskiiers, windsurfers and kite surfers.

On a hot day the safe, sandy beach is a haven for hundreds of people enjoying swimming in the sea or the aquasplash play pool,
which is conveniently located on the promenade. Just across the road is the Apollo cinema, with ample free parking.

5. Take a walk on the wild side

If the kids are snapping at your heels, nothing beats a good family walk.

The countryside around Port Talbot is the perfect place to blow away the cobwebs, offering some of the most spectacular scenery to be found anywhere in Wales. The Vale of Neath is famous for its waterfalls, leading the region to become known as ‘Waterfall Country’. The Waterfalls Centre in the village of Pontneddfechan provides a great starting point, and houses an exciting interactive exhibition. To walk behind the curtain of water at Sgwd yr Eira (Waterfall of the Snow) is an experience never to be forgotten!

Only a little further on is the splendid scenery of the Brecon Beacons National Park, with its stunning range of mountains, waterfalls including the
27-metre Henrhyd Waterfall and the falls at Ystradfellte, and its caves,
such as Ogof Ffynnon Ddu. Activities in the park include walking, cycling,
mountain biking and horse riding, as well as sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and
fishing, rock climbing, hang-gliding, caravanning, camping and caving.

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