South Wales: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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 most densely populated region in the south-west of the United Kingdom, it is home to around 2.1 million people[citation needed] and includes the capital city of Cardiff (population approximately 317,500), as well as Swansea and Newport. The Brecon Beacons national park covers about a third of South Wales, containing Pen y Fan, the highest mountain south of Snowdonia.

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

Approximately 78% of the total population of Wales is in South Wales based on estimates from the 2001 census data.[citation needed]



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.

The 1930s inter-war Great Depression in the United Kingdom saw the loss of almost half of the coal pits in the South Wales coalfield and this number declined further in the years following World War II. This number is now very low, following the UK miners' strike (1984-1985), and the last 'traditional' deep-shaft mine, Tower Colliery, closed in January 2008.

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.

View north into Cwm Llwch] from Corn Du, in the Brecon Beacons range

Famous industrialised areas in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

Merthyr Tydfil (Welsh: Merthyr Tudful): 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 the 1831 census the population of Merthyr was 60,000 - more at that time 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 and Cyfarthfa Ironworks built in 1825 for William Crawshay the local ironmaster. Aberdare was known as Queen of the Valleys, Aberdare was also quite industrial, including coal mines, iron works, cable factory, engine sheds and sidings and many other industries.

The Heads of the Valleys towns, including Rhymney, Tredegar and Ebbw Vale rose out of the industrial revolution; producing coal, metal ores and later steel.

Aberfan: The Merthyr Vale colliery began to produce coal in 1875. Spoil from the mine workings was piled on the hills close to the village which grew nearby. Tipping went on until the 1960s. The industry was by then nationalised but even the National Coal Board failed to appreciate the true nature of the danger they helped to create. In October 1966 heavy rain made the giant coal 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 downhill across the Glamorganshire Canal and swept away houses on its path towards the village school. 114 children and 28 adults were killed.

The Rhondda Valleys (Rhondda Fach and Rhondda Fawr) 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 South Walian coal industry. Mining 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.

The River Ebbw valley which stretches from Ebbw Vale to Newport. Includes the mining towns and villages of Newbridge, Risca, Crumlin, Abercarn and Cwmcarn. The Carboniferous Black Vein coal seams in the area lay 900 feet below the surface and the mining activity associated with it was responsible for many tragic subsurface explosions, roof collapses and mining accidents.

Now the Valleys' heavy industrial past is overprinted with urban regeneration, tourism and multi-national investment.



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.

The local slang dialect and phrases of the South Wales Valleys communities have been referred to as 'Wenglish', with often comic effect [1]. The dialect is found also in such coastal towns as Barry, as featured in the BBC hit comedy series Gavin and Stacey.

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 Rhydywaun in Penywaun in the Cynon Valley, Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw in Pontypool, Ysgol Gymraeg Plasmawr in Cardiff & Ysgol Gyfun Garth Olwg in Church Village, Ysgol Gyfun Maes Yr Yrfa in Carmarthenshire which have all done much to enhance the status of the language among young people.

A significant number of people from ethnic-minority communities speak another language as their first language, particularly in Cardiff and Newport. Commonly-spoken languages in some areas include Punjabi, Bengali, Arabic, Somali and Chinese, and increasingly Eastern European languages such as Polish.


See also: Culture of Wales

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, Feeder, 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.

Industry today

The former heavy industries of coal and iron production have long disappeared, largely replaced by service sector industries. The cities along the M4 corridor are home to a number of high-profile blue-chip companies such as Admiral Insurance, Legal & General and the Welsh based 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 sectors 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.

Local media

Radio stations in the area include:

Cardiff also has its own television station, Capital TV (Website), based in the Link Trade Park in Penarth Road, Cardiff. The channel broadcasts to most of Cardiff on terrestrial frequency 49. The company runs alongside with local media studes centre, Media4Schools which produces small videos in co-operation with local schools (CardiffTV4School and ValeTV4Schools).

See also

External links

Coordinates: 51°41′N 3°23′W / 51.683°N 3.383°W / 51.683; -3.383

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

South Wales is in the United Kingdom.


These are historic counties used for geographic purposes. Due to the large populations of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire they are divided into twelve local authorities namely Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Bridgend, Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff, Newport, Monmouthshire, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Merthyr Tydfil.

