About Merthyr Tydfil Angling Alliance
Merthyr Tydfil Angling Alliance was established in 1967 through the amalgamation of Merthyr & District Angling Association and St Tydfil’s Angling Association. Since it’s inception, the club has grown from strength to strength, gaining more waters throughout the years and becoming today Wales’ largest multidiscipline angling clubs.
MTAA caters for both members and the wider community as a whole, aiming to improve its waters and surrounding environment for all to enjoy.
We provide premier freshwater fishing for all – rivers for migratory salmon and trout, still waters for trout, coarse, pike and carp fishing.
History of The Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association
Celebrating over 50 years
Founder Associations:- Merthyr & District AA, St Tydfils AA and Treharriss AA
During the late 18th early 19th century much of the water in the rivers Taff Taf Fechan and Taff Fawr above Merthyr was used in the production of Iron in the Cyfarthfa Iron Works. The owners jealously guarded this supply and even when our water supply reservoirs were being built they insisted that to be sure of their supplies they had to come from a reservoir. This was achieved by the release of water from the reservoirs called Compensation Flow.
The earliest record we have in Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association of fishing in Merthyr is a cup that was presented to the Borough Angling Association in 1921 by George J Morgan Esq. the last date the cup was used as a trophy was in 1931. This may have been because of the depression but this is conjecture.
During the 1920’s after the closure of the Iron works two electricity-generating stations were constructed on the main River Taff at Cyfarthfa. These supplied electricity to the town until the 1950’s. The construction of a dam to run one of the power stations helped to make it a wonderful area for fishing. It was also a famous area for swimming as the deep water allowed the brave swimmers to jump off the cliff behind what is now Pandy Close, into a pool in the river call locally Pwll Watt. We have no knowledge of the origin of the name. When the power stations closed all the turbines were removed. The removal of the turbines on the dam caused huge bank erosion. The powers that be tried without success to cure the problem. The turning point came when a large flood destroyed an area supporting a gas pipe that crossed the river. The only option left was to remove the dam thus centralising the river. This effectively straightened the river channel; the fishing in this area has never been as good as when the dam was in place.
Frank Thompson who was Chairman of the Association for 30 years informed us that before the second world war he used to fish the river up to what is now known as Cyfarthfa bridge but was not allowed to go any further upstream than that. On his return from active service he discovered that a fishing Association had been formed and that it was necessary to be a member to fish what he considered had been free fishing. Membership of this new Association also entitled you to fish the area that was once the Cyfarthfa Iron Works. The Association that was formed at that time was called Merthyr and District Angling Association. The secretary/ Treasurer was Captain Nelson Price and the Chairman Mr John Henry Booth.
This Association through negotiation with local farmers and landowners controlled the fishing in some of the Taf Fawr and most of the Taf Fechan, as well as the main Taff. The Taff however could not be fished below the Morlais Brook due to pollution. What a contrast today with salmon returning, all be it in small numbers, and the Taff clean all the way to Cardiff Bay.
Industry in the form of coal was the main source of employment in the area at that time, followed by the many factories that were constructed after the war. In those days the value of the rivers and the environment were of low priority as the country was recovering from the war and needed rebuilding. This in turn led to many instances of industrial pollution that killed many fish. The bodies responsible for administering Fishing and fisheries as well as pollution incidents were the River Boards. There was a Board on every river catchment. Some rivers such as the Wye had their own Board. In this area, the Glamorgan Rivers Authority governed us their area as can been seen from their title was the whole of the old Glamorgan County. They had extensive powers but proving who had caused pollution was difficult. This led to many pollution incidents occurring and the perpetrators not being found. Some of the pollutions were of a minor nature but each one would inevitably kill fish. Some of the major ones that come to mind were from factories that have now all closed down. The coalmines were also major polluters in that they tended to allow their settling lagoons to enter the river at night. The following day would see the river coated in coal dust. We must be grateful however as once the mines closed all the coal dust was washed away by floods and can now only be found buried in very small quantities.
Two things happened in the early 1950’s that that would have an impact on fishing in the town. The first was the formation of another Angling Association in the town. Unlike the Merthyr and District that was strictly a Game Angling Association this one St Tydfil’s Angling Association tended to cater for Coarse fishing as well as game fishing. They started by renting the Ponds at Penywern Dowlais from Guest Keen. It was not long before the both Association‘s were vying for the same fishing rights. This rivalry continued for many years and came to a head in the 1960’s when both Associations approached Merthyr Council for a lease on all the Councils waters. Faced with two applications and not wishing to favour one group over another the Council suggested that the two amalgamate. After much discussion and dissention this happened and the rest as we will see is history. The first chairman of the newly formed Association was Sam Sales.
