Tuesday, August 12, 2014

UK Tour Photos: The Rhondda Valley

On my third day in Wales, I took the train from Cardiff up into the South Wales Valleys. This spot in the Rhondda was ground zero for the world's coal mining industry in the 1800s and early 1900s. This lush green Eden was turned into a Mordor of slag heaps and smoke. Hundreds of men and boys lost their lives in the darkness under the ground here. There were strikes and riots. And eventually, the industry collapsed. Today, there are no deep coal mines left anywhere in the South Wales Valleys. And while the slopes turn back into spectacular green, the region is left struggling economically. A couple of years ago, it was declared — along with west Wales — to be the poorest place anywhere in the United Kingdom.

While I was in the Rhondda, I took the chance to track down an ancient holy site: St. Mary's Well. It's marked by a big stone statue of the Virgin Mary and a natural spring which is said to have miraculous healing powers. Pilgrims have come here for centuries — maybe even stretching back all the way into pagan prehistory. But the site was shut down by King Henry VIII during his attacks on Catholicism. I wrote a whole post about it as an excuse to talk about the impact the Reformation had on Toronto hundreds of years later. You can read that post here, a post about Cardiff's economic recovery — and the role played by a TV show created by a Torontonian — here, and check out all my photos of the Rhondda here:

FULL GALLERY

And, as always, you can follow me on Instagram at @todreamsproject.

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