Journaling Through South Wales
So I don’t know South Wales; don’t know anything about it apart from maybe a rhyme about a Welshman’s wife from a novel I once read so all of this I found fascinating! My great interviewee paints a great story
The Rhondda Valley in South Wales is truly unique; the harsh landscape has brought both prosperity and poverty to the area. The discovery of “black gold” coal in the second half of the nineteenth century was to change the face of the Valley forever. After previously being mostly farmland, it became a beacon to those seeking employment. Small terraced houses were hastily built into the mountain side and a railway was constructed to carry the coal to Cardiff docks where it would be transported to the world. It became a bustling thriving community but the land was black and dusty.
This industrial revolution became a revolution of a different kind in the mid twentieth century. The livelihood of the area was threatened with economic depression. Maerdy, a little village with the last deep mine in the Rhondda became known as Little Moscow for its far left militant ideals. The residents fought to keep the mines, their heritage and their future alive but after a long struggle, eventually in 1986 the Maerdy pit closed and the industry was lost forever.
The blackened industrial landscape decayed, the residents who had campaigned to save the mines were left unemployed. The shops, coffee bars and leisure facilities all suffered as a result of this economic downturn.
The scars of this loss can still be felt today but the remains of the industry are now buried under new life as nature claims back the land that the mines took. The landscape is truly breath-taking and yet its dark history blurs many peoples vision and today it is still widely overlooked and underappreciated.
The Valleys are well known for the rain, the clouds hover over the mountains ominously. The result of the wet atmosphere is the vibrant green of the mountains, proving that every cloud really does have a silver lining. A sunny day in the Valleys has been compared by writer Ruth Jones as “as beautiful as Tuscany.”
The one game that brings the Valleys together is rugby. They will come out in their forces, a sea of red shirts draped in dragon flags in support of their Welsh team. Equal support is shown for the local teams and the junior side with girls and boys as young as 5 in attendance. The male voice choirs are another traditional past time in the area and the sound of the strong male voices are sin ominous with the Valleys.
Welsh is spoken across Wales but most of the Valleys residents speak English as a first language. There are though, words and phrases that I have learnt since moving here and still after 8 years, I discover more. The rubbish man is called the Ashman and a hug is called a cwtch (which is also the name of a little cupboard under the stairs or the place where coal was kept outside the house).
The one thing that can’t be put into words though is the way that the Valley people make you feel when they accept you as one of them. They are a community that has been through so much. They continue to face economic difficulties as industry is still sparse and yet they stand tall and face the future together with a rugby ball under their arm and song in their heart.
I am honoured that this beautiful part of the world is now where I call home. My 3 children will grow up playing on the mountain and enjoying being part of a unique community. They are my inspiration for my blog; The Contented Family Life where I document my journey as I actively choose happiness in the midst of the madness that is motherhood, Visit my blog and join me in my mission to make the world a happier place one family at a time. Check me out!
This beautiful valley has been through a long and rich history in its time. Rugby which appears quite a rough sport, has helped them keep their hearts and community together. What do the people around you do to keep a togetherness between them?