We live in the South Wales valleys and coal mining is such a part of our history that you can’t go anywhere in the valleys without seeing some kind of nod to our past.
There are many monuments and memorials to those who lost their lives in the pits and there are a number of museums dedicated to the mining industry.
One such museum is Big Pit. It has free entry, although car parking does cost £3.
There is a lot to see here and you can get a feel of what it was like when it was a working pit. The bath house is there as is the canteen and explosives store.
There is an interactive exhibition called King Coal but for me, the main attraction of Big Pit is the fact that you can actually go underground.
The underground tour lasts approx 50minutes and you are kitted out with a helmet, a lamp and a gas mask. As they are technically classed as a working mine, there are a number of laws and legalities they have to abide by. One of which was the “no batteries underground” rule. That meant no mobile phones, no watches, no car keys!
Visitors are taken underground in the cage and you could really get a feel for what it was like, although conditions were considerably better when we went down! At one point, we were asked to turn our lamps off so that we could experience total darkness. I held D’s hand for this but he was actually much braver than I thought he would be. In fact, he loved the whole thing.
For me, it was an amazing experience as I haven’t been since I was a child. My grandfather was a miner and it always reminds me of him and the stories he told us of life underground.
The tour guides are very knowledgeable and are always willing to answer any questions. The one thing I will say, is that the underground tours do fill up very quickly. We paid £3 each to guarantee a place on one of the tours but you can always take your chances and queue for free.
If ever you are in the area, it is definitely worth a visit.