TWENTY-FIVE years ago more than two million visitors descended on Gwent for the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival.

Held over six months, the festival transformed an industrial wasteland into a flourishing landscape of gardens, plant exhibitions, pathways and fairground style attractions.

Celebrities such as Bob Geldof, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dannii Minogue and Prince Charles attended the festival, which ran from May 1 until October 4 in 1992.

Cllr Derek Coughlin, who worked as part of the security team at the festival, said he has fond memories of the event.

“It was a fantastic occasion,” he said.

“There was a hive of activity with something always going on.

“The site was vibrant, full of flowers and events going on all the time.

“It was one of the most fun and enjoyable jobs I have ever had.

“There was a great camaraderie between everyone working together.”

Cllr Coughlin said he remembered letting vehicles in and out of the site all day.

He was also on duty when TV presenter Noel Edmunds landed at the event in a helicopter.

Glyn Walters worked as the official videographer for the event, making hundreds of short videos, as well as two three-hour films about the festival.

“I don’t think many people in Ebbw Vale bothered to go on holiday that year,” said Mr Walters.

“It was like a holiday at home, there was a seaside area where you could sit by a lake and they even had a beach there.

“It was wonderful, the festival livened Ebbw Vale for a year.

“After the depression of the steelworks going, the garden festival coming was wonderful news.

“The exhibits were fabulous. I also remember the street artists and the variety of international events.

“It put Ebbw Vale on the map for that year, but sadly I don’t think enough thought went into what happened afterwards.

“Most people in the area didn’t want it to finish.”

Ebbw Vale was the last of five locations that held the British Garden Festivals between 1984 and 1992, with others held in Liverpool, Stoke-on-Trent, Glasgow and Gateshead.

The aim was to bring a boost to areas which had been hit by the decline of heavy industry, with festivals held every two years.

Ebbw Vale was announced as one of the hosts in 1986, allowing time to draw up plans for the festival.

Despite the overwhelming success of the festival, some people say the event did not have the desired long-term impact.

More than 1,000 houses are now at the site, as well as a shopping centre, fishing lake, woodlands, a church and owl sanctuary.

Although the festival did not bring the economic prosperity some desired, it has still contributed significantly to the landscape of the area.

After the event, while it is true the builders did not move in the day after those gates closed, there was a plan in place, and crucially, there were developers willing to implement it.

Many of the features of Garden Festival Wales were sold off, such as the funicular railway and the land trains that ferried visitors up and down the site.

But many were retained, such as the pagoda and the lake, as part of a 63-acre Festival Park, a permanent recreational facility and a reminder, too, of the environmental vision that underpinned the event.

Today the legacy of the massive programme of tree and shrub planting for the festival is an established green landscape enjoyed both by the residents of the village – Victoria – established during the post-festival years, and by people in Ebbw Vale and its environs.

It is enjoyed too by visitors from further afield, who, when the weather is amenable, can take a break from spending their money in the Festival Park shopping outlet.

The village of Victoria itself is now well established in the valley, along with the shopping outlet.

Two departments of Blaenau Gwent Council – lifelong learning and technical services – are based on the festival site, along with a Premier Inn and a pub, the Victoria Park.

There is also a range of other employers based on the site.

Importantly too, the improved A4046 has not only strengthened the transport link between Ebbw Vale and Newport, but has provided a link between the festival site and the town, and also the vast former Corus steelworks site to the north, where a new hospital is based.

There is also the passenger rail link which has proved successful – linking the Ebbw Valley with Cardiff, and Ebbw Vale Parkway station is on the edge of the festival site.

Another example of the diverse range of organisations based at Festival Park is Festival Church.

Based in one of the festival’s original buildings, the church began operating within months of the event closing, and is still going strong 25 years on.

As well as being a place of worship, Festival Church set up its own radio station, Mountain FM, and provided a base for a foodbank.

One of the most well-known features of the festival was a mechanical clock, made by sculptor Andy Plant, known as In the Nick of Time.

Commissioned and paid for by Newport City Council at a cost of around £100,000, the clock was later moved to John Frost Square in Newport.

It was removed from John Frost Square in 2008 to make way for the Friar’s Walk shopping centre.

The clock was bought by developers in 2015 and rebuilt on a roundabout near a housing development in Llanwern.

Twenty-five years on, the festival remains deeply entrenched in the landscape of Ebbw Vale, as well as in the memories of those who attended.