Cycling across the green valleys of South Wales, surrounded by rolling hills covered by deep grass waving in the wind, it’s easy to forget that this used to be an industrial landscape filled with metal towers and rattling conveyor belts that dragged black gold out of the earth.
For the best part of two centuries coal mining was the business in Wales, with millions of tonnes produced each year. Coal barons were the rock stars of the day, providing fuel for the Industrial Revolution and making massive stacks of cash – like the first ever £1m cheque written at the Cardiff Coal Exchange back in the early 1900s.
“Just like the grass that’s slowly growing over old slag heaps, the valleys are finding new life as a cycle touring hotspot.”
Since then coal has fallen out of fashion thanks to Thatcherism, dwindling supplies and moves toward greener energy. The hard working communities that sprung up around the mines are now often struggling to make a living, but just like the grass that’s slowly growing over old slag heaps, the valleys are finding new life as a cycle touring hotspot, helped by various green initiatives.
UK charity Sustrans are the champions of environmentally-friendly travel. Aiming to make travel cheaper, healthier and cleaner they’ve helped set up the National Cycle Network, a series of cycle routes and trails that cover the whole of Britain – including hundreds of kilometres around the former industrial heartlands of the Welsh Valleys.