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Blaenavon's Big Pit is perfect half-term treat

BIg pit

With such dull, seemingly never-ending, grey days, it’s so easy to spend weekends slumped on the sofa watching Flog It! and drinking tea.

Summoning the energy to venture into the wind and rain is pretty hard given the recent British climate, but sometimes realising what great days out can be had really does make the effort worth it.

A recent trip to National Museum of Wales Big Pit in Blaenavon was not only an educational eye-opener but also a refreshing way to spend a few hours doing something a little different.

There’s certainly no need to worry about the rain when you’re helmet clad, wandering the carved-out tunnels of the pit 90 metres underground.

These underground tours of the mine are definitely the main attraction for any visitor and it’s hard not to be drawn into the rich and rugged history of the South Wales mining industry.

The tour starts with a true ex-miner calling you through to a safety fitting room, where you’ll be fitted with a helmet and lamp.

Amazingly, this is the very same equipment worn by the men who worked at the mine.

It then starts to get exciting.

Russell, our authentic tour guide, began to explain the dangers that remain in the mine, caused by gases still locked inside the coalface, and asked us to leave any electrical gear above ground – it really did hit home at this point that we were journeying into what was so recently a functioning environment.

We were herded into a tinny-sounding lift and began the exciting descent underground.BigPit2

Reaching the bottom, Russell then began to lead us through small passageways, stopping intermittently to talk about particular part of the mine.

The underground tour can take various routes, but it’s certainly safe to say that Russell’s chosen route for our group wasn’t suitable for anyone suffering with claustrophobia.

The tours will also accommodate for a wheelchair, which can be provided free of charge by the museum for those who aren’t confident walking in the dark underground.

And speaking of the dark, you really haven’t experienced true darkness until you’ve made a visit to Big Pit.

At some point in the tour, the guide will ask everyone to turn their headlamps off, and after the excited screams from the children have died down, it’s a sobering moment realising what conditions these miners were faced with underground.

Returning to the surface, you’ll find many more exhibitions to explore.

The pithead baths, and exhibition showing where the miners would wash after a 12 hour shift is also well worth a visit.

Wandering from exhibition to exhibition, on the rugged Welsh hillside, in what was obviously a grey, rainy day, really did add to the feeling that you were actually walking around a working mine.

The exhibitions and literature around the museum are superbly up-kept and signs displaying old pictures of the mine when it was in operation help you to picture the chaos that one inhabited Big Pit.

Tours around Big Pit are totally free, and it’s a little hard to believe that in a world where getting something for nothing is rare, this fantastic day out won’t come anywhere near bursting the budget.

Car parking for the day costs £3 and, if you fancy a break from wandering the exhibitions, there is an on-site cafe.

A trip to Big Pit is exciting for children and, for those who live and work in the area, especially important in understanding the far-reaching power and influence the South Wales mining industry had on the world.