South Wales

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Approximate extent of South Wales

South Wales (Welsh: De Cymru) is an area of Wales bordered by England and the Bristol Channel to the east and south, and Mid Wales and West Wales to the north and west.

The exact extent of South Wales is loosely defined, but it is generally considered to be the area surrounding the M4 Motorway, including the counties of Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire and extending westwards to include south Carmarthenshire and south Pembrokeshire. In the western extent local people would probably recognise that they lived in both South Wales and in West Wales - there is considerable overlap in these somewhat articificial boundaries. The northern border is particularly ill-defined, but the A40 may be a good approximation whilst others would use the more southerly Heads of the Valleys Road as the clearly identifiable boundary.

South Wales incorporates the capital city of Cardiff and the city of Newport. The city of Swansea is also sometimes included in the area. The area also includes the South Wales Valleys and the Brecon Beacons National Park.

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[edit] History

South Wales was once an area of great natural beauty, famous for its valleys and forests and lauded by poets such as William Wordsworth. This changed to a considerable extent during the Industrial Revolution when the Glamorgan and Monmouthshire areas were exploited for coal and iron. By the 1830s, hundreds of tons of coal were being transported by barge to ports in Cardiff and Newport. In the 1870s, coal was transported by rail networks to these docks.

The Marquess of Bute, who owned much of the land north of Cardiff, built a railway system on his land that stretched from Cardiff into many of the valleys where the coal was being found. Lord Bute then charged taxes per ton of coal that was transported out using his railways. With coal mining and iron smelting being the main trades of South Wales, hundreds of immigrants from England, Scotland and even Italy came and set up homes in the valleys and cities. The large influx over the years caused overcrowding which lead to outbreaks of Cholera, and on the social side, the near-loss of the Welsh language in the area.

The 1930s saw the loss of almost half of the coal pits in the area, and this number declined further in the years following World War II. This number is now very low, with only Tower Colliery remaining as a working coal mine.

Despite the intense industrialisation, many parts of the landscape of South Wales such as the upper Neath valley, the Gower peninsula, the Vale of Glamorgan and the valley of the River Wye remain distinctly beautiful.

[edit] Famous industrialised areas in the 1800s

Merthyr Tydfil (Tydfil the Martyr): The town's Dowlais Ironworks was founded to exploit the abundant seams of iron ore and in time it became the largest iron producing town in the world. New coal mines were sunk nearby to feed the voracious furnaces and in time produced coal for export . By 1831 the population was 60,000 - more than Cardiff, Swansea and Newport combined. The town was the birthplace of Joseph Parry composer of the haunting Welsh tune Myfanwy and his humble home can be compared with the nearby mock-Gothic Cyfartha Castle built in 1825 for William Crawshay the famous iron master.

Aberfan: The Merthyr Vale colliery began to produce coal in 1875. Spoil from the mine workings was piled close to the village which had grown nearby. Tipping went on until the 1960's. The industry was by now nationalised but even the National Coal Board failed to appreciate the true nature of the monster they helped to create. In October of 1966 heavy rain made the giant tip unstable. The recent dumping of small particles of coal and ash known as tailings seems to have been partly responsible. A thirty foot high black wave tore across the Glamorganshire canal and swept away houses on its path towards the village school. One hundred and fourteen children and twenty eight adults were killed.

The Rhondda Valleys (Fawr and Fach) housed around 3,000 people in 1860 but by 1910 the population had soared to 160,000. The Rhondda had become the heart of a massive coal industry. Accidents below ground were common and in 1896 fifty-seven men and boys were killed in a gas explosion at the Tylorstown Colliery. An enquiry found that the pit involved had not been properly inspected over the previous fifteen months.

Risca in Monmouthshire lay 900 feet above a seam of high grade coal known as the Black Vein. This coal was responsible for the many explosions and 142 men and boys were killed by one of these in 1860. The New Risca Colliery was opened in 1878 and thought to be safer but in 1880 an explosion caused another 120 deaths.

[edit] Language

The language of the vast majority of people is English, but there is a small percentage (compared to the other areas of Wales) who speak Welsh. However in western South Wales, particularly the Neath and Swansea Valleys, there remain significant Welsh-speaking communities (Ystradgynlais, Ystalyfera) which share a heritage with the fellow ex-Anthracite mining areas of eastern Carmarthenshire, as much as the Glamorgan valleys.

Welsh, however, is now a compulsory language up to GCSE level for all students who start their education in Wales. This has meant the strength of the language, as a 2nd language, has increased considerably in the last 20 years. Several schools offering Welsh-language education operate in this area, for example Ysgol Gyfun Y Cymer in Porth the Rhondda, Ysgol Rhydfelen in Pontypridd and Ysgol Glantaf in Cardiff, which have done much to enhance the status of the language among young people.

[edit] Culture

See also: Culture of Wales

The traditional pastimes of the area include rugby and music.

Music ranges from the traditional Male Voice Choirs of the Valleys to the South Wales Hardcore Scene. Bands such as Lostprophets, Bullet For My Valentine, Stereophonics, Manic Street Preachers, Funeral For A Friend and The Automatic all come from the South Wales area.

[edit] Industry today

The former heavy industries of coal and iron production, have long disappeared, to be replaced, today, by the service industries.

Cities along the M4 corridor, such as Cardiff, Newport and Swansea are home to a number of high profile blue-chip companies such as Admiral Insurance and the Principality Building Society.

A large number of telephone call centres are located in the region and in particular in the valleys area. Merthyr Tydfil is home to the principal UK call centre for German mobile telephone company, T-Mobile.

The television and film media are fast becoming a major industry in south Wales, with the development, by the BBC, of a vast dedicated production studio in Nantgarw, just north of Cardiff, for the highly successful Doctor Who series.

Lord Attenborough is shortly due to open the first completely new film studio in the UK in over fifty years. Dragon International Studios, a huge purpose-built studio complex located alongside the M4 motorway, between Bridgend and Llantrisant contains a number of large soundstages which have already attracted the interest of a number of Hollywood directors and producers alike, looking for suitable facilities in Europe.

[edit] Other facts

The state of New South Wales in Australia is probably named after the area, although that region's name could alternatively allude to a New Wales in the southern hemisphere.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

fr:Galles du Sud

South Wales

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