Friday, 4 January 2008

The Heritage Park

I started the day with a walk into Tonypandy Square and found the library on the way, but it was closed until later in the day, so I stopped at a solicitor's office to ask for help finding a photocopying service for the certificates, but they were happy to do it there for me for one pound (a bargain!).

I arrived home in time to travel with Anne to pick up Mavis, and, with a stop for groceries on the way, we went to the Rhondda Heritage Park.

Set on the site of a colliery, the guides are ex-miners, so they certainly know what they are talking about. Ours had spent 17 years at the coalface. You start with 2 multimedia presentations which show the history of the collieries setting up, and also looks at the life of the miners. The park has a mock street set-up, so you can go into a miner's house, see what it was like, and also see a street with shops.

Collieries had huge tall chimneys to carry smoke and fumes away from the mines where the air was pumped down into the shafts, and being so high (45 metres) the smoke and fumes weren't pumped down with it. However looking at this high chimney, the guide explained that if you multiplied the height of the chimeny by 10 or more, then went down underground that distance, you had an idea of how far down the miners worked.

Coal was brought up at the rate of two trams every 30 seconds, and miners were expected to dig 16+ tons of coal in a shift. The tour then takes you down a simulated coal mine. You get into the same cage miners would have used. (It feels like you have traveled way down, but in reality you are only below the surface.) You then walk through a string of tunnels like the miners would have worked in, although ours were full size and I could stand up in them. The guide described them as "5 star" and many miners would have worked in much less space than that, possibly even crawling to get through areas, and work at ground level at the coalface itself.

Children started working in the mines at an early age, and, before the laws were changed, the youngest age known was a 4 year old!! They started by manning the air doors, which were used to control air flow through the mines and prevent dangerous gases escaping.

When Thatcher broke the unions, the then Coal Board tried to tell everyone the coal was all worked out anyway, but estimates are that there is a huge amount of untouched coal under the ground. While the level of demand isn't there as it was, of course, there is still a need for coal in the UK (eg power stations) but the government imports it instead. Weird! (Cheaper...)

One way it was explained to me was that if you put a postage stamp on a pool table, the stamp represents the amount of coal TAKEN to date. The rest of the table represents the unmined coal!

After a faked explosion, we had a simulated train ride back to the surface (kind of like a multimedia roller coaster - you still found yourself swaying through non-existent corners! heheh). All in all, a fascinating look at the life of a miner! The cafe gave me a chance to eat Welsh cakes, and the gift shop yielded several treasures! ;0)

I finished the day at the Penygraig Rugby Football Club, where I was made very welcome, even more so once it was known that I had traveled all the way from NZ... Hence the late posting of today's travels! LOL!!

Not sure what tomorrow has in store, other than a trip to visit a local painter who does wonderful paintings of the area, including collieries as they were back when! (More money needed?)

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