The second was an application by the Taf Fechan Water Board to Parliament to reduce the compensation flow from 6.8 million on the Taf Fechan to 4.2 million gallons. A similar application was also made by Cardiff Corporation to reduce the flow from the Cwmtaf Reservoirs owned by them from 6million to 4 million gallons per day. The Boards had to apply to Parliament to do this as permission to build the Reservoirs had been granted by an Act of Parliament, within the Act was specified the above compensation flow. In order to achieve this reduction the then Taf Fechan Water board had to buy the water rights that had been leased to the Merthyr Electric Traction and Lighting Company. These were being leased from the administrator of what was left of the Old Cyfarthfa Estate. It was necessary therefore for the Water Board to take over the ownership of the water rights to ensure that the application to Parliament was passed. In some ways the reduction in water flow represented the beginning of the problems we are seeing today. Water being taken from our rivers as well as from reservoirs to supply public demand. Only recently, efforts are being made to encourage the public to save water. There has also been a wide-ranging consultation on water abstraction with the view to reducing it.
In 1967 the two Associations amalgamated, and this year 2017 is our fiftieth Anniversary.
Our Constitution was very simple in those days but one section dealt with the rental of fishing Rights or as we termed it Waters. It read: To rent, lease, or purchase any water that became available. Whenever possible convert rentals to leases and consider outright purchase.
In 1968 we purchased our first fishing rights on the river Taf Fechan for the princely sum of £35. This was followed in 1972 by the purchase of three more fishing Beats on the Taf Fechan and one on the main river Taff. The one on the main river (Pontygwaith upper) caused some consternation as at the time the river tended to be running black most of the time with illegal discharges from the then Merthyr Vale colliery. The purchase went ahead however and today we can look back and say however black things looked the future is a lot clearer.
Note: The day when the purchase of the fishing at Pontygwaith, co-oincided With the Annual General Meetin in the Talbot Inn, We (Tony and Gary) presented the news to the meeting and we were met with some verbal abuse for spending club money (£150) which would in the meetings view, been better spent on stocking with trout.
In 1972 our membership was 532 Adults, Senior Citizens, and Juniors. Our fees were from 50p for Juniors under 11 years to £2-50 for Seniors.
This did not bring in a large income but we were aiming high and talking about acquiring fishing rights on the river Usk. In those days the Usk in comparison to the Taff was regarded as a fisherman’s Mecca. In 1979 our opportunity came, a beat for Salmon and Trout fishing came up for sale (Kemeys) on the Usk. Our then Vice Chairman Gary Davies left no stone unturned in the quest to purchase this fishing. The result was that with a Grant from Sports Council for Wales, an Interest free Loan from Welsh Water, (In those days Welsh Water was the equivalent to the Natural Resources Wales today), and Angling Association’s funds, we completed the purchase. This purchase enabled the Association to offer anglers Salmon fishing at very reasonable rates. It also encouraged members from further a field to take an interest in the Association as in those days there was very little salmon fishing available to fishing (We now have members from far and wide in Wales and England)
The fishery was extended by the purchase of some 300 yards at the bottom end of the beat at a cost of £25K which extended the beat to a natural demarcation of the field not ending in the middle of a field.
In recent years Angling has been accused of being feudal in that we are very guarded in letting canoeists have open access to our waters. In fact nothing can be further from the truth. The structure of Angling in Wales has come about by forward thinking Associations like ours purchasing Fishing Rights. In the past The Crown, The Lord of the Manor, or other persons with notable titles generally held fishing rights. They were jealously guarded and looked after and the common people were not allowed to fish them. Contrast this today where Angling Associations have made fishing accessible and affordable by all, so much to us being feudal. Also we have made an agreement with a canoe club to use the Usk at Chain Bridge Commander to Usk town at a time suitable to all parties.
We were able to build on the success of our first purchase on the river Usk, (namely Kemeys at Kemeys Commander near Usk). We were now able to offer affordable Salmon fishing. This resulted in more people looking to join us. Between 1979 and 1986 we purchased more fishing rights on the River Taf Fechan and main Taff, we also acquired fishing on the River Tarrell that runs from the Storey Arms to Brecon. By now we owned most of the fishing on the Taf Fechan.
In late 1987 a large fishing beat came up for sale on the river Usk above Abergavenny. It was one and a quarter miles of single bank fishing and the records showed it was a good Salmon fishery. We called a Special general meeting as we felt the cost 37k needed to be acceptable to the membership. The membership endorsed the purchase and we proceeded to make an offer. Our offer was accepted and negotiations and the passing over of the deeds for inspection were made. To our dismay we discovered that the fishing rights contained a covenant that expressed that they could not be sold to an Angling Association. We made enquiries and found that the person who had made the covenant was still alive. He agreed to meet us to discuss the matter. After much negotiation and talk of large sums of money he agreed to a reasonable sum to lift the covenant. This left the way clear for the purchase to continue and on the 10th December 1987 the fishery became ours. This purchased helped the Association to increase its membership even further. This fishery was extended by purchasing some 400 yards at what is referred to as the island stretch.
