Parc y Fan

Well, this is another that I must have walked past several times without realising what it was. These foundations under the brambles and bracken

must be all that’s left of Parc y Fan (OK, Park y Van in Wenglish), a substantial farm part of the Plymouth estate. The ruins are at ST 17282 86667, just to the east of the Van house and near the bottom of the footpath down from the Gwernydomen lane to the Nant Gwaunybara.

John Owen remembers ‘substantial remains’ here (see his comments under Treboeth on this blog) but there is little left now.

It was a sizeable farm – 83½ acres according to the tithe apportionment, between the Van and the Nant Gwaunybara. The same tenant also held the area to the east called Van Park, 115 acres of pasture and woodland. By the time of the first edition 6” OS map (surveyed 1875), all the land on the east side of the brook was wooded but this still left a substantial farm of over 80 acres. The buildings are still marked on the modern 1:25,000 map but there is really very little on the ground.


Then there’s this,

a little to the east and just above the Nant Gwaunybara – but this is clearly a field wall,

above the steep bank of the stream, and this

is probably the field angle marked on the early OS. The layout of the buildings at Parc y Fan changes from map to map, and it isn’t clear which was the farmhouse and which the outbuildings. Also there’s a well somewhere above the farmhouse. We need another look when the vegetation has died down.

The name of the farm  might lead us to speculate that this was where the park keeper for the Van park lived. The Lewis family emparked a huge area east of the house, probably in the sixteenth century (Rice Merrick described a park there in 1578).  The present house of the Van was built in the 1580s. The family then moved to St Fagans and leased the Van to tenants. The park went out of use, and by the time of the tithe plan it was mostly farm land, part of the Van, Gwern y Domen, Maerdy (Mardy Du on the tithe plan) and Park y Van. The park straddled the parish boundary. West of the Nant Gwernydomen was in the Van hamlet of Bedwas (a Monmouthshire parish but with hamlets in Glamorgan – the parish boundaries in this area a very idiosyncratic). East of the stream was in the parish of Rudry. (You get some idea of the problems of surveying these farms by the fact that the road from Caerphilly to Rudry, which is the southern boundary of the farm, doesn’t line up between the two maps.) John Owen has looked at the C18 estate maps in the Plymouth collection in the Glamorgan Archives. They show the park extending south of the present Caerphilly-Rudry road, including the Warren and Ty’n-y-parc (see and So did the road run through the park – or does the road post-date the park? We need to get back to the estate surveys when the record office is open.

Maerdy might be the next one to explore – it was being farmed with Gwernydomen on the tithe apportionment. It’s  marked as Maerdy Cottages on the old OS maps but there doesn’t seem to be a house there now. Alas, Caerphilly is currently in lockdown because the number of Covid-19 cases there is on the increase, so Nell and I will have to take to walking somewhere else. Time for a look at the Llandaff-Penrhys pilgrimage route, maybe?

The Warren

As I expected, there was very little to see on the site of the Warren farm. It’s on the tithe plan but as part of Treboeth, the farm to the east ( Here’s a sketch plan based on the tithe plan on (field numbers refer to the tithe apportionment – click through to that from the map on the web site)

and the detail of the actual farmstead

By the time of the first 6” Ordnance Survey it had vanished under the forest.

Or had it?

Part of the difficulty is that the track marked on the modern OS running past it isn’t really there on the ground. You really need the eye of faith to identify this as a track!

But persevere and just to the north of the track you spot this


the south-west angle of the farmyard (no. 1 on the plan).

And you can just see the line of the wall going north (2 on the plan)

and the return (3 on the plan).

The eastern wall of the farmyard is quite clear (4 on the plan)

the north-east corner (5 on the plan)

and the return (6 on the plan).

The farmhouse is just heaps of tumbled stone (the shaded area on the plan).




Having walked all round it several times, I’m pretty convinced that this is the site of the farm. The problem is that it is at about ST 16229 85809, 40-50 m east of where the farm is marked on the tithe plan. The 1841 plan puts the farm virtually on the bank of a little stream running north out of the woods. The remains I have found are some way to the east.

