a wandering woman writes

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Walk in Hay

If I learned one thing in Wales, it was this:
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.

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  • Beautiful photos. And being married to an Englishman and having friends from every part of Britain, I think the nationalist attitude is very much alive and well. The Welsh, the English, the Irish and the Scots all have their particular pride and bristle when you try to lump them into a group.

    By Blogger paris parfait, at 11:41 PM  

  • Love the bridges ... it's so tempting and reading your blog has made me all restless.

    Need to wander ... sigh

    By Blogger woman wandering, at 1:42 PM  

  • Everyone is so different so it's difficult to generalise. Our family is born and bred in Wales but whilst my husband is fiercely protective of his Welshness (if such a word exists!)and is quite anti-English, my daughter identifies more with England and I think of myself as equally Welsh and British. A mixed bag really - makes for some lively discussions particularly when England are playing Wales at any sport. Hope you had a good time in Wales and come back soon.

    By Blogger anne, at 11:11 PM  

  • Welcome, Anne! Thanks for the comment. I couldn't agree with you more- you can't generalize. I loved Wales, as I love Ireland, for many of the same reasons. It's obviously a beautiful place, but there's something....some energy in the air, something about the people (and I didn't get very far in! only to Brecon!) that just clicked for me and felt comfortable. Who knows when we'd ever get there, but I was telling a Spanish friend about my trip the other day and she's now convinced we MUST do Offa Dyke's path, together, start to finish...:)

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 3:12 PM  

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