Two significant new heritage attractions are in the pipeline that could help revive the tourist economy in Wales after the Covid pandemic.
Plans to transform Newport Transporter Bridge into a major tourist site have been given the green light by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which has awarded £8.75m to the project – its third largest ever investment in Wales.
The bridge was built in 1906 as an aerial ferry to transport workers across the River Usk without disturbing river traffic into the busy port town. Once it has been restored, visitors will be able to climb to the top of the 55-metre-high walkway, see panoramic views over South Wales and take a ride on the gondola.
The grant will also fund a new visitor centre, where people can learn about the history and heritage of the bridge and its environment. Linked to the bridge via a walkway, the centre will include a shop, café, toilets and changing facilities, as well as a community space with an extensive activities programme.
Newport council leader Jane Mudd said: “The transporter bridge is an icon of Newport, and a significant part of the story of Wales’ industrial past, one that we need to preserve for future generations so that we can tell the stories of our shared history. I’m therefore delighted that we have been able to secure this funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund which will allow us to do exactly that.
“The restoration of the bridge is also important from a regeneration perspective. The development of a new visitor centre has the potential to create both job and volunteering opportunities, and enhance the city’s reputation as a visitor destination, both of which will bring wider economic benefits to Newport.”
Not far from Newport, a further plan is underway to turn Cyfarthfa Castle in Merthyr Tydfil into an “international quality” museum and public park, which could bring more than half a million visitors to the South Wales town every year.
The Cyfarthfa Foundation has been formed to oversee the plans, which have been submitted to the Welsh government following a report led by Ian Ritchie Architects and commissioned by Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council.
The architects involved in the project played a role in the Louvre Pyramid project and the landscape of an ongoing 16-hectare design around the Eiffel Tower.
Developed in consultation with the community, the report lays out a proposed 20-year upheaval project costing £50m. It would see the 19th-century castle renovated with new exhibition galleries, its site size doubled, and an education centre built to celebrate the area’s history and natural environment.
The report also proposes rescuing the 200-year-old Cyfarthfa ironwork furnaces, known as the “crucible of the Welsh industrial revolution”.
The ironworks date back to the 18th century and were once the largest in the world; they are currently abandoned and in urgent need of repair.