Our Story

The area experienced a remarkable transformation during the 1850s due to the booming coal mining and iron industry. This period of rapid growth led to a substantial increase in population and development, changing the landscape from scattered farmhouses and agricultural land. However, the geological origins of the region can be traced back much further, shaped by the powerful forces of glaciers during the last Ice Age.

The name “Cwmdare” is derived from “Afon Dare,” the river that meanders through the valley, originating from the majestic Darren Mountain and flowing through Cwmdare before reaching Aberdare, where it joins the River Cynon.

The abundance of natural resources, particularly coal, made the area highly favorable for industrialization. As a result, there was a remarkable tenfold increase in population within a span of just 50 years, driven by the mining and ironworking activities that thrived in the region.


Official records indicate that coal mining in Dare Valley commenced in 1851, although there is evidence to suggest that smaller-scale mining had been taking place prior to that time. The discovery and exploitation of coal reserves played a significant role in shaping the economic and social landscape of the area.

The utilization of Welsh steam coal on Royal Navy vessels globally elevated the reputation of our esteemed “black gold” and fueled a thriving international export enterprise, supported by the operation of four mines in the region.

Over the course of 120 years since the inauguration of the initial mines, the coal seams were gradually depleted, leading to the closure of the last mine, Bwllfa Dare, in 1997.

Two separate railways supporting the massive coal mining industries served Dare Valley, arriving in Cwmdare in 1857. These magnificent engines would carry tonnes of coals over viaducts built by the legendary Isambard Kingdom Brunel down to Cardiff and the docks.

These former mighty wooden viaducts, constructed at the height of the industrial revolution by the genius Brunel, now form part of the entrance to Dare Valley Country Park.

Shortly after the closure of the last pit in the late 1990s, it was decided the landscape should be restored to its original state.

Coal and slag tips took two years to clear, while the River Dare was rerouted. The two lakes in the country park were created.

Find out more about the rich industrial history of Rhondda Cynon Taf and the story of its coal that powered the world at A Welsh Coal Mining Experience at Rhondda Heritage Park.

Here, the men who once worked in the mines serve as your guides, fitting you with your miner’s helmet and taking you on a journey underground and back in time. It’s an award-winning family day out.

For more information contact the visitor centre on 01685 874 672 or at darevalleycountrypark@rctcbc.gov.uk