The Geography of Wales

The Geography of Wales

Wales is situated on the western side of Great Britain, bordered by the Irish Sea to the west and surrounded by England in the other directions. The country is roughly around 170 mile long and 60 miles wide, and is a geographers dream. It is a mountainous country with three National Parks being located in its region. Considering the wilderness nature of the country is fairly well populated with a population of just over 3 million people, but the majority of these people tend to be concentrated into the lowland flat areas.

The general topography of the region has been formed by plate tectonics up lifting and folding the rocks into the mountains that are found today. There are 15 mountains in Wales over 3000 feet, and the highest of these is Snowdon with its summit at 3560 feet.

Llyn Ogwen in the Nant Ffrancon valley

The mountains have been sculptured and shaped by last ice the country’s age. This has left behind a spectacular landscape which attracts many visitors into the three National Parks. The National Parks as well as protecting the natural environment has helped make the region more accessible to its visitors. The upland regions are home to glaciated landscapes that have produced many landforms that are often used as examples in geography text books. The Snowdonia National Park is often used in case studies to provide evidence of the work of glaciers. The huge U shaped valley at Nant Ffrancon has many features including the long ribbon lake, Llyn Ogwen.

Spilling into the lakes are waterfalls that descend from truncated spurs located along the valley’s sides. Further up the valley are small corrys, such as the one at Cwm Idwal, which is occupied by a small lake. The whole area has many example of striations cut into the rocks where the ice has worn against the valley bottom and sides.

The country no longer is affected by glaciation but its mountains have a huge effect on the region’s climate. As warm moist air approaches from the Atlantic it has to rise above the mountains. This produces relief rainfall and the whole of the country experiences high amounts of rainfall during the year.

The River Taff flowing through Cardiff

The sea has the effect of cooling the country in the summer and warming it in the winter. Due to the high altitude the mountains do get snowfall in the winter but not as much as the highlands in northern England and Scotland. However, the climate does change around the country with the highlands being wetter and cooler than the lowland areas. The high rainfall in the region has resulted in numerous rivers draining the land. The River Severn acts as the border between England and Wales for many miles before flowing into the Bristol Channel. This direction is also followed by the rivers Towy, Tusk, Taff and Wye.

Other rivers flow northwards and empty into the Irish Sea. The largest of these that flow into Liverpool Bay are the Rivers Clwyd, Conwy and Dee. The Rivers Dovey and Rheidol also reach the Irish Sea but through Cardigan Bay.

This dense concentrating of rivers has resulted in the lowland floodplains being utilized by the country’s population for agricultural purposes. Wales has a rich farming history and it is able to make the most of both the floodplain areas and also the upland regions where the soils are thinner. The low-quality soils in the upland areas has led to the farming of Sheep and the county is famed around the world for the quality of its lamb. Large areas of the exposed upland regions are dominated by moorland where the toughest species can survive on the thinnest soils.

The geology of the country has presented Wales with large natural resources. During the Industrial Revolution South Wales became the heartland of Britain’s manufacturing Industry. Huge local supplies of coal and iron ore resulted in many jobs being created. It also resulted in the Steel industry have large plants in the local area. The geography of Wales has always been important to the nation.