Welcome back to Wales. Today we’re on the south coast, in the town of Port Talbot which was once called Aberavon. Aberavon is now a suburb within the town, which is why it still comes up on my map. It has a lot of history to it, so I won’t be able to fit everything into one blog post. This week we’ll be covering from the dawn of human history in Britain up to the birth of Port Talbot.
The name, which is ‘Aberafan’ in Welsh, comes from the river ‘Afan’. It is one of the larger rivers in the area and we’ll be coming back to other places along its length in the future.
Recorded history of the town dates back to when the Normans invaded Wales in 1090, but we know that as far back as 10,000 BCE hunter-gatherer communities would have travelled along the shore gathering shellfish and berries.
Episode 35 – Aberargie
We’re still in Scotland for our first visit today, returning to Perth and Kinross for the village of Aberargie. This is just four miles north-east of Abbots Deuglie, across the M90 motorway.
Its name comes from the river Farg, and the Gaelic words ‘Ober Fhargaidh’ which have been anglicised as ‘Aberargie’. It is not the only ‘Aber’ town in the area, as it is part of the parish of Abernethy, which we will get to soon enough.
I’ve found a couple of references to a Roman tower that was at Aberargie in the second or third centuries, but nothing substantial. In the fifth century, the Pictish Chronicle says that King Nechtan held Aberargie as part of his lands.
In 1783 there was a water mill at the village, and by 1860 it had developed into a complex of structures. It was initially called Farg’s Mill, but in 1879 was known as Ayton Farm and sawmill. This mill shut down in the early twentieth century, but other mills in the village continued to take advantage of the waterways.
Today, Aberargie is home to Morrison and MacKay Whiskey, which recently opened its doors as Perthshire’s first new distillery since 1949.
Episode 36 – Aberarth
Hold onto your hats, everyone! We’re now going all the way back to Wales. In fact, almost all the way back to where we started on the ‘Aber’ towns – Aberarth is just a mile up the coast from Aberaeron.
Our next tour stop is a small village in the Welsh county of Gwynedd. Situated on the border of Snowdonia National Park, Aberangell is a short drive north-east of the market town Machynlleth, on Wales’s west coast.
Here Afon (or river) Angell arrives at Afon Dyfi. If you love nature then it’s a great place to visit and explore the forest and hills. You might also find the ruins of old slate mines, where a great hole would be dug out of the ground to form a quarry.
Once there was a railway station at Aberangell, opened in 1867. Passengers went on the line until 1901, when passenger services ended. Freight continued until 1908 when it was finally closed down. The station at Aberangell was used as an exchange from the Hendre-Ddu tramway system onto the main railway system.
The Hendre-Ddu trams didn’t run on the same type of tracks as the main line. It was a private line, carrying timber and slate down from the Hendre-Ddu quarry. This output nearly a thousand tons of slate in 1883, with 31 men working there. Over time production decreased and in 1946 it closed for good.
One slate mine owner lived in Aberangell, and bought his home – Bryn Derwen – for just £6,000. It is still lived in today.
We now need to travel a long way. Back into England, up the M6, through Scotland almost all the way to Inverness. Here is Aberarder, one of four villages around Loch Ruthven, to the south east of Loch Ness. It is at the top of Strath Nairn, where the River Nairn first forms its course before making its way to the sea.
This week we’re visiting Rhondda Cynon Taf, a county in the south of Wales, named after the five valleys that make it up. The region is close to the capital city of Cardiff.
Aberaman is found in the Cynon valley (pronounced ‘cuh-non’). As we learned last week, ‘Aber’ means river mouth, and this village is located where the Amman river (Afon Aman) arrives at the Cynon river.
Before the nineteenth century, Aberaman Isha was the rural home of the Mathew family. They were large landholders in the Glamorgan area, which included the modern Rhondda Cynon Taf region. Three of the Mathews served as High Sheriff of Glamorgan.