'Legacy' of Tower Colliery kept alive as miners return to pit transformed into Zip World

  • Watch the video report by ITV Cymru Wales journalist, Kate Lewis

Miners have returned to their former pit in the Rhigos mountain range after its recent transformation into the fastest seated zip-line in the world.

Before its closure in 2008, Tower Colliery in Hirwaun was the oldest continuously working deep coal mine in the UK. It was threatened with closure in the 1990s, before the miners stepped in to buy it.

One of the miners who used to work there said this regeneration of the site will ensure the "legacy of the Tower", and what the men did in buying it, is remembered.

The site was due to open last year but had to wait until coronavirus restrictions were lifted on outdoor attractions.

A group, set up by miners who worked there, bought the colliery in 1995 after it was threatened with closure a year earlier.

Wayne Thomas is one of the original miner shareholders. He said: "I don't think ever in our wildest dreams we would have thought of zip-wires, Zip World, a potential European spot to come for adventure rides.

"We did envisage activities, to increase and enhance the quality of life in this area, employment was a key thing for us to get back here." 

Les Jones started work as a miner at Tower Colliery when he was 16 years old. His wife Jan also worked in the canteen. He said returning was "a bit emotional".

"I've got some fabulous memories. I think it's wonderful because the legacy of the Tower of what the men did and bought the pit will be remembered for years and years with this Zip World here."

The new zip-line site has kept some of the original mining infrastructure as a nod to its past.

The colliery was the last deep mine in Wales to close, when it shut in 2008 after 13 years of being owned by the workers' group.

Coal production started there in 1864 and the site expanded over the years. The worst accident at the site was in 1962 when an explosion caused the death of nine miners.

Les Jones worked at the mine from the age of 16 and said he was glad that the "legacy" of the site would live on through the new attraction.

Zip World had expected to open last July but due to restrictions it had to wait until 26 April 2021 to welcome customers.

Andrew Hudson, the Commercial Director at Zip World, said: "This build and this development has been going about five years now so it's an incredibly proud moment and I think I share the excitement across this sector opening up."

Over the next 12 months, it is estimated that around a 100,000 people will visit the attraction.

Zip World has three other sites and has welcomed more than one million visitors in total.