Historic counties of South Wales
Historic counties of South Wales

Cities and towns



Worm's Head, Rhossili, Swansea
Worm's Head, Rhossili, Swansea
  • Swansea Bay. As the name implies is the region that surrounds Swansea Bay.
  • Caerphilly in Caerphilly - has a leaning tower
  • Carmarthen in Carmarthen - the ruins of Carmarthen Castle are in the town centre
  • Carreg Cennen Castle - imposing castle near Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire
  • Chepstow in Chepstow
  • Llansteffan near Carmarthen
  • Manorbier near Tenby
  • Oxwich at South Gower, Swansea - near Oxwich Bay
  • Oystermouth at Mumbles, Swansea - commanding views over Mumbles and Swansea Bay
  • Pembroke in Pembroke
  • Pennard at Pennard, Swansea - the ruins of Pennard Castle overlook Three Cliffs Bay
  • Picton near Haverfordwest
  • Swansea - the ruins of Swansea Castle are in the city centre
  • Weobley at North Gower, Swansea - the castle offers views over the Loughor Estuary to Carmarthenshire


South Wales is a very mixed area. There is stunning pastoral scenery in many parts of South West Wales, such as the Vale of Glamorgan near Cardiff and the Wye Valley in the historic county of Monmouthshire. Wales' two largest cities, Cardiff and Swansea, are both located in the historic county of Glamorgan and offer an excellent selection of stores, restaurants and entertainment opportunities. The coast around Pembrokeshire and the Gower Peninsula in Swansea, in particular, have stunning coastal paths and sandy beaches, and the area boasts an abundance of castles. In addition, South Wales has a proud industrial heritage, with Port Talbot being a major steel processing town, while the valleys in central Glamorgan were once the center of the Welsh coal mining industry. Since the 60s, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire have been very popular with people involved in alternative and counter culture; consequently South West Wales has become home to many communes and organic farms.


Welsh is commonly spoken is Carmarthenshire and north Pembrokeshire, but is used much less in South Pembrokeshire, Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. English is spoken throughout the region.

Get in

By car

M4 motorway from London to near Carmarthen

By train

Great Western runs a main line service from London to Swansea, with stops in Newport, Cardiff, Bridgend, Port Talbot and Neath. Arriva Trains covers the rural areas west and north of Swansea.

By plane

There is an international airport at Cardiff and a small airport serving private planes at Swansea

By boat

There are regular car ferry services from Ireland to Fishguard, and Pembroke.

Swansea offers mooring facilities for around 700 boats at the city's marina.

By bus

Cardiff, Swansea and Newport are connected to the National Bus Company network linking them to other major UK cities

Get around

Trains connect all the main centers of population, and a local bus network links the the stations to the smaller communities in the area.

Tenby Harbor
Tenby Harbor
  • Museums and galleries - Cardiff, Swansea, Newport
  • Picturesque small towns/villages - Llandovery, Tenby and Oxwich, Port Eynon and Rhosilli on the Gower Peninsula.
  • hiking - Carmarthenshire, Gower Peninsula, Pembrokeshire
  • swimming - Swansea, Tenby
  • water sports - Swansea
  • work on organic farms - Wales is home to many communes and organic farms, and WWOOF [1] can arrange for volunteers to work for free at some of these places in exchange for room and board. It is an excellent way to experience life in the Welsh country-side, make friends and, at the same time, learn a little about organic farming.
  • Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, Cardiff
  • Dylan Thomas Festival, Swansea An annual event held between 27 October and 9 November (the dates of the poet's birth and death) to commemorate the works of Thomas. In addition, the festival hosts the awards' ceremony for the winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize [2] - a biannual writing competition for most outstanding literary talent in English, aged under 30.
  • Dylan Thomas Fringe, Swansea. [3]. Compliments the main events at the Dylan Thomas Festival and is held at various venues throughout the city.
  • Swansea Bay Film Festival, Swansea. [4]. The UK's largest international indie film festival.
  • Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts, Swansea. [5]. An annual (October) three week bash of culture at various locations in Swansea, and the second largest such festival in the UK.
  • Lava bread is a puree made from seaweed and eaten for breakfast. It is a specialty of the Swansea area.
  • Cardiff, Swansea and Newport offer the greatest number and best quality of restaurants.
  • Cardiff, Swansea and Newport have a multitude of bars and cafes.

Stay safe

South Wales does not have a high crime rate, though like anywhere is in the UK, caution is required, especially in urban areas.

  • Boat trips linking Swansea and Penarth with north Devon run during the summer months.
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun

Wikipedia has an article on:


South Wales


South Wales

  1. An area of southern Wales bordering the Bristol Channel.


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