Forge & Railway Trail
The Govilon area has a long history of agricultural settlement indicated by the prehistoric earthwork/camp at Scubor Ddu. Little evidence of farming exists today from before the seventeenth century, From this time however the agricultural economy incorporated the plantation of woodland for production of charcoal for use in ironworking initiated by the Hanbury family of Pontypool. The area has small to medium sized fields with scattered farm houses. The field boundaries include traditional dry-stone walls, stone-faced banks, hedges, sheepfolds, earth banks and some modern post and wire fencing.
One of the earliest farmhouses in the area is Cwm Farm, which dates from the late sixteenth/early seventeenth century. Other seventeenth century farmhouses include Bryn y Cwm Farmhouse, and Brook Farmhouse (all in the Cwm Llanwenarth above Govilon) and Derwen Deg Upper Mill Farm and Ty-clyd (all in Govilon). Upper Cwm Farmhouse, Garnddyrys Farmhouse, Ysgubor Abbot and possibly Llwyn-y-Fedw appear to date from the eighteenth century.
Visitors to Govilon will not fail to notice the large area covered by trees. The hillsides around the village have extensive native woodlands and some more recent coniferous plantations. Beech trees, because of their clean burning nature, were a favourite for the early iron smelters. As they grow well on the local limestone slopes there are some fabulous walks through these trees on the eastern edge of the village and in the Clydach Gorge. Oak is also prevalent and its Welsh name is found throughout the village (look out for Derwen on street signs).
On the hillsides animal grazing has prevented trees growing on all but the most inaccessible slopes. Some hardy varieties, such as Hawthorn have prospered. These provide a distinctive splash of white in May as the may blossom erupts.
Autumn provides a glorious spectacle around the village as the leaves turn a variety of shades to provide a patchwork of colour.
Management of the woodlands is now restricted to coniferous plantations with native woodlands left much to their own devices. But this was not always the case as shown in the following sale advertised by the Morgan family:
Auction March 2nd 1897
Valuable Timber Trees and Coppice Wood
On Bryn Cwm Farm: Lot 1: - 176 Oak, 30 Ash, 1 Sycamore, 1 Beech, 18 Popular and 9 Wych timber trees. Lot 2 – the fallage of all that mixed coppice wood, known as "Bryn y Cwm Wood" ...containing about 17a, 1r, 20p of Coppice, of upwards of 30 years growth; together with 64 Ash, 56 Wych, 10 Popular and 8 Sycamore Timber trees and Poles and 53 Oak.
On Upper Cwm Farm: Lot 3 – 60 Oak Timber trees, 1 Wych and 3 Ash.
The above timber is well worth the attention of dealers, it being of good length and girth, and situated within 2 miles of the town of Blaenavon and of Govilon Stations L.& N.W. Railway and about 4 miles from Abergavenny where there are stations on the G.W. Railway and the L.& N.W. Railway