Merthyr Tydfil, or Merthyr Tudful in Welsh, is a medium sized town situated at the base of the Brecon Beacons in South Wales. It is situated around 30 miles north of Cardiff, with the Swansea Valleys to the West and the Marches of Abergavenny, Monmouth and Newport to the East and South East.
Population (2007 est.): 55,600
Ethnicity: 99.6% White
Average Age (2006): 38
Welsh speakers of any skill: 17.7%
Average house price (July 2009): £73,000
Crime Rate (August 2009): 8.0
Unemployment Rate: 9.9%
* A Bit of History*
Merthyr Tydfil has a colourful and interesting history. The town is named in honour of Saint Tydfil, who is also present on the Council's logo. The town developed during the 18th century when the industrial revolution kicked into life, drawing people in from the surrounding countryside in search of work and a better way of life. Situated close to large supplies of coal, iron ore and limestone, the town made an ideal site for ironworks and other large industrial plants. The Dowlais and Cyfartha Ironworks, built in the late 18th century, were some of the biggest and most succesful of their kind in the world. Welsh coal was considered by the Navy to be of an excellent quality, as it produced little smoke and less of it was required to fuel the ships, hence demand grew quickly. By 1851, Merthyr had become the largest urban area in Wales, and drew in economic migrants not only from England, but from Ireland and other parts of the British Empire. In addition, Merthyr has been a hot bed of working class politics, and events such as the Merthyr Rising of 1831 make for very interesting reading. For anyone interested in the history of socialism and working class politics, Merthyr Tydfil is a keystone in its development.
However, by the early 20th century, demand for Welsh coal diminished as alternative fuels began to be discovered and competition from the Commonwealth became intense. Many of the ironworks closed down or moved elsewhere, and much of the population went with them. By the 1930s, almost all the industry in the area had gone. In 1932, 80% of the male population were unemployed. This strife continued until WWII. Although the post-war boom brough new life to the town with the establishment of factorities by companies such as Hoover, the area remained, and indeed today remains, one of the most impoverished areas in the United Kingdom.
However, since devolution and the establishment of the Welsh Assembley Government in the late 1990s, the area has been given a new lease of life. New funding has come both from WAG and from the EU through the "Heads of the Valleys Project", as well as the offering of incentives to business to base themselves in the area.
The town itself is centered at the base of a valley, and sprawls upwards to the peaks on both sides, touching the edge of the Beacons. The Town centre has seen new investment recently and has been repaved and new benches put in place. It is a lot cleaner than it used to be, and work is always ongoing. A project has recently been completed which has given new life to the Taff Trail improving its appearance considerably. However, there are still areas which need significant work and monetary investment. The bus station is one such area, it is both ugly and dirty and desperately needs a revamp.
The town does offer fairly good options in the way of shopping. It has 3 major supermarkets, one of which is 24 hour. Tesco is based in the town itself, and Asda and Co-Op are on the outskirts, so a car or public transport will be needed. A new shopping development has opened in recent years to the North-east, and has many large stores including a BnQ, JJB Sports with Gym, Currys, TopShop, TK MAXX, Next, Boots, Matalan and others. There is also a Halfords, PC World, £ Stretcher, and Comet to the South. Like many town centres these days, Merthyr's is languishing slightly due to the recession, with quite a few vacant shops. However the Woolworths has quickly been filled by a B&M Bargain, and there are many other shops such as Wilkinsons, Poundland, WH Smith and GAME. Overall, most of the shops are pretty low-end, so don't expect boutiques and high-class stores, though there are a couple of such stores if you look carefully. The top of the High Street could do with further development, as it is looking a bit run down. Parking is ample and rates are average, about £1 for 2 hours.
