The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd.

Character Areas


HLCA 007 Garn Lakes (Kay and Kears Reclamation)

Garn Lakes nature reserve: view to the east.

HLCA 007 Garn Lakes (Kay and Kears Reclamation)

Formerly an industrial extractive landscape, now largely characterised by reclamation and wetland nature reserve; water management features. Also characterised by buried industrial and pre-industrial agricultural settlement remains.Back to map

Historic Background

The historic landscape area of Garn Lakes (Kay and Kears Reclamation)encompasses the extent of intensively reclaimed land relating to the Kay and Kears Reclamation scheme.

In the early post-medieval period, the area comprised of small farmsteads and associated agricultural land that represented the extent of pre-industrial settlement within the general area, including HLCA004. The early post-medieval farms in HLCA007 included Blaen y Cwm (Ty Glan yr Afon), Ty'r Rebecca, Persondy, Push John and Bumblehole. While the majority of the surviving agricultural buildings date from the 16th to 18th centuries, most are thought to have medieval precursors. For example, the farmstead at Persondy (demolished in 1970s) is considered to have been a medieval longhouse.

In the 19th century, land in the area was acquired piecemeal by the ironmasters for extractive purposes and waste tipping; extractive sites in the area included Garn Pits, Cinder Pit, Kear's Slope, Dick Shon's Level, Blaen y Cwm Level and River Bank Level among others. Cinder Pit, the earliest of the collieries in this area, was powered by water as late as the 1840s rather than steam. This was the site of a major disaster in 1838 when flooding killed fourteen people. Kear's Slope (a drift mine with an inclined heading) started between 1812 and 1824 was for a number of years one of the most significant collieries in the area. In the early 1840s Garn Pits was one of the first deep shaft mines sunk and was worked with tandem shafts. Waste tipping during the period encroached upon some farmsteads, for example, Ty'r Rebecca.

By the mid 19th century a complex watercourse system had also been established. Its function was partly to drive a number of waterwheels, though might originally have been related to scouring works, an early extraction process.

During the 1970s some land reclamation was carried out, including recontouring and flattening of tips; resulting in the destruction/burying of the area's remaining farmsteads. Garn Lakes in north-western part of the area were created following open-casting as part of the Kay and Kears reclamation scheme in the 1990s. As a consequence, Garn Pits and associated tips, River Bank Level and two ponds were largely destroyed, although some remains may survive on the periphery. Under the same scheme waste tips in the south-eastern part of the area underwent remodelling; there is potential for surviving buried industrial remains here.

As well as industrial remains, features associated with the area's post-medieval agricultural landscape may survive in a buried state, including Bumblehole farmstead, Persondy, Blaen y Cwm and Ty'r Rebecca preserved beneath the modern landscape.

Historic Landscape Characteristics

Garn Lakes is an area characterised chiefly by a late 20th century reclaimed landscape. Its main visible characteristics are now the Garn Lakes, a series of man-made water features designed as a wildlife reserve. Also typical are concrete drains and recontoured former tips and cleared land largely set down to open grassland.

Despite wholesale reclamation and landscaping, the potential for survival of archaeological remains, particularly in the southeastern part of the area is high. Buried remains include both agricultural features, ie farmsteads, and industrial features such as the engine house, winding house, boiler house and other remains associated with Cinder Pit. Remains associated with Kear's Slope workings and incline head may also survive in a buried state.

From the 19th century, water management became a characteristic feature of the area, represented by a number of reservoirs, leats and feeder canals. Apart from remains of a feeder canal at the edge of the area, most of these original features have been buried or removed by opencasting operations. Water management remains a strong characteristic, however, with the recent addition of the Garn Lakes their associated network of drainage channels.