How Green was my Duffel Coat

Beautiful and Ugly


By Peter S. O’Neil

            It’s strange to come back and to see it like this. It’s a complete reversal of roles. Industry has gone and Nature is reclaiming the valley. Look at the slag heap, there, all green and overgrown. There’s no doubting what it used to be, what it still is beneath the vegetation, but it never ceases to amaze me how Nature can hide away the mess that we make of it. Nature is very forgiving, I think.

            Look at the railway line too, and where all the narrow gauge tracks ran from the mine to the sidings. The rails and sleepers have been taken up and plants have squeezed up through the packed earth and gravel to take the land back. The old line that runs over the viaduct has now become a popular walkway with a spectacular view of the valley which, not so very long ago, would have looked grey and bleak.

            A lot of old photographs of Dan-y-Bont you’d think were taken in black and white but they were in colour. It was the valley that lacked colour, not the photographs. I think the earliest photo I’ve seen, which actually had a bit of colour, showed the old police house just after it had been painted pink. That was taken in the eighties.

            But what is important to remember is that a lack of colour does not signify a lack of life. Far from it. These communities were vibrant, pulsating, beating hearts which pumped black blood along iron arteries out into the world beyond. Communities like this one, Dan-y-Bont, where, yes, life was lived in Death’s grey shadow but it was lived to the full.

            Perhaps the greatest change lies there. Not in Nature’s physical reclamation of the valley but rather in the slowing of the beating heart, its black blood no longer flowing. But don’t be led into thinking that Dan-y-Bont is gone and forgotten. It wasn’t the mine that gave the valley its life, its essence, or its spirit. No, that all came from its people, its community, its sense of oneness in itself.

            Sure, the heart beats slower but, perhaps, that’s just because it’s resting, recuperating, rejuvenating. You see, sometimes, even dragons have to sleep.


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