The Forestry Commission has approved plans that could lead to the creation of a new Welsh trail centre.
The idea is to open up 26km of trails in the Garw Valley to organised cycling events and link up with similar centres in Glyncorrwg and Afan Argoed.
Former Commonwealth Games cyclist John Pritchard, from nearby Cwmfelin, is supporting the project. He told the Glamorgan Gazette: “The trails are already there and all we need are proper signposts to let cyclists know where they are going. I understand there are plans for a proper visitor centre in Blaengarw and we hope to link up with the nearby BMX track too. We hope to eventually link in with the network of trails through the Llynfi Valley too. The Garw looks like a little Switzerland from the mountain trails and will be very popular."
Planning permission has been granted for a cycling visitor centre next to Parc Calon Lan in Blaengarw, but community council clerk Wyn Davies said work would not begin until Welsh Assembly grant money had been received. He said: “We hope to work with Glyncorrwg and Afan Argoed rather than compete with them, but the tourism possibilities for the Garw Valley are fantastic.”
Mr Pritchard said he hoped the new centre would be opened by Olympic gold medallist Nicole Cooke. He said: “Nicole uses tracks between Llangeinor and Blackmill which are always highlighted in cycling magazines, so maybe we could even name the new trail after her to recognise her achievements."
He added: “Families in London who want to go mountain biking make a weekend of it and need somewhere to stay, somewhere to eat and somewhere to buy cycling kit, so the Garw could certainly benefit from this project. The 2012 Olympics are holding the mountain biking in Essex but you cannot build the sort of landscape we have here. There are also cycle tracks from here right down into Bridgend and on to Ogmore-by-Sea, so there is something for everyone.”