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comments iconDay 16: A brief thought on Wales

 

Total walk: 202.60 miles

Today raised:  £ 100.00 + ¥ 11261.66

Total raised fund: £ 6603.38 + ¥ 11261.66

 

Having completed Stage 1 of the walk from London to Cardiff we felt we had earned our day off which we spent in Newport. It was an opportunity to reflect on Wales. Every country or region has its stereotypes, as I know being from the North East of England. I played a quick ‘word association’ game and I wrote the following random thoughts:

Hills (Snowdonia); Tom Jones; Coal; Rugby; Dr Who (made at BBC in Cardiff) and Fireman Sam; Prince Charles (Prince of Wales); Castles; the valleys; choirs (Aled Jones); Methodism (The Welsh Revival); music (The National Eisteddford); the harp; poetry (Dylan Thomas); Richard Burton (actor); daffodils; dragons; David Lloyd-George (former British Prime Minister); sheep; holidays; DVLA-Swansea (where you apply for your driving licence); humour (Tommy Cooper and Max Boyce).

The problem with any list like this is that you run the risk of stereotyping but and if anyone apart from my mum and Xuelin read this blog then I would get into trouble for missing out some key fact like Marconi’s first radio broadcast was between two points in Wales, but this is a snapshot a ‘top of mind’ sketch of Wales.

Wales is a land of some 3 million people. It has been formally linked with England since the Act of Union (1536) and before then since 1216 through the Prince of Wales, hence the Principality of Wales. Wales is the only country not to be represented by a colour in the Union Jack (flag).

Wales has its own Welsh language which is classified as ‘P-Celtic’ and is a language group shared with Cornwall in England and Brittany in France, but is slightly different to ‘Q-Celtic’ Gaelic spoken in Ireland and Scotland. Welsh is spoken by around 20% of the population of Wales, but the language would be a major part of national identity for all.

The economic power house of modern Wales in in the south between Newport, Cardiff, Bridgend and Swansea where a large proportion of the population live. The more northerly and more rural the more the Welsh language is spoken and taught in schools.

I don’t think that it be too unfair to say that the natural bond between Wales and England is perhaps the closest of those which exist between the four nations who comprise the United Kingdom.

Cardiff is one of my favourite cities in the UK. It has undergone an amazing resurgence over the past twenty years. The development around Cardiff Bay is extraordinary. It reminds me of the redevelopment which my home cities of Gateshead and Newcastle have undergone in recent years.

We visited the Welsh Assembly building to mark the completion of Stage 1 of the UK Solidarity Walk. Outside the Assembly building they were constructing a large sculpture of poppies to commemorate the many Welsh soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.

Over 270,000 Welshmen served in the First World War (over 20% of the then male population) of those 35,000 were to die, many of those in the Battle of Passchendaele the centenary of which the current Prince of Wales attended this week in Belgium. I don’t know why so many from Wales volunteered, perhaps it was the appeal of the then prime minister, David Lloyd George. Whatever the reason. Whatever the cause. What a tragedy it was to so many young lives were sacrificed to the ‘futility of war’.

It is good to think about the places we visit but all too after we don’t get the chance. The great benefit of walking is that your experience a culture in slow and yet a very real way. I wish I had longer in Wales but Manchester calls and the unrelenting schedule of walk means that I must leave tomorrow. I shall take with me memories, as is often the case, not of the place but of the people–the hospitality of Rob & Di Parsons and the extraordinary act of generosity by my two friends and a salivating pit-bull in a pick up truck yesterday (see previous blog for details).