THERE'S not a lot we can do during the current lockdown - but we are allowed to get out for some exercise.

So, we are going to be bringing you some ideas of walks in the area which you can enjoy without straying too far.

These will also give you the chance to discover some interesting local places and may even give you the taste for venturing further afield once restrictions are lifted.

Welsh Government guidelines are that exercise should start and end at your door so the walks we will be featuring will be as close to people's homes as possible.

Once restrictions are lifted, we'll head further afield.

The Grotto, the Folly and the canal

South Wales Argus: ruote map

This six-mile walk starts with a climb through Pontypool Park and takes you to the Shell Grotto and the Folly Tower.

It takes in one steep ascent, one steep descent and a perfectly flat return.

Start at Pontypool Active Living Centre, Pontypool Park. Please remember that under the current Covid-19 restrictions exercise should only be taken from your front door. Do not drive to a place to take exercise until the restrictions are lifted.

Covering 64 hectares, Pontypool Park climbs the valley slope from the Afon Lwyd towards the Brecon Beacons National Park.


Originally established by the Hanbury family as a private estate at the end of the 17th century, it was bought as a public park in 1920.

1. Cross the bridge and pass the front of the Active Living Centre to enter Pontypool Park.

Beyond the building turn right and follow the broad drive heading towards Pontymoile Gates for a short distance.

Ignore the first left turn towards the ski slope but around 100 yards further on turn left to take a clear but unmade path rising into the woods. The path soon becomes a wide sandstone track climbing through the trees.

Further up it passes through a tunnel and emerges to ascend a grassy glade.

Near the top a sign post indicates a right fork to the Shell Grotto, which you can now see crowning the top of the ridge ahead. A final short but steep climb brings you up to the building.

2. The circular Shell Grotto is decorated with innumerable shells and crystals. The floor is adorned by animal bones. It was built for the Hanbury family in 1794 and a renovated in the mid-1990s.

South Wales Argus: Hiya, if you use this any chance you can credit the photo DR/Mrs Hull? Cheers!.

The shell grotto in Pontypool. Picture: DR/Mrs Hull

In front of the grotto descend the grassy area diagonally to the left and pass through two gates to reach a track. Turn left and follow the tack. It soon reaches the crest of the ridge and after a mile reaches the Folly Tower.

3. Another Hanbury embellishment, the Folly Tower has not practical purpose. Today it could claim to be Pontypool's most iconic landmark. It was built in the 18th century and destroyed in the Second World War in case it directed German bombers to a nearby armaments factory. It was rebuilt and reopened in 1994. The views from this ridge are spectacular.

South Wales Argus: GUARDIAN: A cow watches over the Folly Tower, Pontypool. Picture: South Wales Argus Camera Club member Fatma Richards

A cow watches over the Folly Tower, Pontypool. Picture: South Wales Argus Camera Club member Fatma Richards

Continue beyond the Folly to reach a car park and a small lane. Turn right and follow the lane for about 200 yards before it ends at a gate. Bear right down a sandstone track at a sign to mamhilad via the Roman road. This is a rough stony track leading downhill through the woods.

4. At the bottom, turn left and follow this quiet road for about half a mile until it crosses the canal.

The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal was built between 1791 and 1812 to transport stone and lime to Newport. After years of disuse it was reopened in 1970 and is now a vibrant leisure waterway.

5. Across the bridge, turn right and walk down the ramp to the towpath which doubles as a footpath and cycle way.

Follow the canal for about three miles. At the first the cut lies along a terrace on the hillside, with views across Monmouthshire and the business park at Mamhilad. Later, the waterway is enclosed in a wooded cutting on the approach to Pontypool.

South Wales Argus: swa/mike lewis...15.5.05 reporter.setting off... charity walkers stride out along the monmouth and brecon canal from pontymoile basin.

Charity walkers stride out along the Monmouth and Brecon canal from Pontymobile Basin

6. The canal crosses the Afon Lwyd on an aqueduct and just after this is Bridge 52 at Pontymoile junction. Cross over the bridge to leave the canal and pass through the picnic area. Continue along the road out of the marina to join the main road.

Cross by the pedestrian crossing and turn right recrossing the river.

A few yards further on, turn left through the ornate Pontymoile Park Gates and follow the park drive way back to the leisure centre and car park.

The walk was taken from Walks in Monmouthshire and the Vale of Usk by Alastair Ross and published by Kittiwake. Price £4.95. For more details go to