Reclaming the Valley

Reclamation involved tip clearance and greening the valley through a major tree-planting programme run by the LSVP Conservator and assisted by hundreds of volunteers.

It came to pass in days of yore
The Devil chanced upon Landore
Quoth he, by all this fume and stink,
I can’t be far from home, I think

Winning entry in a ‘Railway Eisteddfod’, 1887

Tip clearance

After the surveys and reports of the 1960s the main work conducted at the derelict valley sites was clearance. Territorial Army units used the opportunity of demolishing ruined buildings as valuable training for their recruits.

Tip removal was another major undertaking. After the Aberfan disaster of 1966, tip clearance was considered a priority.

The most dramatic change in the valley to what it is today resulted from pioneering conservation work and tree-planting. The aim was to return the valley to its once green state before the damaging period of the copper and other non-ferrous metal smelting that polluted the land in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Hafod Works with Kilvey Hill in the background before tree-planting (Graham Humphrys) Reconstructed White Rock mound with Hafod chimneys in background (Tehmina Goskar)

They wanted trees, not factories

In 1978, a survey of valley residents were asked:

“What would you like to see in the valley?”

Answers to open question

No. of mentions

Answers to specific question

No. of mentions

Somewhere for the children












Tidy it up












Others mentioned once*








*Other mentions: housing; bird garden; road across valley; “Flood the valley”; community centre; nature reserve.


The majority of the sample wanted ‘something for the children’, echoing an opinion often heard in the 1960s survey. This is one important area where plans have not coincided with the felt needs of the local people.

Source: ‘Living in the valley’ by Susan Hutson and Margaret Stacey in: Rosemary Bromley and Graham Humphrys (eds.), Dealing with Dereliction. The Redevelopment of the Lower Swansea Valley Swansea, 1979) p. 120.

Tree planting and conservation

To the schoolboy, a fence represents a challenge, something to break through or climb over; but trees planted with his own hands are something to care for.

Garth Christian (from: Stephen Lavender, New Land for Old: The Environmental Renaissance of the Lower Swansea Valley, 1981)

[Steve Lavender images here]

Early attempts at tree-planting were often thwarted by vandalism and arson. The Project staff decided the best way to combat this was by recruiting local people, particularly school children and young people, to plant trees themselves.

Under the guidance of the Conservator, local people got involved in planting trees and taking care of them. Adventure camps were held in the valley and nature trails were created to encourage a new appreciation of the area.

Next > Archives and More Information

Where no trees grew

Lower Swansea Valley 1963 in Colour

Narrated by Frankln Cardy, 9:15mins

These clips of the Lower Swansea Valley show very rare colour footage of the area before reclamation began. They were kindly put together and narrated by Geologist Franklin Cardy who worked on LSVP in the 1960s.

See Franklin Cardy's channel on YouTube with camera location films.