However – looking at the 6” OS map (this is a sketch based on it)

The pin marker shows the eastern end of the farmstead according to the tithe plan overlay (I’m working between the tithe plan and 2nd edition OS on and the 2nd edition OS and modern OS on – there doesn’t seem to be a single site that does the lot, and none of them uses the 1:25,000 OS Leisure map, which is the really useful one). But on the OS map there is a small square building a little to the east (outlined in red on the sketch plan).  Is this the real location of the Warren – and is the little square building all that was left of it, used as some sort of shelter, perhaps, for workmen in the plantation?

The name Warren is interesting. Warrens were preserves for rabbits, at a time when rabbits were useful but very fragile little creatures and the perquisites of lords and gentry. They came from southern Europe and took a long time to adapt to the colder and wetter climate of England and Wales. Special raised burrows called pillow mounds were built for them, and they were cared for by warreners. Our farm could have started as the warrener’s home.

There is no documentary evidence for a warren on Caerphilly Mountain. However, the big field to the west of the Warren farm (519 on the tithe plan) is actually called the Warren, and the field in which the farmstead sits is called Warren Fawr. The fields north-west of Warren farm are part of Ty’n-y-cae and are all called Cae pen y warren on the tithe apportionment. This really does look indicative.

What we can’t tell, in the absence of any documentation, is how old the warren was and who it belonged to. If it was medieval, it belonged to Caerphilly Castle. However, warrens were still being constructed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, so it could have belonged to the Lewis family of the Van, the big house across the valley, before they moved to St Fagans.

John Owen’s comments on the post on Treboeth are very illuminating. Treboeth was there in the later middle ages, and wood from there went to repair a bridge in Caerphilly Castle in 1428. If the Warren really was a warrener’s house, these two little ruins, hidden under the trees, are some of our earliest evidence for the farming landscape east of Caerphilly.

Tre-boeth – the ‘warm town’?

This is another little farmstead that I must have walked past at least a dozen times without realising it was there. It’s at the north-east side of the Wern-ddu Claypits, just above the site of the old brickworks, at about ST 16684 85984.

To be fair to myself, what you can see from the lane

isn’t the farm house but a little outbuilding – henhouse? pigsty?

(nice bit of creamy mortar)

Once you know it’s there, you can just make out the farmhouse from the lane


and this fenced-off bit

must be the well

(still marked on the modern OS map).

On the old OS maps it’s Tre-boeth, the warm township, but on the tithe plan it’s Treboth. The name might suggest early industrial activity. There’s plenty of evidence for early coal mining, and before that there would have been charcoal burning for the early iron industry. The farmhouse looks small, and there is only the one outbuilding, but on the tithe apportionment it’s a substantial farm of 133 acres, part of the Clive estate and tenanted by a Thomas Evans. Most of the land is to the north and west: to the south was wooded in 1841. By the first 6”OS map (1875) the whole of the former farm was wooded. Plantation for pit props? The farm is still marked but must by that date have been a smallholding for a worker in the clay pits or the brickworks, or possibly in the woods. It’s still there on the 1915 revision but by the 1938-47 revision it has disappeared.

Part of the size of the farm on the tithe apportionment seems to be that it has swallowed up another farm. On the tithe apportionment it’s described as ‘Treboth and Warren’. ‘Warren’ is actually another farmstead to the west, in what is now the depths of Wern-ddu woods, marked on the tithe plan but not on any of the OS maps. There may be nothing now on the ground but I feel I should have a look.

Watch this space. (It may just be a space.)

Not the Head of the Pass

The woods between Rudry and Parc Cefn-onn are about the limit for my weekly long walk – about 12-13 miles with quite a bit of Up! But there is still plenty to have a look at.

This little ruined farmstead at ST 19223 85750

took a surprising amount of finding. Part of the problem was the name. On the old OS maps it’s Pen-y-bwlch, Head of the Pass – but it’s actually well down in the valley. The current OS marks a track to it – a double-pecked-line track, looking on the map like a forest road, with a bridleway along it and crossing the footpath and the little stream to head over the fields to Ty’n-y-graig.

But there is no road through the woods. Just the footpath south from Coedcae Garw along the edge of Coed Coesau-whips. The old maps put it east of the footpath but the path now goes between the house (to the west)

and what remains of the outbuildings.

(Someone has made a firepit with a lot of the outbuilding stone.)

Once we found it, though, after a couple of false starts, it was worth the effort.

(here’s Nell on the house wall.)

