Landgraaf is a former coal-mining town in Holland. And very much like Merthyr Tydfil, a town which was devastated when the mines and other businesses closed in the late ’70s and early ’80s. With a population of around 39,000, the closures meant thousands of people out of work and the future of the town and the area facing a very bleak outlook. But Landgraaf went about reinventing itself. After numerous meeting and discussions with its residences and local businesses, the local authority formed a long-term strategy under the banner of ‘Black to Green’. This operation comprised of changing the coalmine-scenery into an attractive green area for residence and leisure. It wasn’t done overnight and there were still people who didn’t think it could be possible and needed to be convinced.
One of the first pieces in the jigsaw was the development and introduction of SnowWorld, one of the world’s largest indoor snow centre's. The design resembled an authentic Austrian Ski resort and incorporated ski and snowboard schools, fitness centre, shops, cafes, bars and hotels. The facilities are used by experienced and amateur skiers.
Other important and creative initiatives (or schemes) followed. This included Megaland, an enormous festival terrain used to house concerts, shows and cycling events. The jewel in the crown is the music festival Pinkpop which now attracts the biggest artists from across the globe. There is also GalaZoo where numerous animals reside in the spacious, natural environment which Landsgraaf had in abundance.
SnowWorld, Landsgraaf. The largest indoor ski village in Europe similar to the one proposed at Rhydycar West.
Turning the land back from the industrial pounding that it received over the years into lush green valley’s again, led to fabulous walking and biking routes and opened places of local interest including castles, churches, and farmsteads to the public. It wasn’t just the land that started to blossom, so did its creativity. There is now a flourishing art and culture scene with small- and large-scale events taking place throughout the year including drama, comedy, poetry, and various museums. This has led to other investment in the shape of hotels, campsites, lively bars and a world-class restaurant.
The town leads the way and leaving everyone else ‘Green’ with envy.
So, can Merthyr Tydfil and the surrounding Valley towns take inspiration from the Landsgraaf model? Why not? The valleys have the landscape, in fact, it far better equipped with stunning and rugged landscapes along with such a rich seam of history. Merthyr Tydfil specifically has the luxury of a fantastic road and transport links that allows you to travel all major Welsh cities within an hour.
The Rhydycar West is proposing a tourist attraction that matches Landgraaf’s Snowworld and has the capability to be a catalyst for something much more successful for the area. Bike Park Wales, Cyfarthfa Castle and the Merthyr Rising are also begging opportunities to give Merthyr Tydfil the economic and cultural boost that it needs.
Merthyr Tydfil can succeed to grow into a major tourist, adventure and cultural destination….Let’s all be part of something new and exciting!!