One is that all the main roads run in a northwest to southeast direction. This is a clue to the area’s dominant physical feature - a series of parallel valleys. Although we call this area ‘the Valleys’ as a collective term, each one has a distinct identity. The valleys are quite isolated from each other and separated by upland moors. Main roads and railways go up and down each valley but there are few places we can cross the mountains. This makes inter-valley communication very difficult. The narrow Welsh valleys were carved out by glaciers, more than 10,000 years ago during the last Ice Age. Their steep sides and flat bottoms form a distinct ‘U’ shape. On an Ordnance Survey map you‘ll see orange contour lines. In places these are very close together, denoting steep slopes. Long before the Ice Ages formed the valleys, this area was covered with tropical rainforest. When trees and plants died their remains built up and compacted into layers. Over millions of years these compacted layers gradually hardened - first into peat, later into brown and then into black coal. Coal measures lay virtually undisturbed for over 300 million years. Then in the nineteenth century, the seams in these valleys were worked to extract different grades of coal – bituminous, steam and anthracite. Steam coal was exported worldwide and made the South Wales valleys internationally famous. All the men in Emily’s family were coal miners - her father, husband, brothers and brothers-in law. They spent their working lives extracting the ‘black gold’ that provided so much energy, power and profit. As we continue, we’ll see how the coal industry transformed the physical and social landscape. Coal changed the scenery, the economy, and people’s lives. Directions Continue across the grass to a break in the fence on the far side. Follow the path down to the riverside. Turn left on the riverside path and follow it for about 400 metres. When you reach a fork in the path, go left up the embankment. Stop at the memorial to Ferndale miners.