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It wasn’t a long drive from tiny Shrewley, England to St. Davids, Wales – a smidgen over 200 miles – but the fastest route (via Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea) didn’t appeal to me. Instead, we left the M5 near Worcester and cut Southwest through the heart of Wales along pleasant, uncrowded rural roads. We saw signs advertising speed shearing contests, pick-your-own fruit orchards, cattle ranches and farm shops. You could really smell Wales’ dairy air. Wales is the West Virginia of the UK, the butt of a thousand sheep jokes, a mountainous land of somewhat odd people speaking a strange tongue. Though Wales has been part of the British Empire since Edward I conquered it in 1282, Wales’ uniqueness has always made it seem more remote than it actually is. Like the Scots, the Welsh do not like being called British, which they associate with Englishness. The Prince of Wales, by the way, is just a title for the heir apparent to the crown. Pasty Prince Charles is not the least bit Welsh.
Perhaps it was only my imagination, but the scenery seemed to become more gorgeous as soon as we crossed the unmarked border. The countryside was greener, the hills higher and the sheep fluffier. We had nearly missed the humble sign welcoming us to Cymru – which is both Welsh for Wales and the perfect introduction to the language’s un pronounceability. When we encountered traffic, it was usually caused by giant, lumbering tractors or trucks pulling huge loads of hay that showered the road with golden streamers. Speaking of hay, we passed near Hay-on-Wye, the little town that has become internationally famous (among bibliophiles like me, at least) for its ever-expanding Literature and Arts Festival. Previous guest speakers included Arthur Miller, Salman Rushdie, John Updike, Stephen Hawking and Maya Angelou, though I think my kids would have been far more interested in the 2019 programme, featuring Julia Donaldson of “Gruffalo” fame.
Soon, we could see the unmistakable and oddly inorganic shapes of the Brecon Beacons rising above the farms and villages. Treeless and trapezoidal, the Beacons looked as if they had been airlifted from Iceland. I made a silent promise to myself to return and walk those magnificent ridges another time. And then the road began diving and twisting through emerald tunnels of the lushest, most magical forest. Even the English say it rains a lot in Wales. We hit the coast, the fog and the rain at Newgale – a wide, sandy beach with a humped embankment of round stones between it and the highway. I assumed that the barrier had been constructed to protect the highway and the hamlet from storm surge. In fact, the stones had been deposited there by a freakish storm in 1859. The water looked ice-cold, but a few madmen had braved the churning waves to kite surf.
This was the famously rugged and beautiful Pembrokeshire Coast. If Wales is shaped like a pig’s head, then the Pembrokeshire Coast is the tip of its snout. And what a fine snout it is! Wending from Amroth Castle to St. Dogmaels around wide St. Brides Bay, the 186 mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path (“which covers almost every kind of maritime landscape” according to the official website) is one of the finest walks in Britain. Just beyond Newgale we passed above the pretty harbour town of Solva, its fog-blurred fishing boats stranded by the tide. And then we were in St. Davids, famous both for being the UK’s smallest parish and for its location at the Westernmost point of Wales, just 50 miles from the Irish coast. Popular with tourists for its history, nearby trails and wildlife tours, St. Davids’ population surged in the summer, which people confidently informed me was now. Noah and Akela were waiting for us at the entrance to their street, Ffynnon Wen. Tai rolled down the window and shouted “Noah! Noah!” Suddenly, our car was electric with excited boys. I parked the car and they rushed out, hugged Noah, and followed him inside, chattering. Noah’s home was small and cosy, one of a half-dozen row houses in a small community at the southern edge of St. Davids.
Source: Expat Life Thailand
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