Wales

Carmarthenshire's Black Mountain Pass marks 200th anniversary

The Black Mountain Pass Image copyright Google
Image caption The Black Mountain Pass is on the A4069 in Carmarthenshire

Fans of a Welsh road, which is a favourite for test drivers and has appeared on Top Gear, are marking its 200th anniversary.

The Black Mountain Pass stretches 20 miles on the A4069 in Carmarthenshire.

Until now very little was known about the history of the road, located between Llangadog and Brynamman.

But Aldwyth Rees Davies has completed a six-year labour of love to uncover the story of how, when and why the road was built.

Visitors to the road, which include car magazine test drivers and bikers, experience hairpin bends and stunning scenery.

One bend is known as "Tro Gwcw" or the "Cuckoo Turn". Local tradition insists that the name is shouted while driving along the twisting turns.

Ms Davies said: "People ask me, 'why a road', but I wanted my children to know more about the area.

"We've been coming here for years and I wanted to find out more about the road but I couldn't find anything - and that got me really intrigued.

"I spent hours in the National Library in Aberystwyth, the British Library and many more local libraries, trying to gather information. In the end I had enough to write a book."

Image caption Aldwyth Rees Davies has written a book about the road's history

Ms Davies' book, When Men and Mountains Meet, is being published in July, and includes the story of two local men - a father and son.

They were both called John Jones Brynbrain. The father was the financier of the road, while the son was the constructor.

Ms Davies found a Turnpike Act from 1813, which permitted the road to be built. It was completed in 1819.

It was needed to transport coal from the pits in Brynaman, owned by John Jones Senior, up to the lime kilns on top of the mountain.

It was then used to transport the limestone down the other side, for use by the agricultural industry.

Image caption The story of the road includes that of a father and son

"The Industrial Revolution was coming and this road brought that forward," said Ms Davies.

"It needed those local people to invest and take risks, and these two men did just that.

"I wanted to celebrate their achievement and celebrate this road."

Phil and Chrissie Shepherd, from the Isle of Wight, visited for the first time after coming across the road by accident.

Mr Shepherd said: "We love it - the bends, the surface is great. There's a few sheep on the road, but we haven't hit one yet!"

Mrs Shepherd added: "Its so beautiful up here - the silence, there's no litter and the scenery is amazing."

Image caption Phil and Chrissie Shepherd are touring south Wales in a camper van

As part of the road's bicentenary, Ms Davies thinks more could be done to market the Black Mountain Pass as a tourist destination, and would like to see a plaque put in place to mark how old the road is.

"It is starting to become more popular - it's getting busier every time I come up here.

"It's been here for 200 years, let's hope it's here for another 200."

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