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Black Mountain road celebrates 200th anniversary and new book

According to the Top Gear television programme, the Black Mountain road, the A4069, between Brynaman and Gwynfe in the Brecon Beacons National Park is, ‘Five of the most memorable miles you can drive in any country.’ In 2019 this road, with its hairpin bends, dips, twists, climbs and amazing views of the surrounding countryside, celebrates its 200th anniversary.


The road was the idea of an enterprising father and son who shared the same name - John Jones Brynbrain. When Men And Mountain Meet by Aldwyth Rees Davies (Y Lolfa) brings together fragments of history about the road and the men that built it.


“The story of Wales as the first Industrial Nation has been told many times – the slate industry of north Wales, the coalfields of the Rhondda and Copperopolis of Swansea. However, not every early entrepreneur has become a well-known character. Many stories and details have been lost in the mist of time,” says Aldwyth Rees Davies.


When Men and Mountain Meet celebrates the Jones’ early achievements as the Black Mountain road increased industrialisation that changed the area forever.


“The father and son team risked their wealth and reputation developing industry in Brynaman and without their local knowledge, interest and entrepreneurial drive, the history of the area and the road itself would have been very different. Today you would call it infrastructure development – these two men took great risks to turn an idea into reality,” says the author, who describes writing the book as a ‘wonderful life changing experience.’


“I started writing the book whilst researching the area and family history – I couldn’t find out anything about the construction of the road. I was intrigued, and that led to detective work and visits to the Archives in Swansea, the National Library of Wales and the British Library. My greatest discovery was in the British Library, where I found an early 19th century drawing of the road, a photo of which is included in the book, by permission of the British Library,” says Aldwyth, before adding “As William Blake wrote, ‘when men and mountain meet’ great things can be created – the story needs to be remembered by future generations.”


The book is a celebration of the social history of the area and also covers the history of the Turnpike Trusts and the Rebecca Riots, the geology and archaeology of the mountain, Welsh Education and Language, Nonconformity and the Revival, the coming of the Railways and how the village changed its character and name.