VISITORS to Blaenavon will now be able to step back in time to the town’s coal mining past following the instillation of three virtual reality benches.

The ‘Time Travel in the Blaenavon World Heritage Site’ experience displays the town’s rich industrial history through three virtual reality films – showcasing life as it would have looked at Big Pit, the town primary school and the home of a local family.

The VR films, which feature real characters from Blaenavon’s industrial past, will be available to view at three iconic locations across the internationally celebrated region: Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenavon World Heritage Centre and Blaenavon Heritage Town.

Visitors will be able to view the educational films on smart devices via the Blaenavon Digital Passport, with or without a VR headset – which are available to borrow from the Blaenavon World Heritage Centre and Big Pit National Coal Museum.

Three ‘Time Travellers’ benches designed to commemorate the local coal and mining industries have been unveiled at each location.

It is hoped that the new immersive experience and Time Travellers’ benches will encourage visitors to further engage and take interest in Blaenavon’s rich heritage.

The project was officially launched by Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas and Torfaen council’s Executive Member for Business, Tourism, Leisure and Culture Cllr Alan Jones.

Pupils from Ysgol Bryn Onnen, who sung sang on one of the films, also performed at the launch event, and were among the first to give the new VR experience a try.

Lord Elis-Thomas said: “It’s about celebrating the history of the town.

“It’s quite moving when you see the virtual reality where it has recreated areas of the town and seeing buildings that may not be there any more.

“In order to enhance the visitor experience, it is vital that Wales’s rich, cultural heritage attractions are relevant to modern day and provide a uniquely Welsh experience.

“This project has done exactly that – and is an excellent way to discover more about Wales’s past during our Year of Discovery.

“We are delighted as a government to invest in something like this as it’s an asset to visitors and to the community itself.”

Cllr Jones said: “It’s absolutely brilliant for Blaenavon.

“The kids were fantastic and their singing was immense.

“There’s a lot of hard work that’s gone in to it and when you see the end result it is all worth it.”

Mayor of Blaenavon Gareth Davies said: “It was excellent. The full 360⁰ view really brings the history back to life.

“I’m looking forward to trying the ones at Big Pit and Blaenavon Heritage Town.

“One of things growing up in Wales is you don’t tend to learn about local and social history, so it’s a good thing for visitors to the town, especially for younger visitors.”

Ysgol Bryn Onnen pupil Maddie Watkins said: “I’d like to see more like this.

“It makes learning about history more interesting.”