Gap IN THE HEDGE
Built in 1928, “Bwlch-y-Clawdd” (Gap in the Hedge) is a mountain pass (450m) that connects the Rhondda Valley – in South Wales – to the town where I was born, and still live, Bridgend. It is also connected to the Afan Valley via the A4107, which leads through to the coastline and industrial town of Port Talbot. The Bwlch road itself, the A4061, runs for approximately 25 miles, beginning at Cwm Park and marking along its summit the source of the Ogmore River, whose course it follows with considerable faith until its endpoint of Bridgend. Not only did the pass offer a lifeline to the isolated valleys, and present greater job opportunities for the local people, but it also provided an essential shortcut for the predominantly coal-related valleys economy. My parents used the pass themselves to make their own move to Bridgend in 1966, starting their own business there shortly after. Either side of the Bwlch’s summit sit the former mining communities of Nantymoel and Cwmpark, whose residents are touched daily by the shadow of the mountain. This series attempts to document not only the beauty of this iconic piece of South Wales landscape, but also how it relates to these people.
Loosely based around nostalgia, ‘Gap in the Hedge’ reflects the journey I used to make with my mother every Saturday as a small boy, to visit relatives in the Rhondda Valley. It was my first taste of a road trip and I can recall almost every inch of the journey. I’d sit there in the front seat of my mother’s little red car, utterly absorbed and mesmerised by the forests, terraced houses and road signs warning to watch out for falling rocks. The journey seemed to take forever, but we were only ever around 30 minutes from home. I also recall certain points of interest, the personalised landmarks of a child, that seemed ripe for exploration and made me want to stop and get out. Perhaps this was the primary intrigue of the valleys as a physical enigma, a back yard from which I am exclusively estranged, the only member of my direct family that isn’t valleys-born. This series was my chance to stop and get out, and to explore and acquaint myself with my motherland.