THE GLOWING MOUNTAIN
OUR last peep shall be taken in the busy region of South Glamorgan, where the hills and valleys present a very different scene from those amongst which we have lately wandered. For here is the home of coal—that powerful material which produces the force required for most of the machinery of the world.
Above the vales of Dowlais, Neath, and Taff, over the Rhondda Valley and the towns of Merthyr Tydvil and Aberdare, hangs a perpetual smoke-cloud from the vast furnaces which are always busy smelting iron and steel from the neighbouring coalfields, or, west of Swansea, copper imported from abroad. Some of these valleys are simply a succession of mining villages, the home of strenuous toilers who all day and all night are working their turns, or "shifts," some underground in the mines, some at the furnaces, some sending off the coal, and iron, and copper to the great port of Cardiff, or the lesser ones at Swansea or Barry.
There is nothing very picturesque about this region, although it can boast of the ruins of many strong castles, some interesting churches, and the beautiful Vale of Glamorgan—a region of meadows and grassy slopes, upon which feed fat cows and oxen to their hearts' content.
But this is, perhaps, too tame to be attractive; nor, apart from the almost terrible interest attached to all coal-mines, is there anything to keep us lingering in the blackened valleys of the district.
There is one curious feature, however, at which you will like to take a peep. Borrow, of course, found it out, and called it the Glowing Mountain.
He was on his way to Merthyr Tydvil when, as it began to grow dark, he came to the beginning of a vast moor. In the distance he could see weird blazes and hear "horrid sounds''; and, as he went on up hills and down dales, night set in, very black and still. Having toiled to the top of a steep ascent, he stopped to take breath, and saw a glow on all sides in the heavens except in the north-cast quarter.
"Turning round a corner at the top of the hill, I saw blazes here and there, and what appeared to be a Glowing Mountain in the south-east. I went towards it down a descent, which continued for a long, long way. So great was the light cast by the blazes and that wonderfully glowing object, that I could distinctly see the little stones upon the road.
"After walking for about half an hour, always going downwards, I saw a house on my left hand, and heard a noise of water opposite to it. I went to the waterfall, drank greedily, and then hurried on, more and more blazes and the glowing object looking more terrible than ever.
"It was now above me at some distance to the left, and I could sec that it was an immense quantity of heated matter, like lava, occupying the upper and middle parts of a hill, and descending here and there almost to the bottom in a zigzag and winding manner. Between me and the Glowing Mountain lay a deep ravine. After a time I came to a house, against the door of which a man was leaning.
" 'What is all that burning stuff above, my friend?'
" 'Dross from the iron forges, sir.' "
"I now perceived a valley below me, full of lights, and, descending, reached houses and a tramway. I had blazes now all around me ... and finally found myself before the Castle Inn at Merthyr Tydvil."
In the morning he revisits the scene.
"The mountain of dross which had startled me on the preceding night with its terrific glare, looked now nothing more than an immense dark heap of cinders. It is only when the shades of night have settled down that the fire within manifests itself, making the hill appear an immense glowing mass."
And so, with Borrow, we will turn our backs on the great Welsh coal-field, and say good-bye for the present to Wild Wales.