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South Wales ( ) is an area of Walesmarker bordered by Englandmarker and the Bristol Channelmarker to the east and south, and Mid Walesmarker and West Walesmarker to the north and west. The most densely populated region in the south-west of the United Kingdommarker, it is home to around 2.1 million people and includes the capital city of Cardiffmarker (population approximately 317,500), as well as Swanseamarker and Newportmarker. The Brecon Beaconsmarker national park covers about a third of South Wales, containing Pen y Fanmarker, the highest mountain south of Snowdoniamarker.

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 Glamorganshiremarker and Monmouthshiremarker and sometimes extending westwards to include south Carmarthenshiremarker and south Pembrokeshiremarker. In the western extent, from Swanseamarker westwards, local people would probably recognise that they lived in both South Wales and in West Walesmarker - 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 Walesmarker is in South Wales based on estimates from the 2001 census data.


The South Wales Valleysmarker 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 Glamorganmarker 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 Cardiffmarker and Newportmarker. 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 Glamorganmarker.
The Marquess of Bute, who owned much of the land north of Cardiffmarker, built a steam railway system on his land that stretched from Cardiff into many of the South Wales Valleysmarker 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 Englandmarker, Scotlandmarker, Irelandmarker, Cornwallmarker and even Italymarker came and set up homes and put down roots in the region. Very many came from other coal mining areas such as Somersetmarker, the Forest of Deanmarker in Gloucestershiremarker and the tin mines of Cornwallmarker such as Geevor Tin Minemarker, as a large but experienced and willing workforce was required. Whilst some of the migrants left, many settled and established in the South Wales valleysmarker between Swanseamarker and Abergavennymarker, 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 , and the last 'traditional' deep-shaft mine, Tower Collierymarker, 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 Neathmarker valley, the Vale of Glamorganmarker and the valleys of the River Uskmarker 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 Tydfilmarker (Tydfil the Martyr): The town's Dowlaismarker 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 Cardiffmarker, Swanseamarker and Newportmarker 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. Aberdaremarker 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 Rhymneymarker, Tredegarmarker and Ebbw Valemarker rose out of the industrial revolution; producing coal, metal ores and later steel.

Aberfanmarker: 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 canalmarker and swept away houses on its path towards the village school. 114 children and 28 adults were killed.

The Rhonddamarker 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 Tylorstownmarker Colliery. An enquiry found that the pit involved had not been properly inspected over the previous fifteen months.

The River Ebbwmarker valley which stretches from Ebbw Valemarker to Newportmarker. Includes the mining towns and villages of Newbridgemarker, Riscamarker, Crumlinmarker, Abercarnmarker and Cwmcarnmarker. 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.


File:ValeGlamorgan1.jpg|The rich countryside of the Vale of GlamorganmarkerFile:Central Cardiff.jpg|Section of Cardiffmarker skyline.File:Cardiff1.jpg|Western Central Cardiff from the Cardiff Eye (60m Wales Wheel), CardiffFile:wales_blaenavon_bigpit.jpg|The Big Pit National Coal Museummarker at Blaenavonmarker - South Wales' economic past in coal miningFile:EbbwVale1.jpg|A typical scene from the valleys - The view from Ebbw Valemarker.File:Llantwit Major Beach Bristol Channel.jpg|South Wales Coastline overlooking the Bristol Channel at Llantwit Majormarker


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 Glamorganmarker, particularly the Neathmarker and Swansea Valleysmarker, there remain significant Welsh-speaking communities such as (Ystradgynlaismarker and Ystalyferamarker) which share a heritage with the fellow ex-Anthracite mining areas of eastern Carmarthenshiremarker, as much as the Glamorganmarker valleys.

The local slang dialect and phrases of the South Wales Valleysmarker communities have been referred to as 'Wenglish', with often comic effect [76746].

Welsh, however, is now a compulsory language up to GCSE level for all students who start their education in Walesmarker. 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 Cymmermarker in Porthmarker the Rhonddamarker, Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllywmarker in Pontypoolmarker, Ysgol Gymraeg Plasmawr in Cardiffmarker & Ysgol Gyfun Garth Olwgmarker in Church Village, which have 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 Cardiffmarker and Newportmarker. 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 corridormarker 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 Tydfilmarker 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 Nantgarwmarker, 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 Bridgendmarker and Llantrisantmarker contains a number of large soundstages which have already attracted the interest of a number of Hollywoodmarker 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 terestrial 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

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