For hundreds of years, visitors have been attracted to the Vale of Neath’s magnificent waterfalls. Now a new hospitality venture is looking to boost tourist numbers and the local economy.
Taking its name from the famous waterfall, Sgwd Gwladys Lodge in Pontneddfechan offers walkers and visitors refreshment and accommodation in the heart of ‘Waterfall Country’.
Sgwd Gwladys Lodge has been created by local builder and developer, Gregg Richards, who thought the road-side building had potential as a base for walkers who want to stay overnight to further explore the surrounding area.
“I’d drive past the building and I felt it was a good opportunity to create a coffee shop and lodge, the village was crying out for something different like this. This is waterfall country and people come from all over to Pontneddfechan,” says Gregg who operates the business under the name Sgwd Gwladys Ltd.
Once a milking parlour, the ancient stone building was previously used as a Tourist Information Centre, but it had closed two years ago.
Gregg hopes the £150,000 project, will reap benefits for the local community and help attract more visitors to this part of Wales.
“We’re all for helping everyone in the area, and I want Sgwd Gwladys to generate more for the community, I think this is what our village needed.
We employ local people and the fixtures and fittings were mainly handmade by local people too; the lights, the bar, tables, radiators, and even the beds are bespoke.”
The building’s stone walls and traditional features have been sympathetically blended with contemporary touches, the result being a welcoming and cosy retreat.
Sgwd Gwladys Lodge opened its doors just before Christmas, and key to its initial success has been social media which is bringing in people from further afield.
Gregg said, “We were attracted by the building, we liked the feel of it and see it as something different.
“Food is part of the offering too, although Sgwd Gwladys Lodge has an alcohol licence the venture has not been opened as a bar.
“People come here for a coffee and a beer. Our key market is walkers and those who come to Pontneddfechan for the waterfalls and to enjoy the fantastic countryside.”
Sourcing as much local and Welsh produce as possible, the food is a mixture of hearty dishes and light bites - such as cawl and Welsh breakfasts throughout the day and pizzas and tapas in the evenings. Afternoon Tea will also be a future menu option.
More walker-friendly facilities are being added, including a boot washing area, bike stands, and packed lunches for those venturing out all day.
‘Man’s Best Friend’ is welcome at Sgwd Gwladys Lodge too, with plans for accommodation and amenities for dogs.
Above the lounge/bar are four en-suite bedrooms, which offer guests a comfortable and contemporary environment in which to relax after a day’s walking.
All the bedrooms have double beds and also bunkbeds or a raised sleeping area in the rafters, allowing for family or multiple occupation. There are three rooms that can sleep up to four people, while the fourth room can sleep up to six.
There are practical touches too, with each room having its own walking boot and equipment storage, which has been designed to blend in with the beamed ceilings and stone walls of the rooms.
In taking on the project Gregg has been helped by Neath Port Talbot Council, which has provided a range of advice and support.
Gregg said: “The team at the Council have been great, right from the early stages of the project from planning through to grant support for the project.
“They do anything they can to help us, and they are there at the end of the phone. They have put us in touch with people and invited us to networking events to develop our contacts within the tourism industry.
Cllr. Anthony Taylor, Deputy Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council said: “This is really good news for walkers and visitors to Pontneddfechan. It is lovely to see the building brought back into use. The new lodge is a welcome addition to the Vale of Neath’s magnificent ‘Waterfall Country’, which has seen a huge growth in visitor numbers over recent years”.