Our membership continuing to grow and by 1993 it reached 1016 members. In this year we were offered more fishing rights on the Usk at Abergavenny, known as the Ysbytty A special meeting agreed to the purchase and this time we were able to pay for the fishing without taking out a loan. The fact we were now able to offer substantial Salmon fishing on the Usk has guaranteed that our membership has been consistently over a 1,000 members.
At the end of the 1997 season Frank Thompson who had been our Chairman for 30 years and a founder member retired. He continued to issue permits for the Association and to take bookings for fishing on some of our waters. Our present Chairman Gary Davies filled his position.
We were continually looking to improve our fishing for the members and were introduced to Groundwork Merthyr and Cynon Valley. By working with them we had our first grant to improve the access to one of the banks on Penywern ponds, we were also able to build three Accessibility platforms.
In 1999 we were offered the chance to purchase (Pontygwaith Lower) some fishing rights that we had rented for over twenty years. The owner was selling up and the tenant did not wish to purchase the property. We purchased the fishing and the land that was in total fifty acres. Some of the land was already being used as the Taff Trail. As we had no use for the land we decided to see if there were any grants available to improve the area. One important aspect of what we had purchased was that it was the only area along the whole of the old Trevithick Trail where the original sleepers and track could be seen.
We approached Groundwork and they suggested that they would put a bid forward to Cyd Coed Cymru. This was part of the forestry commission and gave grants to improve woodland and increase access for the general public. Our bid for the scheme was successful and resulted in increased access to the Taff Trail from Edwardsville and a better surface on the Trail. We turned the area into a nature reserve for the local people to continue to enjoy. It also enabled CADW to carry out a major survey of the old tramroad in the area and beyond with the help of Merthyr Council. They were also able to plan how to leave some of the old track exposed for visitors to see. Interpretation boards have been installed, and along the area are carved stone plinths, depicting and otter, salmon, and heron with other smaller creatures on them as well. Recently the trail has been extended northwards from Pontygwaith and is now a continuous length to Pentrebach.
Being progressive the Chairman realised that we should work with the New Community Groups being set up. We have joined in with several in the area and work with them and they with us to promote fishing. They have also helped us to fund some of our work. One of our biggest successes has been, under the direction of the Junior Competition Secretary Bernard Farr, to promote fishing for young people. We now hold fishing days for the Dowlais Forum, five junior schools, Gurnos Youth, Dr Barnardos, The Integrated Children Centre, The Gurnos Community Group. This year 2008 will be our busiest year ever in this field as we will be holding an inter schools competition between the schools taking part. We have also been involved with the Salmon Homecoming project run by the Environment Agency with selected schools in the area.
In 2005 we purchased more fishing (Black Lion) on the Taff from the Welsh Assembly Government and hopefully with two more purchases in view we will have completed our goal of owning or leasing nearly all of the fishing on the River.
In 2007 we celebrated our fortieth anniversary as the present Association. We are proud at what we have achieved not for ourselves but for the future generations of anglers in Merthyr. Owning most of our river fishing will give those who follow a firm foundation on which to work and hopefully progress. Grateful thanks must be given to six members of the present association who for those forty years have served on the committee doing valuable work for the Association: Brian Walkley, Gary Davies, Malcolm Williams, Graham Davies and Tony Rees.
In 2009 and 2013 the four Nations International River competition was held on the Taff between Merthyr and Quakers Yard. It is wonderful to think that two nations famous for attracting tourists to visit them for their fishing, Scotland and Ireland, will be with England taking part.
We have achieved much in fifty years and we believe the ambitions of those who were responsible for the two Associations amalgamating have been fulfilled. It will shortly be necessary for others to take up the reins and carry on the good work to ensure future success for the Association.
The Story Continues
Since 2000 we have been endeavouring to change the use of the Penywern ponds from an area which was heavily grazed by horses to an area where the public could enjoy a leisurely stroll without being pestered by horses looking to be fed and also for anglers to feel their tackle was safe from the animals. The lower pond was fenced off some five years ago and a new fishing bank was constructed along with two disabled fishing platforms.
Our attention in 2001 was turned to the upper pond – namely Top Pond Penywern. We obtained funding for two car parks to be built, one for visitors the other for anglers. During this period we learnt that the North side of the pond had been ceded to the Commoners by the Welsh Assembly Government in recompense for land taken to dual the A465. For the last six years we have been in constant negotiation to avert the placing of a fence which would have sterilised the North bank.
