South Wales (Welsh: De Cymru) is the region 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 southwest of the United Kingdom, it is home to around 2.2 million people. The region contains almost three-quarters of the population of Wales, including the capital city of Cardiff (population approximately 350,000), as well as Swansea and Newport, with populations approximately 240,000 and 150,000 respectively. The Brecon Beacons national park covers about a third of South Wales, containing Pen y Fan, the highest mountain south of Snowdonia.
The region is loosely defined, but it is generally considered to include the historic counties of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire, sometimes extending westwards to include Carmarthenshire and 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. Areas to the north of the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains are generally considered part of Mid Wales.
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 as well as poets in the Welsh language, although the interests of the latter lay more in society and culture than in the evocation of natural scenery. This natural beauty changed to a considerable extent during the early Industrial Revolution when the Glamorgan and Monmouthshirevalley 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 fromBarry 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 the English Midlands, 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 valleysbetween 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 led 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, theVale 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. In addition to this, many once heavily industrialised sites have reverted to wilderness, some provided with a series of cycle tracks and other outdoor amenities. Large areas of forestry and open moorland also contribute to the amenity of the landscape.
Text from Wikipedia