West Glamorgan (Swansea and Neath Port Talbot)
West Glamorgan is one of the two parts of the ancient county of Glamorgan and has been preserved during the 1996 administrative changes only for some ceremonial purposes. For administrative purposes it was suceeded by the counties of Swansea and Neath Port Talbot. For further details of the county's administrative structure see http://www.walesdirectory.co.uk/counties.htm
Swansea is the principal city of West Glamorgan and second largest in Wales, set at the mouth of the River Tawe on the sweeping curve of Swansea Bay. To the west is the Gower Peninsula, a rocky headland thrusting 14-miles into the Atlantic waters from Mumbles Head on Swansea Bay. Despite the attractions of Swansea and the almost unspoilt tranquillity of the Gower, West Glamorgan's most prominent feature is the miles of natural parkland. Pescyner Wildlife Park, set on a 16-acre wooded hillside, offers visitors the opportunity to view a wonderful range of animals in a most exhilarating setting; a chairlift provides the journey to the clifftop while the descent is by bobsleigh! As early as the 1500's, power generated by the surging waters of the River Dulais, thundering through a boulder strewn ravine and over the magnificent Aberdulais Falls, has been harnessed to serve a number of industries including copper smelting and tinplating. An antique waterwheel is still in use generating electricity. Margam Country Park incorporates the extensive lands formerly controlled by Margam Abbey in the 13 th century.
The ruins of this once powerful ecclesiastical structure now stand within the Park. The enormous 850-acre Park also contains an Iron Age hillfort, the restored Abbey church with windows by William Morris and the renowned Margam Stones Museum, wherein are inscribed and sculptured stones and crosses of both Roman and Celtic origin.
West Glamorgan is characterised by gentle rolling hills, genteel towns, pretty villages and a splendid natural coastline that incorporates many attractive and mostly secluded beaches backed by high cliff faces. Cutting diagonally across the county from the town of Neath to the high escarpments of the Brecon Beacons in the north is the beautiful Vale of Neath, which encompasses the Afan Forest Park. The Park is a natural wilderness of forest extending over 9000-acres, and is a paradise for naturalists, ramblers and cyclists with clearly marked trails ranging throughout the forest - summer visitors can hire mountain bikes and there is an informative tourist centre. On site, within the confines of the Park, is the Welsh Miner's Museum, illustrating the working life of a typical miner with pit gear and mining equipment on display plus genuine coal faces to explore. Coal mining is a part of the local heritage in West Glamorgan and the Cefn Coed Colliery Museum, located in what is now regarded as one of the most beautiful and unspoilt valleys in South Wales, reinforces its importance to past generations. Photographs, maps, galleries and exhibits vividly bring to life the tradition and legacy of mining.