On the tithe plan it’s a farm of just over 20 acres, with a couple of fields along the lane to the north and the rest to the south and east. Coed Coesau-whips on the tithe plan is smaller but still shown as mainly conifers – but John Owen’s idea that the name suggests charcoal production for the iron industry would mean an earlier wood of something like beech and oak. I do wonder whether these little farms like Coedcae Garw, Cwm and Pen-y-bwlch were carved out of the original wood. Then when timber became a valuable commercial commodity for pit props and the plantation was extended, the farms were reabsorbed.

There would also have been access problems. On the tithe plan the access is down the lane past Coedcae Garw,

across the ford

and up a narrow hollow way –

this must have been possible only for a single horse, no room for even a small wheeled vehicle. By 1900 there was a track through the woods, but by that date most of the farmland had been lost to forest. The house is still marked by name but can only have been a cottage for something like a forest worker.

Access may have been what put an end to a lot of these little farms – once farming moved from using horses to mechanical vehicles, anywhere far off the road would have great difficulty in keeping going.

Coedcae and the Cwm

Having found the ruins of Coedcae Garw thanks to @mikekohnstamm ( I’ve reverse engineered the process and gone back to looking for farms and smallholdings which are on the tithe plans and the old OS but not on the modern map. There were two just along the lane from Coedcae Garw. Ty’r-ywen is at grid ref. ST 20152 86428 and Cwm is at ST 19911 86265.

Ty’r-ywen on the tithe map was a cottage and garden of 1 rood 20 perches, belonging to the Clive estate and tenanted by a Thomas Thomas. It was too small to have any value for tithe. There are 4 roods to an acre and 40 perches to a rood, so Thomas’s garden was about 1,500 square metres, about the size of 3 tennis courts. Enough to grow veg for a family and keep a pig and a few chickens but not enough to live on. The men of the family probably worked in the nerby iron works or on bigger farms and the women and young children looked after the homestead. You find a similar pattern all along the edge of the industrial area – my father-in-law was brought up on a similar smallholding in the Sirhowy valley, and my own house originally stood in a garden nearly as big as Ty’r-ywen’s.

Ty’r-ywen is named on the 1915/22 6” OS map (accessible on the wonderful site).  A building is marked on the 1948-1953 map but without a name. All that is there now is this

the concrete bases for prefab panels. It looks very much as though the cottage was deserted and rebuilt as some sort of farm building, then that too became derelict.

The other lost smallholding is Cwm. It’s complicated because there are actually two farms called Cwm in that little valley. One is just across the lane from Ty’r-ywen and is now quite a big horse-riding establishment. The other is a little way  up stream, just off the Ridgeway Path and just before the path crosses the stream and goes up into the trees. On the tithe plan it’s a bit complicated. The house, garden and croft, a little over 2acres, belong to the Morgan estate and are tenanted by a John Morgan. But the surrounding fields, Waun and Cae Fry, are called ‘Cwm Land’, also part of the Morgan estate and tenanted by Spencer Thomas. The fields on the other side of the stream,  called Cwm mawr and Cwm Ceffyl, belong to the bigger Cwm farm, part of the Clive estate and tenanted by  Isaac Price.

This must be the house




just a bit of tumbled stone under the brambles. Another candidate for a winter visit, when the undergrowth has died down a bit.

The path south into the woods was stiled and waymarked so we gave it a go. It is steep, and damp in places, but a good clear route cutting across the forest roads to the top of the next ridge. We looked at this

between the forest edge and the trig point but there’s nothing on the OS or tithe plans so we concluded it was tumbled stone from the field wall.

Sometimes a heap of stone is just a heap of stone.

But the views from the trig point are splendid.

Coedcae Garw

I’m still finding ruined farmsteads north of Cardiff. The number surprises me. We’re used to finding little lost farms in the upland forests – they were no longer viable in the changing economy of the later 20th century and many were swallowed up by the Forestry Commission in the great drive to plant conifers after World War 2. On the fringes of Cardiff, though, you would have thought they could have kept going with market gardening, chickens and dairying – but it was a hard life, and jobs in light industry must have been attractive.

