Drive through a housing estate in the Cwmcarn Valley, and you suddenly enter a magical forested area. Once a colliery, the Cwmcarn Forest has reinvented itself as an outdoor adventure playground that offers extreme mountain biking, fishing, walking and glamping in pod-like wood cabins. There’s something for just about everyone, including a STUNNING drive through the forest, with 7 magical stops.
As a YUPPIE (remember those?) my holidays were more about ME and all the fabulous things I could get up to (the main ingredients involving a sunny climate, swimming pool and a fruity drink). Now that there are children involved, I find our holidays are about THEM and the new things they can learn and experience.
Wales is the perfect place for new adventures, and Visit Wales kindly sent the Modern Family for a weekend of learning experiences in the Valleys. Keen to get our three daughters fishing, the Cwmcarn Forest is an excellent venue for an introduction to the sport. The manmade lake is stocked with perch, trench and Gwrachen Ddu (that’s bream in Welsh) and the local angling club meets on Saturday mornings from 10 – noon in March through October. £3 will get you a camping chair, fishing rod, maggots, catapult (for showering maggots near your line) and all the pointers you need to get started.
We showed up on a clear, bright morning wearing purple Hunter wellies and were immediately greeted by Chris, the angling club secretary.
Goood mooor – ning! Chris welcomed us in a sing-song south Wales accent. Where are ya from? And he just slightly rolled his r.
My youngest looked at me, I could tell she was having a hard time understanding Chris. I him understood perfectly and instantly liked this grandfatherly figure.
Right. Who wants to learn how to fish?
Chris scooped a plastic dish into a bucket of red and white maggots and handed it to us. We just stared at the squirming larvae. I panicked slightly as I figured Chris would use me as an example.
Hold out your hands. I noticed hubby slink back to the car, most likely to get his newspaper.
Cwome on! Mam, you go first.
Reactively, I immediately held out my hand and Chris placed a few squirming maggots in my palm.
They won’t hurt ya!
I tried not to make a face. Then my 11-year-old daughter enthusiastically put out her hand.
They’re just like cute little rolly pollys Mum! (that would soon be flies, but I didn’t say that, as it might put my two younger girls off).
Chris’ 13-year-old grandson showed us our spot on the banks of the manmade lake. We got a foldable camp chair, fishing rod, rod holder (so you can relax in the chair and put your rod down), net, and catapult.
My oldest was the first to cast. Her line cracked as she whipped it across her shoulders. Her line cascaded over the lake, and landed a good 25 feet away. Not bad for a first cast.
That one’s a natural! Chris whooped.
After a few more instructions from Chris, we all sat on our chairs. Then the morning was full of baiting, casting, and using the catapult to shower maggots into the lake near our line, in hopes of attracting fish to our area.
Of course it was inevitable that we tangled our lines.
Chris! I sheepishly called him over, holding my youngest daughter’s rod with a reel that wouldn’t turn.
What yur trying to tell me is yur in a right mess.
Major tangle in 3! Chris yelled over to his daughter Jane, who came over to help untangle.
It was obvious Chris has done this before with city folk.
A big thanks to Chris and Cwmcarn Forest for teaching us how to fish!
Our oldest didn’t reel in any fish, but she got five bites and was brimming from ear to ear.
Here’s Chris showing my youngest how to cast a line.
Here’s my oldest showing off her newly learned skill of baiting using maggots
Here’s my middle child, showing us how to use a catapult.
This week I went fishing for the first time. I thought it would be boring, but I was wrong, as it turned out to be a really enjoyable experience.
First I learned about maggots in fishing. It was recommended to put 3 maggots on the hook, but luckily I did not have to put them on straight away as they were already on for me.
Next I learnt how to cast a line. First you have to pull the line back, then pull the releaser the other way and then slowly pull the rod back (over your shoulders) and push it forward as hard as you can!
You know when you have a fish when the float goes under water. Once it has gone under water you should reel it in very carefully. I got five bites, but the fish swam away when I was reeling them in.
Unfortunately when I reeled it in the maggots were gone – which meant I needed to put them back on. You do this my taking the bum (the head is the darker pointy bit) and stick it on the hook.
Overall I had a great day and want to go fishing again!
IF YOU GO:
Cwmcarn Forest Visitor Centre Cwmcarn Forest web site Knowledgeable staff happily share their tips on the best things to do in their gorgeous forest in the heart of the Valleys. There’s a gift shop, Ravens Cafe, toddler play area and showers and toilets too. Pick up some wild bird seed for 50p to take on the Cwmcarn Forest Drive.
Ravens Cafe your.caerphilly.gov.uk In the visitor centre. Hearty dishes like faggots, peas and chips, plus sandwiches, energy drinks and other snacks. If it’s nice, eat outside on picnic tables and bird watch. Local pleasure seekers and mud-spreckled mountain bikers mix in this basic, but busy cafe.
Cwmcarn Angling Association your.caerphilly.gov.uk From 10 – noon during March – October you can learn how to fish in the gorgeous Cwmcarn Forest. Formerly the Cwmcarn collier, the manmade lake is now stocked with perch, trench and Gwrachen Ddu (that’s bream in Welsh). Just show up and you can borrow fishing rods, tackle, chair, maggots, catapult (for showering maggots near your line). The knowledge and friendly fishing association will show you how it’s done. £3 per person.
Cwmcarn Forest Drive. your.caerphilly.gov.uk Go deep into the Cwmcarn Forest on this 7-mile forest drive takes you through STUNNING scenery. There are 7 magical stops, all with car parks and some have barbecues and toilet facilities. Don’t miss Giant’s Court, a natural amphitheater lined with soft green moss and majestic trees and Windy Ridge, which has sweeping views arose the Cwmcarn Valley. £5. Closed in inclement weather.
Mountain Biking. your.caerphilly.gov.uk Ex-coal mines make excellent extreme biking trails, which is why Wales attracts so many sports enthusiasts. Not for the light-hearted or inexperienced, you can get instruction at Cwmcarn Forest for 10 – 16 years-olds. If your teen is especially sporty, go for it!
Cwmcarn Forest Campsite your.caerphilly.gov.uk This well-equipped camping areas sits at the foot of the Forest Drive and is near the lake. There are 3 wooden camping pods, for the glampers amongst you.
Note: Our activities were provided by Visit Wales for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own and my family’s.