Let's talk about Nantyglo Memories of childhood among the 'coal tips' Although I was born in Brynmawr (the next town north of Nantyglo) my parents moved to Coalbrook Vale, a suburb of Nantyglo, when I was 1 year old. Play time as an infant was great. Safe amongst close friendly neighbours, my small group of 4 boys played amongst the coal tips of a day gone by. As I cut dirt trails for toy cars into the shale of the tips I had no idea of the history that laid deep in the mountains of Nantyglo. The stream that ran close to our house, the Manor House of Coalbrook, the small ponds where all manor of wildlife lived, were very natural to me. Bleak in winter and not too hot in summer. I grew up in this valley, and knew only a little of other valleys, as Wales is renowned for valleys. London is some 150 miles away and I once asked which valley it was in. But Nantyglo was in the county of Monmouthshire. This county being owned by both England and Wales (depending on who won the latest battle). But in my youth it was a disputed county, until the mid 1960's when it was declared Welsh, and Welsh it remains. But Nantyglo is there because of Iron. Two hundred years ago, if you wanted iron you went to Nantyglo, Wales. Those hills were full of Iron Ore, Lime, Coal, and, of course, Water. Lots of Water. Rails for the emerging railways or steel for the new steam ships, Nantyglo it was. Let's not forget Welsh Steam Coal, reputed to have the highest heat output for raising steam. Thus the men of vision came to exploit the wealth of natural resources. They needed labour, so many came from all over the country to seek their fortune. What they got was a meagre existence. The exploitation of the common man is well documented, I will not add to this. But it was the beautiful valley that suffered also. Black coal tips were everywhere. (Right up to the 1960's there were still individuals mining coal in private drift mines near the top of the mountain.) The mines of Nantyglo were not a recent feature, but many men, including my father, travelled a few miles to the coal mines. By the time I was born (1947) and played amongst those tips, they were mostly covered by grass and moss. The area had given up its wealth, and the developers had moved on, leaving behind the workers. The plight of the workers, from chartist to modern day, has also been well documented. One historical novel worth reading would be The Rape of the Fair Country by Alexandra Cordell, an Englishman with a great empathy for the area. And so to modern day. Still a proud working class area. Where we experience problems similar to the rest of the world. Communications, in the form of new roads, has greatly improved the environment. So too has the landscaping. Thus Nantyglo as we now know it. I suggest you might interpret the Welsh "Nantyglo" as Coal Brook or Coal Stream.
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