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Three local legends immortalized in new artwork – the Portrait Bench along the Sirhowy Valley walking and cycle route.  Argoed born chartist leader, Zephaniah Williams, Gillian Crandon, former head teacher of Markham Primary and Jack Price, International Quoits champion, have been chosen by local people to be immortalised in steel. The figures form an iconic artwork and bench has been installed on National Cycle Network Route 467 in the Sirhowy Valley between Markham and Blackwood. As part of the new Quoits Wood Crossing in Argoed, local people were asked to nominate local heroes to be immortalised in steel on a Portrait Bench – a UK-wide art initiative from the charity Sustrans. The benches are appearing on routes across the UK and include three life-size images of local heroes which are placed next to a bench on the route.

The figures - which are cut from Corten steel and will weather over time to blend in with the natural surroundings - accompany a simple wooden bench, beautifully crafted from reclaimed railway sleepers.  The children of Markham Primary School researched the history of the local area and a polling station was held for pupils and parents at the school. The final three chosen figures were chosen by the Steering Group supporting the scheme. Markham pupils and the community steering group celebrated the unveiling of the Portrait Bench on the 24th October 2012.

Rachel Lister, Sustrans Cymru Project Manager for the scheme, said “After the success of the Quoits Wood Crossing being named by children of Markham Primary School, this has been a wonderful opportunity for the community to become involved in choosing the figures for Portrait Bench. The Portrait Bench forms a collection of other Portrait Benches across the National Cycle Network in areas such as Cardiff, Treforest, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport.”

Gillian Crandon who features on the Portrait Bench said “I feel very proud and privileged by this unexpected honour and would like to thank all the people involved.  A tremendous amount of work has been completed in the valley enhancing its natural beauty and I hope people from all areas will rest a while on the bench and enjoy the scenery”.

Linda Evans, Joint Secretary from the Welsh Quoits Board said “Caersws Quoits Club and the Welsh Quoiting Board are delighted to be associated with the Sustrans walking and cycling charity and the valuable local initiative - Quoits Wood Crossing.  In particular, we are proud to have played a small part in assisting Sustrans to capture the image of local Welsh champion quoiter Jack Price, one of the 'local heroes' of the Argoed Portrait Bench project. We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Sustrans and all involved in this worthwhile enterprise”.

Cllr Tom Williams, Cabinet Member for Highways, Transportation and Engineering at Caerphilly County Borough Council said, "We are delighted to have worked with Sustrans Cymru to deliver this project, and this superb addition to the route will enable those using the safe, sustainable route to sit back for a while and enjoy the wonderful sights and surroundings that our county borough has to offer".

The new Quoits Wood Crossing has been funded with support from the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government as part of the Valleys Regional Park partnership, with additional funding from the Big Lottery Fund and is part of an ongoing project delivered by Sustrans and local authorities that will see the creation of an additional 100 kilometers of new walking and cycling paths across the south Wales Valleys.

Gillian Crandon talking about her Portrait Bench figure.