Merthyr offers plenty in the way of low-cost cafes and restaurants, however there is a distinct lack of high-quality restaurants in the area. This may reflect a lack of demand during the recession and in the area in general. However there are gems in the rough if you look hard enough, such as the Nant Ddu Lodge nestled just 5-6 miles North in the Beacons itself. In the town itself there are an abundance of privately owned cafes to grab a lunchtime snack and plenty of "greasy spoons" if you fancy a Full English. There is also a Wetherspoons at the top end of town, as well as a McDonalds. Out of town, the new Rhydycar development offers a Nando's and a Subway, and there is also a KFC and another McDonalds on offer too. Overall, great for low-cost grub, not great for fine dining. Go to Brecon, Abergavenny or Cardiff for this. There are plenty of pubs in the town although some are certainly avoided. The town has a nightlife typical of many small towns where you are guranteed to know almost everyone you meet.
*Housing and Accomodation*
Although there are certain area of Merthyr which are pretty and have excellent housing, the whole area is blighted by its infamous reputation. There are a large number of Council Estates around Merthyr, the infamous of which being "The Gurnos", where crime rates are high. This does however have one advantage of keeping house prices relatively low in the nicer areas. There are various hotels in the town centre and a new Travellodge has also just opened on the outskirts.
*Leisure and Services*
There is a brand new leisure centre with swimming pool on the outskirts, along with a Vue cinema showing all the latest box office movies. There are a variety of parks such as Cyfartha Park, and libraries are also avaliable for those who wish to use them. Community centres are also in abundance thanks to government grants and they put on regular events. The Brecon Beacons and Cardiff are also only a stones through away. Almost all of the main banks have a branch in the town centre.
The A470 runs alongside the town offering road links to Brecon and Cardiff. The dual carriageway to Cardiff makes commuting relatively straight forward. There are also roads to Neath and Swansea, and to Abergavenny and other parts of the Valleys via the infamous "Heads of the Valleys Road". Although now being vastly improved, sections of this road are still not very nice to drive on. Bus services run regularly throughout the town, and a train service runs every 1/2 hour to Cardiff.
Overall, Merthyr Tydfil has come on leaps and bounds in the past 10 years thanks to significant investment from the EU and the Welsh Assembley. New "out of town" developments have brought a new lease of life to the area. However there is still much to do and unemployment remains an acute problem left by the fallout of industry and manufacturing.
Merthyr Tydfil, a historic town with the best shops and loads of pubs and great services. Think again!!!! <<Services>> TRAIN STATION Hosted by Valley Lines this small train station with a huge platform where the waiting room is hardly ever open. You can only go to Cardiff from there. Need I say more!!!! BUS STATION A huge bus station with buses going to here, there, and everywhere. It's heavily polluted and stinkingly old. It could be knocked down and made a bit more modern!! And also it could revieve a clean-out. LEISURE FACILITIES A swimming pool with no diving boards, slides, or anything. A leisure centre which I must say is quite good but could have a few more things to do. It has a gym and a sauna. Tennis court (indoor), has to be put up. Gymnasium (only for people who belong tyo the club). So there could be some improovements made there. <<Shops>> Merthyr has a wide range of shops, leading from Greggs to Woolworths. There are many butchers, cafe's, clothes shops, and bakerys. And a Woolworths, WHSmith, an indoor and outdoor market. Quite a good range of shops. <<Supermarkets>> A huge ASDA, which is quite hard to find because it isn't in the town centre, a CO-OP which is yet again quite hard to find because it is down in Pentrebach which is about 5 minutes (car ride) from the town centre, and TESCO which is in the town centre but is very small. Over the past 3 years we have been promised a SAINSBURY's which never seems to come. <<Cinema>> The cinema there, is a dump. £3.50 to get in, hardly any good films, very dirty, small screens, and uncomfortable seating in Cinema 3. Castle Cinema's... stay well away. <<Pubs and Clubs>> Merthyr Tydfil is well known for it's wide range of pubs and clubs. Yet the clubs tend to be quite rough, and the pubs are quite nice yet they tend to be overcrowded. <<Housin
g>> There are millions of houses in Merthyr Tydfil, ranging from small to big, some close to the town centre and some far away. Yet all area's of Merthyr tend to be rough but there are a wide range of high quality houses. <<Overall>> Overall I think Merthyr Tydfil is quite a nice town yet could improove under pollution and it could have a wider range of shops and leisure facilities. I think I would recommend Merthyr to someone but not to live there. Please leave a comment at the end.