The Council is presenting proposals to improve Dare Valley Country Park. Council staff will be located in the café area at Dave Valley Country Park to present these proposals to residents from 22-25 October between 10am-4pm.
Dare Valley Country Park wishes to broaden its current offering via the ‘Valleys Regional Park Initiative’; maximising the social, economic and environmental potential of the Valleys natural cultural heritage assets. The intention is for Dare Valley to become a ‘launch pad’ that, whilst serving as a destination itself, will encourage local people and visitors to explore and discover the Valleys as a whole. With the proposed addition of new and exciting schemes across Rhondda Cynon Taf, such as ‘Zip World’, there are opportunities for Dare Valley to offer links and exciting experiences, cementing the Valleys reputation as a hub for outdoor pursuits and activities.
The Park wishes to encourage and support active lifestyles, improving the health and wellbeing of both the local community and visitors. The aim is to establish Dare Valley as an activity centre for the ‘whole’ family to enjoy, with activities and experiences that meet the needs of all ages and abilities. The scheme includes an element of new-build works and the introduction of new facilities and activities; alongside the refurbishment, expansion and enhancement of the existing amenities on site.
Key to the scheme is the introduction of a series of family friendly bike trails and pump tracks. These seek to enhance and build upon local offerings from other providers, such as ‘Bike Park Wales’; catering for the family market, as opposed to the skilled enthusiast. In addition to the trails and tracks themselves, bike hire and uplift services will made available on site.
A review of the existing facilities has been undertaken and a number of improvements have been identified. As part of the development, the Park’s play provision will be increased and modernised – catering for children of all ages, including those with specialist mobility or sensory requirements.
At present the site offers camping pitches for caravans, camper vans and tents. Due to the greater demand for caravan and camper van pitches, the Park will be expanding this offer. Ground works and power hook-ups are included in the design proposals; along with the refurbishment and extension of the existing shower block.
The Dare Valley Hotel is very popular, especially with community and school groups. The design proposals include the refurbishment of the bathroom and bedroom spaces, with the aim of attracting and appealing to a wider variety of guests. The bathroom refurbishment is included in this phase of the works, with the bedroom redecoration being carried out in a later phase.
Bike Hire Station and Play Provision
As part of the biking offer, a bike hire service is to be provided at the base of the Northern slope, opposite the principal visitor’s car park. This will be located, on what is currently, the lowest tier of the campsite; a small kiosk offering ice creams, cold drinks and confectionary will also operate alongside the bike hire service.
The design proposals have been developed to make use of a series of converted shipping containers; over clad with timber boarding and sheltered by a green roof canopy. A large number of secure bike racks will be provided; to aid bike hire collection and return, and for visitors wishing to stow their own bikes while waiting for uplift services or undertaking other activities at the Park. A dedicated cycle lane and footpath will also be created from the principal visitor’s car park to the bike hire station; separating pedestrians from arriving vehicles.
Dare Valley has an existing play park, which whilst popular, requires development. The design proposals seek to ensure that the play areas are interlinked and flow to encourage age/ ability appropriate play without segregation. The play apparatus will encourage physical challenges, testing; agility, balance and climbing skills. The arrangements will enable maximum adult supervision and minimise anti-social behaviours. The Park is a beautiful natural landscape and the play apparatus has been selected to compliment this; natural colours and timbers will be favoured over colourful plastics and metals.
Bike Trails and Pump Tracks
The bike trails will be located on the North facing slope of Penrhiwllech Mountain, directly opposite the existing Visitors Centre on the Southern side of the site. The bike trails will be accessible via an uplift service which will require a separate track to ensure cyclists and vehicles are segregated for safety reasons. The uplift service will discharge cyclists at the highest point of the trails (approximately 100m in elevation).
The uplift collection point will be located next to the bike hire station and have a dedicated mini-bus parking zone; this will offer a safe place for visitors to wait away from site traffic and serve as a base to operate the service. There is already an existing vehicular access route which runs part way up the Northern slope; this will be lengthened and re-surfaced for mini-bus and trailer access to the uplift ‘drop-off’.
The trails are to be set up as ‘green’ category (entry level) and meander, via two separate runs, down the mountainside making the most of the terrain and scenery along the route. Whilst not being constructed at the outset, there are plans for future expansion and the creation of an additional number of looped ‘blue’ category trails. These will provide interest for older or more experienced family members; offering progression and challenges as riders skills develop.
In addition to the main bike trails, 4 no. ‘pump tracks’ will be created, each with a varied and unique layout, and located at different spots and elevations along the trail. They will be finished with a variety of surfacing materials, particularly the track nearest to the Visitors Centre, which will be constructed using asphalt; to enable use with skateboards, roller skates and scooters, in addition to bikes. Adjacent to this pump track will be a smaller dirt track, suitable for use by coin or token operated motorised play vehicles (e.g. cars, 4x4 and quad bikes).
The Hotel, located on site, is independently run and has proven to be successful in drawing visitors to the area. Whilst catering for visitors/ parties of all types, it has particular success with large groups - especially schools, colleges and local community groups. The hotel has sixteen bedrooms, accommodating groups of up to four or five people in each. Whilst the accommodation scores highly on Trip Advisor, the quality of the facilities - especially the bathrooms - is a recurring topic; these have undergone minimal refurbishment since opening and would benefit from modernisation.
The bathrooms will be fully refurbished; all finishes and sanitary fittings (toilets, basins and shower fittings) are to be replaced, and the hot water system is to undergo repair and improvements. The bedrooms will be redecorated inline with the new Dare Valley ‘brand’.
Works to the Campsite
At present the site offers camping pitches for touring caravans, camper vans and tents. Due to a greater demand for caravan and camper van pitches, the Park wishes to expand this offer. On the Northern side of the site, the lower camping tier is being redeveloped to support the Bike Hire Station and adjacent pump track; as such, the upper camping tier is to be enhanced to an equivalent standard as the existing middle camping tier. Groundworks will be required; a more robust ‘grass-crete’ finish will support use by camping vehicles. Serviced hook-ups, matching the specification of the pitches on the tier below, will also be provided.
The existing shower block requires extension to provide improved facilities for families and users with mobility issues. It is proposed that the family changing areas are accessed independently of the existing male/ female facilities, operating as a uni-sex facility and for ease of access by users with pushchairs, wheelchairs and buggies. One of the additional family changing areas is designed to meet the standard of a ‘Changing Places’ changing room and will accommodate enhanced accessible features, including; a ceiling mounted hoist and an adult sized changing table.
Whilst the existing block is deemed fit for purpose, the finishes are somewhat dated and the current layouts are not practical. All sanitary fittings (toilets, basins, showers and cubicle systems) are to be removed and replaced with more modern fittings. The floors are to receive a new vinyl finish and the existing wall cladding and ceilings are to be replaced.