Shirley's UK Trip 2012 travel blog

One of the 5 blast furnaces at the ironworks

An interesting graph

The National Coal Museum overlooking Blaenavon

Today seems to have been a long day & I’m tired tonight so this will be brief. I woke up early & left Nailsworth about 8:30. It was drizzling rain but not as cold as it has been – about 10C.

I didn’t want to go down the motorway so went around the top of the Severn estuary, through Gloucester & down through the Forest of Dean, which is lovely. I came through Montrose & stopped at Blaenavon which is an “Industrial Landscape” World Heritage Site.

This town is home to the best preserved 18th century ironworks in the world. The bleak landscape with its abandoned coal & iron ore mines, limestone quarries & primitive railway system became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 as testament to South Wales global importance as a producer of iron & coal in the 19th century.

I saw the ironworks first & they are amazing. They were started before the town was here so all the workers lived on the site & had to buy all their supplies at the company store, which had grossly inflated prices. They got paid for their regular shift but had to accept company store tokens for any overtime worked.

Women & children as young as 7 years old worked 12 hour shifts shovelling coal to feed the furnaces. Then the owners realized that it was more profitable to export coal instead of iron so the ironworks were abandoned & everyone worked in the coal mines.

The Big Pit National Coal Museum is just down the road from the ironworks & it was also most interesting. All the sites in Blaenarvon are free & the underground mine tour is very popular, especially with the kids. I wasn’t very interested but when I was told there was a one hour wait, that made up my mind.

I got an audio guide for £2 & saw everything I needed. I fact, they’ve recently spent about £7 million on a simulation of the coal mine & I think you’d learn more from that instead of going down the mine.

I still had a 1½ hour drive so I needed to leave as I’d arranged to meet the owner of my new cottage at 4:00pm. I drove down the Vale of Neath then stocked up with groceries at a supermarket in Neath because everything is closed tomorrow.

This cottage is quite different from my apartment in the middle of the village. It’s very rural & is called the Old Forge Pump-house but I haven’t got that story yet.

Time to relax now & figure out what I need to see during the next week.

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