This piece of geography can be travelled by an impatient traveller from on end to the other in a single morning. I think that its delights are better savoured slowly. The landscape is consistently beautiful – and varied. Think of the hard edged Black Mountains; the Kerry Hills and the Stiperstones of Shropshire, or the pastoral softness of the wide lowland valleys around Leominster. Border towns are full of promise and second hand book shops. Ludlow, Hereford, Powis Castle, Llanthony Priory open up their intrigue and history to the visitor prepared to listen.
This is an area of friendly people who move and talk more steadily than the over busy English. They are old fashioned, idiosyncratic and sometimes impenetrable.
Welsh Border history is strong stuff – a cocktail of repression, resistance and gallons of blood shed all over. It is necessary to know some of this to understand the land and its towns and castles. There is nothing clear or distinct about this boundary – its mixture of English and Welsh culture is compelling.
Monmouth, Hereford, Ludlow, Shrewsbury are the social and commercial centres of their respective regions. The fifth is Llangollen – a favourite place with miles of old books and the meeting point of several sorts of landscape – river, mountain and hills, pasture and abbey all belong together here.
Timeless delights – look at it on the map and trace its lines and roads – and imagine three of my favourite tastes: Welsh lamb – the cheaper the better and slowly cooked with lots of garlic – the sharp taste of Shropshire Blue Cheese and a pint of beer – what better than ‘Reverend James’ – yes a real beer with a great capacity to comfort!!