Success in our negotiations meant that we could obtain funding with the aid of officers in the Merthyr Council and we were granted the sum of £67k plus some £25K of MTAA funds to upgrade the area. Sustran also contributed by the installation of a cycle track. The new commons fence has been erected, thereby divorcing people from animals. We also took advantage of the pond being drained to install islands which will increase the bio-diversity of the pond, to build a ninety metre bank suitable for wheelchair users. Since the commons fence has been installed we have been planting trees and shrubs which are natural to the area. Also artificial floating Islands have been purchased at a cosy of £1K each (3). There has been a problem with youths swimming out to the islands and damaging them and cutting the anchor ropes (when will they learn?)
As I mentioned earlier, we as part of the community also believe that the community as well as anglers should benefit so we have undertaken the task of providing paths linking to the Sustran cycle way therefore providing access to the area which we are more and more considering as a WATER park.
Negotiations have been going on for the past 15 years or so when the Dowlais forum (Communities First) was in being and I was vice chair of the forum. Sadly, the Dowlais branch was closed and operations centered on the Gurnos.
The aim for the future is to give foot access to the upper pond (Top Pond Penywern) by means of a footbridge across the A465. This plan has since been adopted by Welsh Gov and the bridge will be installed when the road is dualled in 2019. When this road was first built in the sixties the traffic could be easily contended with. Now, to cross this road with children or by older people must be considered as a KAMIKAZE adventure. I can recall a person from the Welsh Assembly telephoning me (Gary Davies) and asking if I could tell her “how many anglers cross the road on a regular basis” In response to my answer she stated “Not to WORRY – WHEN the road is dualled we will only have to look one way at a time”. I then placed my phone on the receiver.
PENYWERN PONDS LEASED FOR FISHING FOR THE PAST 70 YEARS NOTE: The ponds known as Top, Middle and bottom belonged to Guest Keen, the works – furnaces/works were situated between Dowlais and Penywern. The fishing had been leased by St Tydfils AA from some time in the early 1950s’, of course when the Associations amalgamated the new Association took over the lease. In 1986 the works closed with the possibility of the middle pond being drained and houses built in its place. The Association spoke to the local councillors ( Mr Thomas C Lewis – past vice president MTAA) of the Mid Glamorgan Count Council who Thankfully backed us in so much that the council bought the ponds and surrounding area. They then proceeded to remove the spoil tips from the North side of middle pond and landscape the whole area from the A465 down to Penywern and surrounding area. In doing so they filled in the bottom pond. We are hoping that we can negotiate the reinstatement of the pond and possibly a new access road away from Station Terrace. When the County Council took over we agreed with them that we would ensure that the water supply from the Morlais brook was protected. Bernie Farr rebuilt a sluice on the stream feeding Top pond and certain people ensured that the sluice was opened in Summer and closed for Winter. Since then there has been differences in land ownership (relating to dualling of A465) which shall be transferred to Commoners (Dowlais Top Investment) and we are investigating what the current position is because of transfer from Merthyr Tydfil C B C to Welsh Government then to Commoners is still very confused.
The Reason for changing the Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association to a COMPANY LIMITED BY GUARANTEE.
As mentioned previously the Pontygwaith land was purchased in 1999/2000.
On the day of signing I (Gary) was contacted by our president Mr Huw Lewis AM advising us not to sign the contract, this had already been signed.
Unknown to us in 1996 due to a very bad rain storm, some land of Pontygwaith was washed away threatening to destroy two houses. A search for the land owner had been made without any success until we purchased the land.
The solicitors acting for the house owners then applied for retribution from us. This could have meant that the Association guarantors would be responsible, the guarantors were, myself, Gary Davies, Tony Rees and Nigel Morgan which could have involved us losing our homes. After a number of years’ virtually on the eve of the court proceedings the case was withdrawn, but it still cost the MTAA many thousands of pounds and many sleepless nights for the three officials.
Due to this it was researched and it was proposed that we would form a company with directors but that the Association was responsible not the directors unless it could be proved that the directors acted in a criminal/cavalier manner.
REASON FOR FORMATION OF MERTHYR TYDFIL ANGLING ALLIANCE
In 2018, a subsidiary company named Merthyr Tydfil Angling Alliance was formed and took over the day-to-day running of our waters. This was done to protect the owned assets of Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association.
Upon the formation of Merthyr Tydfil Angling Alliance, many longstanding and founder officers retired and handed over the reins to the next generation, who aim to continue to grow the club, building on its successes of the last 52 years.
2021 saw the club’s biggest ever membership of 1327, meaning that we are now Wales’ largest multidiscipline fishing organisation. Our mantra of being accessible to all will hopefully enable us to build on this continued success for years to come