Vale of Glamorgan

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The Vale of Glamorgan (Welsh: Bro (or rarely Dyffryn) Morgannwg) is an exceptionally rich agricultural area in the southern part of Glamorgan, South Wales. It has a rugged coastline, but its rolling countryside is quite atypical of Wales as a whole.

The Vale also boasts many tourist attractions which lure many visitors every year, including Barry Island Pleasure Park, Vale of Glamorgan Railway, St Donat's Castle, Cosmeston Park and Cosmeston Medieval Village and many more. It is also the location of Atlantic College, one of the United World Colleges.

It has been a county borough (unitary authority) since 1996, previously being part of South Glamorgan county. It is also a parliamentary constituency, with John Smith as its Member of Parliament. The main town and largest centre of population is Barry. Other small towns are Cowbridge, Dinas Powys, Llantwit Major and Penarth which is the Vale's first Fairtrade town, but a large proportion of the population inhabits villages, hamlets and individual farms.

The yellow-grey cliffs on the Glamorgan Heritage Coast (which stretches between Llantwit Major to Ogmore-by-Sea) are unique on the Celtic Sea coastline (i.e Cornwall, Wales, Ireland and Brittany) as they are formed of a combination of liassic limestone, shale and carboniferous sandstone/limestone. They were formed 200 million years ago when Wales (as well as Cornwall, Brittany and Ireland) lay underneath a warm, shallow, equatorial sea during the beginning of the Jurassic age. Today the cliffs contain elements of Jurassic age sea-creatures (although not land dinosaurs - what is now the Celtic Sea coastline was underneath the sea), such as ammonites. The stratification of overlapping shale, sandstone and limestone was caused by a geological upheaval known as the Variscan orogeny, which literally pushed the cliffs out of the sea, contorting them as they did so. (This stratification can also be found on other parts of the Celtic seaboard, such as Bude in Cornwall, across the Bristol Channel). As the cliffs and land contain elements of calcium carbonate found in the limestone, it allows farmers in the vale to grow crops which would be difficult elsewhere in Wales or the West country, such as Devon and Cornwall (whose soil is predominantly acidic as most of the west country is made of poor quality Devonian soils). The liassic limestone and carboniferous sandstone is also used in the vale for building materials; in previous centuries it was taken by sloops across the Bristol Channel to north Cornish ports such as Bude, Boscastle and Port Isaac to fertilise Cornwall's poor slate soils for the farming communities; while the hard Devonian slate of Cornwall was brought back as a roofing material for houses in the Vale.

As the Glamorgan Heritage Coast faces westwards out to the Atlantic, it bears the brunt of brutal on-shore (west, south-westerly) winds; ideal for surfing, but a nightmare for ships trying to sail up the Bristol Channel into Cardiff. Just like North Cornwall or South-West Ireland, the fierce Atlantic gales created ideal conditions for pre-meditated shipwrecking, which up until 100 years was very common along the coast (although shipwrecking was common across all the Celtic Sea). Nash Point, Southerndown and Ogmore-by-Sea have some of the highest shipwreck victims on the coast of Wales; as recently as 1962 an oil tanker, the BP Driver crashed into Nash point during a violent westerly storm, was torn to shreds by the brutal reefs and eventually sank, although thanks to a courageous effort by various Bristol Channel lifeboats and helicopters the crew were saved.

The district borders Cardiff to the northeast, Rhondda Cynon Taff to the north, Bridgend to the northwest and the Bristol Channel to the south.

Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/
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