This one

was first spotted by @mikekohnstamm. It’s on the slopes above Lisvane but in the parish of Rudry, where Coed Cefn-onn meets Coed Coesau-whips. On the Tithe Map it’s Coedcae Garw, a smallholding of 11 acres, part of the Tredegar estate and occupied in 1840 by Edward Rowlands. Most of its land is to the south-west, and Edward Rowlands was also farming land down the lane part of the Clive estate. It’s still marked on the 1953 6” map but it may have been deserted by then.

Part of the farm house seems to have been rebuilt in brick, probably in the late 19th or early 20th centuries,

but the old pigsties are still stone.

My grandparents kept pigs on their farm at Cefn Llwyd, a couple of miles to the east. They always took the sows to the boar at the Maen-llwyd, and there was one sow who could find her own way there when she felt like it. I wonder whether the sows at Coedcae Garw went to the same boar.

The name Coed Coesau-whips is interesting. John Owen of Caerphilly suggests it could indicate that the older woods were coppiced to provide charcoal for the iron industry. There was a lead shaft just above Coedcae Garw (still visible on the Rhymney Valley Ridgeway) and the Rudry iron mine is a little further down the Nant y Cwm.

There are also a couple more farms that don’t seem to be on the modern map – Cwm and Ty’rywen. Next week, perhaps.

Cefncarnau-fawr – then and now

I’ve been trying to tie up the plan in the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales’ inventory with what’s on old maps on and (another amazing resource and although it’s the National Library of Scotland it covers the whole of Britain) with what is there now – without much success, but the nettles and brambles are really a bit high for serious surveying. I’ve made a rough sketch from the RCAHMW plan and reorientated it so north is at the top.

This is clearly the kitchen (2 on the plan)

with the big fireplace and bread oven

but this looks too small for their plan of the cowshed (3 on the plan)

and I couldn’t get anywhere near the older part of the house.

This is how the farm appears on the tithe plan in 1840, based on the tithe plan on .

The darker hatching seems to be accommodation, lighter hatching is presumably outbuildings. No barn, nothing across the lane – and what is that little building NW of the farm house?

The first edition OS is about 1875 and is on the NLS site.

This doesn’t differentiate between accommodation and outbuildings. The little building NW of the farmhouse has gone but there is something just across the lane N of the farmyard and the first of the buildings that are still there on the lane. The present farmer thinks this started as a cowshed – it has the central drainage channel and racks for the cows to be fed while they are milked – though the buildings may subsequently have been reworked for horses. There are some differences in the farmyard buildings but the really interesting thing is that the well is marked near the lane and just east of the farm, in the small enclosure which now lies between the farm house and the ruined barn.

The 2nd edition OS is surveyed 1898 and this is the map on the NLW site.

Quite a lot of changes. The cottage (or whatever it is) above the lane has gone and the cowshed/stable range above the lane is all there. A benchmark on one of the buildings – wonder if it’s still there. The buildings on the E of the farmyard have gone, to be replaced by the big barn whose ruins are still prominent.

The 3rd edition OS is on the NLS site and resurveyed 1915. No real change – one wonders if they really resurveyed it.

There are sale particulars in the Glamorgan Archive. We need a visit once the lockdown has eased sufficiently – and another site visit in the winter, when the brambles and nettles have died down.


Postscript: here’s the bench mark, below the door of the middle stable


Deserted cottages

I thought I had done all I could with the lost farming landscapes north of Cardiff, but more bits keep turning up. After I’d been to Deri-duon last week, I was trying to locate some sites on the track past Transh yr Hebog and I noticed two cottages alongside the Heol Hir. Both were there on the tithe plan; the lower one was on the early OS map. The one further up the lane wasn’t on the early OS map but there seemed to be something on the modern map.

I had another look at the sites along Transh yr Hebog. Is this just a retaining wall at about ST 17596 85066


just below the air shaft, or is it something more? There’s something marked on the early OS map (but no identification) and a coal tip just down slope.

The possible adit is a bit further down at about ST 17588 84977, and the second structure is at about ST 17655 84926. There’s something marked on the early OS map but nothing on the tithe plan and no identification.

Along to the two cottage sites. The lower one is at ST 17263 84542, where the path above the golf course meets the Heol Hir.

It’s virtually invisible – just a little bit of masonry under the brambles.

In the tithe apportionment it’s described as a cottage and garden, belonging to the Marquis of Bute and tenanted by a Thomas Thomas.

