Alfred Russel Wallace
“I cannot call to mind a single valley that in the same extent of country comprises so much beautiful and picturesque scenery, and so many interesting special features, as the Vale of Neath.” *
See this excellent website about the world famous scientist who lodged briefly at Bryncoch Farm and whose love of Botany was engendered by exploring this area. Along with Charles Darwin, Wallace evolved the theory of natural selection of species. http://www.bryncochfarm.org.uk/arw/index.html
Thanks to Greg Griffiths and the other contributors to this particular website for permission to link to it here.
* From Alfred Russel Wallace’s My life: A record of events and opinions. London: Chapman and Hall. 1905, Volume 1.
“Though I have by no means a very wide acquaintance with the mountain districts of Britain, yet I know Wales pretty well; have visited the best parts of the lake district; in Scotland have been to Loch Lomond, Loch Katrine, and Loch Tay; have climbed Ben Lawers, and roamed through Glen Clova in search for rare plants;—but I cannot call to mind a single valley that in the same extent of country comprises so much beautiful and picturesque scenery, and so many interesting special features, as the Vale of Neath. The town itself is beautifully situated, with the fine wooded and rock-girt Drumau Mountain to the west, while immediately to the east are well-wooded heights crowned by Gnoll House, and to the south-east, three miles away, a high rounded hill, up which a chimney has been carried from the Cwm Avon copper-works in the valley beyond, the smoke from which gives the hill much the appearance of an active volcano. To the southwest the view extends down the valley to Swansea Bay, while to the north-east stretches the Vale of Neath itself, nearly straight for twelve miles, the river winding in a level fertile valley about a quarter to half a mile wide, bounded on each side by abrupt hills, whose lower slopes are finely wooded, and backed by mountains from fifteen hundred to eighteen hundred feet high. The view up this valley is delightful, its sides being varied with a few houses peeping out from the woods, abundance of lateral valleys and ravines, with here and there the glint of falling water, while its generally straight direction affords fine perspective effects, sometimes fading in the distance into a warm yellow haze, at others affording a view of the distant mountain ranges beyond.”