Country number: 2
When? Prehistoric times onwards
How? Car, bus, on foot
Who? With a friend’s family at school, on a school trip, with Don, with Tony, to visit friend Nicola in the Brecons
I was ten when I went to Wales and enormously excited to make my first trip ‘abroad’. The parents of a school friend took me with them on their family holiday. I was very disappointed that there didn’t seem to be any kind of border crossing at Welshpool, even though the name appeared to indicate territorial change. The drive was long and the mountains huge, brown and magnificent. I’d never seen proper mountains before – I don’t think the North York moors count, but I had read about Welsh mountains, magic and Merlin. They seemed to cover the whole country. And they, in their turn, were covered in sheep. (Today, Wales has a population of approximately three million people and 12 million sheep.) It felt delightfully foreign. People spoke with strange lilting accents and the place names were astonishingly difficult to pronounce.
We stayed at Penrhyndeudraeth, a small town near Porthmadog, on the edge of Snowdonia, making forays into the national park:
I went back a couple of years later on a school camp. We travelled on the bus via Blenheim Palace and ended up in Snowdonia again, but this time on the opposite side, near Bala. We revisited Beddgelert and Betws y Coed, walked up Snowdon this time (the ridge was a little scary), went to Bala Lake and hiked all round Lake Vyrnwy. We were only supposed to reach the other end, but we got lost. It’s a big lake.
I made use of my knowledge of Wales when I sat my GCE exam. ‘Write about sheep farming in Wales’, stated the question. So I traced the outline of Wales from the weather map of the UK on the front of the paper, shaded in most of it and annotated this area as mountains and therefore sheep farming country. Then I wrote about looking after sheep – I learned that when we did Australia.
Since then I’ve returned several times:
The name Wales comes from the Cymraeg word Gwalia, meaning “Homeland” in English.
Wales is one of the four parts of the United Kingdom (along with England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland), but technically, Wales is a principality, traditionally ruled by the Prince of Wales, the eldest son of the English monarch.
Wales came under English rule when it was conquered by King Edward I in 1282. Wales was ruled directly from London; but in 1997 the Welsh voted for the creation of the National Assembly for Wales and in 2006, following this vote, the Senedd, the home of the Welsh National Assembly, was created.
Wales is the only part of the UK not to be represented on the Union flag. The Welsh flag of red, green and white was officially recognised from 1959. The red dragon represents the native Britons.
Wales has more castles per square mile than any other European country, with Caerphilly being the largest in Wales and the second largest in Europe behind Windsor.
To see more of my photos of Wales, visit this page.