This morning I went to Bonc Yr Hafod Community Park in Wrexham Borough and I want to sing its praises as a visitor experience and briefly discuss its commemorative material culture. This builds on previous posts exploring the sculpture and commemorative monuments of post-industrial landscapes in Wales as, for example, here.
The community park is situated on a human-made hill comprised of mining waste on the site of Hafod colliery. In operation from 1860 to 1968, at its height the mine employed 1900 people from the surrounding villages of Johnstown, Ponciau and Rhos. The site was stabilised in the 1980s and landscaped and then planted with over 80,000 trees from 1997. Today, it has maturing trees and is a haven for wildlife. With miles of walks spiralling around it, this is a perfect venue for exercise and recreation.
There are four related dimensions of the commemorative landscape.
Walks are puncutated with wooden posts carved to invoke the landscape’s plants, insect and mammal species, but also mining material culture.
There are a series of monoliths marking major view points along the paths with heritage boards integrated into them. Some illustrate how the site would have looked in 1962 before the colliery’s closure from the specific viewpoint of visitors. Meanwhile another discusses the formation of coal in the Carboniferous c. 300 million years ago. The circuitous walking trails are thus monumentalised in stone; a landscape-scale stone circle.
Stone Circle Sun Dial
At the summit of the hill is a stone circle, each low stone carved with animal and plants commemorating the rehabilitation of the landscape, and the location of historic sites visible from that spot. The choice of sites is selected so that you can view each stone and look out from the circle to the specific direction of that location. Some are given numbers, referring to hours in the day, with Bersham at 1 o’clock. This is because the central sculpture is a huge sundial and the surrounding stones mark the hours of the day when its shadow strikes them.
At the centre of the stone circle is a distinctive sculpture of a miner, kneeling and face buried in the stone
Together, the stone circle is an outdoor panopticon, affording directed views to specific locales and themes identified within the surrounding natural and historic landscape in each stone. Simultaneously the stone circle and its central sculpture draw that surrounding landscape to Hafod and celebrating it in relation to the colliery’s history itself. It is unclear, but are celestial links being made here too and is the miner also a sundial?
Appreciating this link between circularity and time involves a walk around the inside of the stone circle (or for my kids, to jump from stone to stone). The circularity of the walks around the contours of the hill serve to accentuate this theme of perambulation and remembrance.