Walking The Valleys - Finch & Briggs


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Walking Cardiff

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Over the past two centuries the South Wales Valleys have gone from idyllic rural landscape to the engine room of the British Empire to post industrial decline. Building on the success of their book Walking Cardiff, Peter Finch and John Briggs explore how the Valleys have changed, and how they are evolving for the twenty-first centuries in their new book Walking the Valleys.

As centres of coal mining and iron and steel-making, the Valleys saw over a hundred thousand people crammed between their steep sides. Their industry produced not only fuel and products exported around the world, but also archetypal working class communities, with their chapels, union militancy, self-funded workers’ institutes, and seemingly unbreakable identities. Fuelled by massive immigration, they were also a social experiment in assimilation and radical politics.

Now the pits and foundries have become heritage sites, the chapels are retail centres or housing, and Finch and Briggs explore how the Valleys have changed, and what they have become. Their forward-looking book is also one of record, as the towns and villages evolve into the twenty-first centuries. This is their take on Abercynon, Aberdare, Aberfan, Bargoed, Caerphilly, Gelli, Gelligaer, Merthyr Tydfil, Pontypridd, Porth, Rhymney, Taffs Well, Tonypandy, Treherbert and Ystrad Mynach.

The informative texts can be used as both a route finder and a literary entertainment in themselves. John Briggs's lively photographs provide further detail and each walk is illustrated with a map. Armchair walkers will find the book as interesting and as useful as those actually pull on their boots. And natives and visitors alike will find a new discovery around every corner.

photo John Briggs

Walking The Valleys : an immersive rambling guide to south Wales, from Aber to Ystrad -

Following on from 2019’s Walking Cardiff comes writer Peter Finch and photographer John Briggs’ followup/breakout book Walking The Valleys, in which we are once again entertained and educated as we traverse routes and roads, byways and bridle paths, from Aber to Ystrad. But which Aber and Ystrad? (You’ll have to read the book to find out).

Once again, Finch is the I and Briggs the eye; both are the feet, as they walk, wind, and wend their way, snapping and yapping (we imagine) merrily. The writing is intelligent, lively, and lyrical, offering up fact with literary flair; the accompanying images are iconic and inspiring, but with a slightly skewed, individual and unique angle, as to be expected of this expert photographer, and one who has worked with Finch on previous tomes.

Altogether this equates to a superb gift, even if you don’t wish to venture out in person. Walking The Valleys is an immersive guide that will take you there anyway, and you can lose many hours within its wide-scape pages, enjoying facts and fascinating insights. How the south Wales valleys have changed since their coal mining past is extremely interesting, and the fact that these places are a short train trip or even cycle away makes them very tempting to take a visit to. An excellent addition to Finch’s series of psychogeographic guides, and highly recommended.

Mab Jones in Buzz December, 2022

The Routes We Took - View the interactive maps at Plotaroute

Abercynon 2.77 miles.
Aberdare 4.50 miles
Aberfan 4.32 miles
Bargoed 2.74 miles.
Caerphilly 4.80 miles
Gelli 4.33 miles
Gelligaer 6.45 miles
Pontypridd 3.36 miles
Porth 2.81 miles
Rhymney 4.63 miles
Taff’s Well 3.24 miles
Tonypandy 4.48 miles
Treherbert 4.34 miles
Ystrad Mynach 6.86 miles
Merthyr 5.88 miles

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Urban walks in the
Cynon, Rhondda,
Rhymney & Taff