The upper one is at ST 17293 84673, on the footpath from Transh yr Hebog. A little bit more to see: just visible from the lane,

looks like a 2-up, 2-down house with some sort of animal shelter adjoining.

On the tithe apportionment it’s the homestead of quite a substantial farm: 40 a., though mostly pasture, belonging to the Hon. Robert Henry Clive and tenanted by a James Moses.  By the time of the OS map, the whole area was wooded.

The Heol Hir is a classic hollow way.

The hollowing must be old: there’s a section of retaining wall half way up.

I really need to revisit the cottage sites in winter when the brambles and nettles have died down.

More about Cefn Carnau

The mother and toddler group in our village was the heart of the community. I had just started going along with my little grandson when the lockdown hit. This was where you could order cake and bread from the cafe, arrange for your bike to be mended – and now I’ve had an email from one of the mothers who had found my blog about Cefncarnau-fawr. She was trying to find out a bit about the farm because in the 1930s it belonged to her great-grandfather, the Cardiff builder C. E. Hockridge. It was sold off after his death in 1935. At that time it was described as a farm of nearly 154 acres. 137 acres were held by a Mr Spencer Wride on a yearly tenancy at a rent of £100. There were also 15¾ a. woodland held by the landowner and two sites for huts and a poultry run held on short tenancies. The farmhouse had grown considerably from the hall-and-chamber house of the 17th century: 5 bedrooms, 2 living rooms and a dairy. The outbuildings were the barn whose ruins can still be seen clearly from the lane, cowshed with accommodation for 26 cows, a three-stall stable, carthouse and loft. This was a farm pretty much like the one my mother was brought up in, between Newport and Cardiff, and just a bit smaller than Llwyn-yr-Eos, which is now part of the National History Museum at St Fagans.

I went back to the tithe plan on for a bit more information. That gave the owner in 1840 as the Rev. William Price Lewis (a Lewis of the Van or of Pantgwynlais, possibly?) and the tenant as Thomas Davies. The farm was 140 acres – possibly including a bit of the woodland that was in hand in 1935.

For comparison, in 1840, Cefncarnau-fach was 48a., Blaen-nofydd was 45a. Bwlchygelli was split between the parishes of Eglwysilan and Rudry (this is where using the tithe map gets awkward) and seems to have been about 29 a. in total; Bwlch-y-llechfaen was 13 a. In 1840 Cwmnofyd was only 11a. of meadow, pasture and wood: the tenant Lewis Lewis must have been working elsewhere to make a living.

More deserted farmsteads …

Well, this is Bwlchygelli, at ST 16711 84736

just where John Owen said it would be, in the dip between Blaen-nofydd and the Heol Hir.

Can’t think why I hadn’t spotted it before. Perfectly obvious that heap of stones was once a building.

‘ Brains first, and then Hard Work’ said Eeyore.

John Owen suggests Bwlchygelli and Bwlchylechfaen  could originally have been squatter settlement on the older estates of Cefncarnau and Cefneinion. There was lead working in the area, and there are the remains of quarries and limekilns on the lane from Blaen-nofydd – this is the limekiln at ST 16595 84695.

Both farms were small, not much more than smallholdings: possibly early industry provided some casual work for wages, with the farm worked mainly by the women of the family for sustenance. That was quite a common pattern in early industrial areas.

I’m still not sure about Ty-Draw, though. There’s no evidence of a structure down the hill.

There are some possible features just below the track,

but the house marked on the tithe plan is further down. Part of the problem is that we are on the edge of 3 parishes so the lines on the plan don’t totally match up, but I’m wondering if it could be further down the slope again, below the track that goes towards Cefn Carnau Lane.

(Also it’s Ty Drav on the map but I’m sure it should be Ty Draw.)

Nell will be pleased to have another look.

All that’s left of Ty’n-y-parc now seems to be this ruined cowshed at ST 17830 85903,

though there are some tumbled stones under the trees.

John Owen remembered a forester living there in the late 1950s but the forest has now completely taken it over.

Another puzzle. The farm marked as Cefn-carnau-fach on the early and current OS maps is the one which is called Cefn-carnau-uchaf on the tithe plan. The farm called Cefn-carnau-uchaf on the OS is just Cefn Carnau on the tithe plan. Who is right – or did the names change?