A Walk in Hay
Wales is not England.
I was warned by more than one person that Hay is not a particularly "Welsh" place. I'd need to dive deeper into Wales to truly experience "Welshness".
Still, everyone I spoke to in Hay and surrounding towns, even the Welsh-born potter with whom I spent a few days in East Anglia at the end of my trip, made sure I understood one thing: They were Welsh, not English. Not English just as my Irish ancestors were not English, I was told.
And so as I trekked along several of the walks published by the tourism office, I repeatedly crossed the border. "YOU ARE NOW LEAVING WALES", my walking directions would suddenly shout out in harsh capital letters. "YOU HAVE NOW ENTERED ENGLAND".
A warning? A welcome? A bit of geographical trivia for hikers? I got the quiet sense it was much more. I've come to no conclusions, but you hear this idea of nations within a nation, whatever word you use, in lots of conversations in Spain these days.
My border crossings were quiet bridges over a stream.
My company was mostly ovine, and occasionally bovine.
I arrived in sandals and wished for Wellies. Aside from that self-imposed discomfort (who knew I'd wind up walking in Wales?) walking in the countryside around Hay, and Brecon, a neighboring town, was a damp, full-bloom treat.