Three of Caerphilly County Borough’s top tourism spots are to get a £1.5 million boost to attract new visitors.
Parc Penallta, Caerphilly Castle and Cwmcarn Forest Drive have all received extra funding as part of Welsh Government plans to create a Valleys Regional Park.
The funding, which will see £6.6 million split between 11 sites across south Wales, was announced on Wednesday, September 11 by First Minister Mark Drakeford and chair of the Valleys Taskforce, Lee Waters AM.
The Valleys Regional Park initiative was set up with the aim of bringing economic and environmental benefits to the Valleys.
Parc Penallta will receive £900,000 in funding, with a new visitor centre to be built on the site.
The visitor centre will, according to the Welsh Government, “provide a much needed base for a programme of community focused activities supporting economic and social wellbeing”.
Meanwhile, Caerphilly Castle will receive £150,000 of funding. In a statement, the Welsh Government said the funding would go towards “the development of landscape and nature corridors linking the castle to the surrounding parks and urban landscape”.
Caerphilly Assembly Member Hefin David welcomed the news and said: “This funding for the valleys is key to attracting visitors and maintaining the environment for residents. I particularly welcome the £150,000 funding for Caerphilly Castle, which will develop the landscape around the castle, including the surrounding parks and urban areas.”
He added: “I have long argued that we need to be bolder in promoting all parts of our community to tourist business and making our beautiful landscapes accessible to everyone who lives here. This funding will significantly help that aim.”
Meanwhile, Cwmcarn Forest Drive has been given £450,000 as part of the initiative.
A shared learning area, office space and community wifi will be introduced to the site, as well as new trails, among other things.
On Saturday, September 7, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) hosted a public minibus tour at the site to discuss its plans for the area.
The forest has been closed for a number of years, with a around 70% of trees having to be cut down to stop the spread of a tree disease.
NRW began planting new trees at the site in January 2017, but many were destroyed in deliberate forest fires in the summer of 2018.
The body has since replanted around 60,000 new trees in the area and is hoping to reopen the sight in spring of next year.
Islwyn AM Rhianon Passmore expressed her delight at the investment in the site and said: “Since I was elected to the National Assembly for Wales I have consistently pushed for Cwmcarn Forest Drive to be fully re-opened to its former glory.
“It is one of the natural jewels that nature has bestowed on Wales. It is imperative that Cwmcarn Forest Drive is opened up to Wales and the world as a must-visit destination.
“The nearly half a million pound Welsh Labour Government investment looks to maximise community use.
“The promise of a shared space for lifelong learning, office space with wifi for community use, and the development of landscape interpretation points and discovery trails is fantastic.
“It is essential that the magnificent natural beauty of Cwmcarn Forest Drive is fully utilised by frequent and meaningful engagement by the public.”
Ms Passmore thanked Mr Drakeford for being “fully engaged in listening to representations for the immeasurable value of Cwmcarn Forest Drive to Wales and the world.”
Ms Passmore added: “I will continue to work closely with the Friends of Cwmcarn Forest Drive who have done so much to ensure the community who love this natural treasure so much continue to see the progress that they deserve.”
Meanwhile, Mr Waters AM said: “These projects will put the Valleys Regional Park on the map nationally and internationally as a place which can inspire, excite and attract visitors from near and far.
“They will also provide opportunities for economic growth which is a key aim of the Valleys Taskforce.”