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Past and Present

In 1992, concerned by the socio-economic problems, a small group formed the Bedlinog and Trelewis Community Federation and set about to reverse the decline. The Federation began collecting and analysing information about the social and economic problems encountered. The levels of youth unemployment were 30% with a general unemployment level of up to 20%. The Federation recognised there were very few training opportunities available to help people find new or alternative work so a strategic approach, to regenerate the economy and create new local jobs was identified as the way forward.

The ‘Taff Bargoed Strategy’ was published in 1992 and aimed at economic regeneration. Meanwhile, a similar organisation to the Federation, the Treharris Regeneration Association, was brought into the Strategy and shortly afterwards in February 1995 the Bedlinog & Trelewis Federation and the Treharris Regeneration Association jointly formed the Taff Bargoed Development Trust Ltd. Membership was open to anyone living in the Valley who paid £1 whilst supporter members from outside the area or support organisations were allowed the same membership but without a vote.

In 1994 the Federation was successful with a bid to the Welsh Office for a Community Revival Grant and received more than £500,000 to help develop the organisation and its infrastructure.

The Federation had to decide on whether to engage the social or the economic problems and 92% of the members decided to address the economic issues. The Federation (and later the Trust) purchased the former Trelewis Drift Mine which is now named the Taff Bargoed Centre and put a plan in place to create jobs in the leisure and tourism sector by developing an international standard climbing wall and supporting businesses that included a caving complex, fitness suite, training facility, walks, cycling, retail outlet, café bar, conference facilities and accommodation quarters.

The businesses created were managed initially by a trading arm of the Trust; Business Enterprise Support & Training Limited (BEST Ltd) and the businesses employed as many as 30 people which made a meaningful contribution locally. During this time many people were helped to develop skills that enabled them to successfully find opportunities further afield. The activities on site proved attractive to many visitors which helped profile the Taff Bargoed Valley nationally and internationally.

Unfortunately, the initial capital outlay required to develop facilities such as the climbing wall, caving complex, cafe bar, gymnasium etc., was not matched by any necessary revenue funding to support a new business. This was a key feature in the demise of BEST Ltd. The company simply did not have sufficient reserves or resources to sustain its fledgling status and sadly BEST Ltd was finally taken into voluntary liquidation by the incumbent Board of Trustees in 2006.

At this juncture, the Board of Trustees made a critical decision and opted to secure a tenant for the centre and thereby become landlords. Due process followed and the centre has sustained tenants over the years since then. In 2008 the centre benefited from a £100,000 refurbishment grant awarded by Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council through the Heads of the Valleys Initiative Programme and this was spent on refurbishing the accommodation block and bringing the climbing wall back into full commission.

Rock UK a reputable provider of adventure breaks and education through the ‘outdoors’ were formally engaged in September 2010 as the main tenant of the Trust. They are a charity based in the south east of England with decades of trading and service development experience.

The Trust and Rock UK are now hopeful that funding can be accessed that will provide additional accommodation blocks and a total refurbishment and remodelling that will allow Rock UK to realise their business plan and maximise the potential of this unique facility. Additional facilities will also include an outdoor high ropes course, king swing, multi surface area, bushcraft, team building, mountain biking and orienteering.

The Trust has also revisited its initial aims and objectives, including the promotion of training and the attainment of useful qualifications by local people, particularly the younger generation.