South Wales has a history that is both proud and fascinating. It takes in periods of national and international conflict, religious turmoil, and some of the most significant social changes ever to take place in the UK. In agriculture and industry, language and culture, and science and engineering, events that happened here had echoes across the globe.
The industrial history of South Wales is one of the most interesting parts of the story. There are visible traces all over the Valleys and in Cardiff, Swansea, and Newport. Take what is now Cyfarthfa Park for example. The terrible conditions faced by the workforce and the rich luxury of the coal and iron giants are in evidence in the castle and the museum, and so is the resulting tension.
In one of the defining moments in Merthyr history, it was here that the red flag was first flown as a symbol of solidarity and rebellion against unjust pay and poor treatment. Just a little way down the A470 is the site of Trevithick’s revolutionary steam railway- the first in the world- and to the East is Aberfan, a place still slowly recovering from one of the last great disasters of the coal years.
A few miles to the North, visitors can see the world’s largest lump of coal in Bedwellty Park (and a lot more besides). If nothing else, the huge black monument is testament to the pride of the local miners. They did have a great deal to be proud of. It was in the same village that the idea of a free and universal national health service came into being.