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.
Wales is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland UK). It emerged as a Celtic speaking nation after the Romans withdrew from Britain in the fifth century. The country was conquered by Edward I of England' (completed in 1282) Owain Glyndŵr briefly restored independence to Wales in the early 15th century, but Wales was formally annexed by England in 1542. Today, the Welsh have their own devolved parliament, the Senedd.
Wales has over 1,680 miles of coastline, in addition to all the mountains. The highest mountains are in the north - Snowdonia. We stayed at Penrhyndeudraeth (its not easy to say), 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. A revisit to Beddgelert and Betws y Coed. We 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.
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