Wales at its best can be a very large place to explore with plenty of towns, activities, and festivities going on wherever you choose to go. There is the interesting concept of how the welsh accent changes every five miles to the point where it may be hard for some people to tell it is the same accent from one side of the country compared to the other, as well as the various carnivals and fates that go on around the country at different times of the year. However, in this article it is not Wales in general that is talked about but instead I will be focusing more on the town of Neath. I have chosen this town in particular as it holds a special place to me, being my home town, and it still holds fun memories for me.
A great place for visiting students to relax and meet some of the Welsh folk around town is Victoria Gardens. This fairly large garden, which also doubles as a park and place for activities such as Zumba, was opened on 22nd June 1897 for the purpose of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. However, it wasn’t officially opened as the garden’s it is today until 30th June 1898.
There are some features in Victoria Gardens which are also interesting culture-wise. One of these features are the Gorsedd stones which are positioned near the centre of the gardens. These stones, 12 in a circle with a Logan stone as a platform in the middle, represent the 12 counties of Wales and are often used for ceremonial purposes such as the Eisteddfod which occurs once a year. Another feature, placed in the centre of the Gardens, is the bandstand which is a constant place for band groups and music artists to perform their talents. The bandstand shows the musical side of Welsh culture and is a good cultural example for students to see whether they are visitors to the town or not.
Also in Victoria Gardens there is the statue of Howell Gwyn who was born on June 24th 1806 and died on January 25th 1888. He was a British conservative politician who spent a lot of time with the people of Neath and often partook in the town’s festivities. For this reason, the people in Neath made a bronze statue of him which is still a much liked feature in the garden’s today.
Another place of cultural importance from a student’s perspective would be Neath Abbey ruins. The ruins were originally from a Cistercian monastery, built in 1129, that eventually fell to ruin but once was the largest monastery of its time. It was also called the “The fairest Abbey in all of Wales” by Tudor historian John Leland. There is still a fair bit of the monastery left behind as ruins that are still standing to this day and since becoming a spot for artists, tourists, and more it has become more of a cultural hotspot than ever for students.
Even though they are certain parts of Neath which would no doubt be good places for students to see some of the culture in the town, I believe there is no better way to see the culture of Neath than to visit something people so often use, the town centre.
As you are walking in the town centre you may come across musicians playing their instruments in the streets, a sight that has now become commonplace amongst people. Usually when I’m there it is familiar to see someone playing tunes on the accordion such as Ar lan a mor, meaning at the seaside. This song is one of many that are written in welsh and due to them often being sung here in Neath I believe that it shows us to be more angled towards the singing side of Welsh culture.
I hope this article has proven useful to you, and perhaps after reading this you will consider coming to this nice enough town. But for now, remember to keep on with your studies and do your best!