Accommodation and travel ideas in 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. There is one national park in the region called the Brecon Beacons which covers about a third of South Wales, in which is located the highest mountain south of Snowdon, North Wales, namely Pen Y Fan. South Wales incorporates the capital Cardiff, as well as Newport, Swansea and Bridgend. The area also includes Neath Port Talbot, the South Wales Valleys and the more rural settings of the Brecon Beacons National Park, Vale of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire.
The South Wales Valleys and upland mountain ridges were once a very rural area of great natural beauty, noted for its river valleys and ancient forests and lauded by romantic poets such as William Wordsworth. This changed to a considerable extent during the early Industrial Revolution when the Glamorgan and Monmouthshire valley 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 railway networks to Newport Docks, at the time the largest coal exporting docks in the world, and by the 1880s coal was being exported from Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The Marquess of Bute, who owned much of the land north of Cardiff, built a steam railway system on his land that stretched from Cardiff into many of the South Wales 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, many thousands of immigrants from England, Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall and even Italy came and set up homes and put down roots in the region. Very many came from other coal mining areas such as Somerset, the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire and the tin mines of Cornwall such as Geevor Tin Mine, as a large but experienced and willing workforce was required. Whilst some of the migrants left, many settled and established in the South Wales valleys between Swansea and Abergavenny, English speaking communities with a unique identity. Industrial workers were housed in cottages and terraced houses close to the mines and foundries in which they worked. The large influx over the years caused overcrowding which lead to outbreaks of Cholera, and on the social and cultural side, the near-loss of the Welsh language in the area.
Despite the intense industrialisation of the coal mining valleys, many parts of the landscape of South Wales such as the upper Neath valley, the Vale of Glamorgan and the valleys of the River Usk and River Wye remain distinctly beautiful and unspoilt and have been designated SSSI, Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
The language of the vast majority of people in South Wales is English, but there are many who speak Welsh. However in western parts of Glamorgan, particularly the Neath and Swansea Valleys, there remain significant Welsh-speaking communities such as (Ystradgynlais and 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 Cymmer in Porth the Rhondda, Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw in Pontypool, Ysgol Gymraeg Plasmawr in Cardiff & Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun In Aberdare, which have done much to enhance the status of the language among young people.
The traditional pastimes of the area include rugby and music. Today music ranges from the traditional Welsh Male Voice Choirs of the Valleys such as Treorchy Male Choir to the South Wales Hardcore Scene. Bands such as Lostprophets, Bullet for My Valentine, Stereophonics, Manic Street Preachers, Funeral for a Friend, The Automatic, Skindred, Foreign Legion, Kids In Glass Houses and The Blackout all come from the South Wales area.