Janine Price is the perfect candidate to share all of the best places for running, walking and cycling in the area. A Blaenau Gwent local, in 2015 she started her own personal fitness journey which transformed her life and helped her achieve the best health and wellbeing she has ever felt.
It all began when Janine started the Couch to 5K programme. She posted her runs on social media to encourage others. Her followers grew in number, as more and more people wanted to follow her journey, which took her all the way to competing in the Cardiff Half Marathon.
From there, she gathered some like-minded individuals for group exercise, and her activities have grown from there. Janine has held exercise classes and organised boot camps and gymnastics lessons - with people aged 8 to 96 years taking part!
Six years after Janine first started exercising regularly, she not only cured her illness but also has encouraged countless people of all abilities in the local area to join in her quest for health and wellbeing.
She set up Blaenau Gwent Sole Sisters, a social club for fitness fans, and she promotes the benefits of physical activity in the community by running sessions at schools and sports centres.
Favourite routes for running, cycling and walking
Ebbw Fawr Trail (6 miles / 9.7 km, some steps)
I feel so lucky to have the Ebbw Fawr Trail local running, walking and cycling route right on my doorstep. It goes a long way around the valley - starts in Ebbw Vale and goes right around Blaenau Gwent. The views are outstanding in some parts of the route! In addition to the beautiful scenery, you pass some historical places along the way, so it really is a great track.
I actually used this route while I was half-marathon training to build up my miles and the views helped keep me going!
If you're not quite at marathon level, don't worry - the trail is suitable for all abilities and is a perfect spot for a family walk or cycle too. You can also learn about local history along the way, passing a former mine and the The Guardian, a 20 meter tall statue built to commemorate the the mining disaster that happened in Six Bells Colliery in 1960.
Festival Parc is a good place to start the trail and there is ample parking. And, if you want to explore even further afield, the track links up other existing trails in the area, such as the Ebbw Fach Trail.
Silent Valley Nature Reserve
I count myself incredibly lucky as just a short walk from my home is the Silent Valley Nature Reserve (there's also parking for those who can't get there by foot!). It's a beautiful spot where you can see all the changes of the seasons - special highlights are the changing colours in autumn and the bluebells in spring.
There are 50 hectares to explore and two walking trails you can follow through the woods to look out for birds and wildlife, including frogs, lizards and butterflies.
Parc Bryn Bach
Parc Bryn Bach is beautiful and is a great way to get outdoors - you can walk, run or cycle, and take the dog with you! It's a real gem within Blaenau Gwent, it's one of my favourite places. Plus there's also golf for a more relaxed hit of fresh air and a new children's play area which opened in July 2020. There's plenty of wildlife with ducks, swans, geese and lots of other varieties of birds to spot too.
A perfect opportunity to get together with others to exercise is the weekly parkrun - a free to enter 5 km timed run every Saturday morning. It's a really popular parkrun because of the views, it really is beautiful.
It's a real gem within Blaenau Gwent, it's one of my favourite places."
There's plenty for adventure and adrenaline seekers of all ages too - including a BMX track, archery venue, plus local trips for caving, climbing and abseiling or guided courses around Wales to try out coasteering, scrambling or rafting.
They also do stand up paddleboading (SUP) there - I had a go in the summer as part of a trail and it was amazing! They are hoping to open it up so that people can come along and just take part on the day as well as join in classes.
And, if you are in need of refreshment after all that excitement, there's an onsite visitor centre and cafe where you can treat yourself to an ice cream or relax with a lovely cup of tea!
There's lots of mountains you can walk up around Blaenau Gwent, but one of my favourites is Trefil. There are lots of running, walking and cycling routes you can take from Trefil and plenty of history too.
This includes the Aneurin Bevan memorial stones, which were put in place in memory of Aneurin Bevan, founder of the National Health Service. This is a historical site and lots of people come to visit because they have an interest in the NHS. There's also The Naughty Stone - the views from here are absolutely stunning.
From Trefil you can also access Talybont-on-Usk or Merthyr by foot or bike and the routes are absolutely outstanding. There are former film sets along the route, which were for cowboy films, Doctor Who and others - it's really famous for having films and TV shows shoots.
And, of course, you can go up and around Trefil itself and you can visit the Wellington Bomber crash site memorial, where six men lost their lives in 1940. These might not be the most famous or well-known routes, but they are just as beautiful and you hardly pass a soul!
Places to go in and around Blaenau Gwent
Food and drink
Set against the well-kept park and grounds, going for a bite to eat at Bedwellty House and Park in Tredegar will always result in great photos for your Instagram! And it's not just a sight for the eyes, the food is also really good and you can enjoy an afternoon tea in this historic setting.
Another of my regular haunts is Morgans Wine Bar in Ebbw Vale is a lovely place to eat. The Mountain Air in Trefil is another favourite of mine, and it's a great place to finish up after exploring one of the routes I've recommended.
A nearby gem, perfect for a celebratory meal with friends, is the Sugarloaf Vineyard in Abergavenny. The food is great, the views are stunning and you there's also the opportunity to taste the wine made on site. What could be better?
There are lots of friendly bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) in the area, as well as self-catering accommodation. If you're looking to embrace the outdoors, Parc Bryn Bach offers camping, caravan and motorhome pitches throughout spring, summer and autumn. For those more at home with their creature comforts, we also have a Premier Inn in Ebbw Vale.
For any sporty people staying in the area and needing their gym fix, Aneurin Leisure have three local sports centres in Blaenau Gwent in Ebbw Vale, Tredegar and Abertillery, and they are all easy-going gyms where you will feel comfortable and welcome.
Nearby places of interest
There are so many beauty spots within a 30-mile drive of Blaenau Gwent, including lots more walks and trail runs. And we're on the doorstep of the Brecon Beacons, so it's an excellent base for visitors. To get away from the crowds at Pen-y-Fan, I always visit some of the hidden gems.
Some of my favourites are Blorenge, Sugar Loaf and Table Top Mountain, to name but a few - and for anyone seriously interested in the local trail runs (or for those who would prefer to walk), I would highly recommend Trail Runs in the Brecon Beacons by Lily Dyu and John Price. The book details the distance and a map of each route along with other useful information to help you make the most of your workout.
The Brecon and Monmouthshire Canal is an easy to get to, accessible path which is excellent for all kinds of exercise and for spotting wildlife. There are also plenty of pubs along the way, so lots of good excuses to have a pit-stop. I know about these as I've organised charity walks in the past along this route - and the pubs certainly entice people to take part!