I decided to take the mountain road from Abergavenny to Hay. This is old countryside, stuck in an 18th century time warp. I stop at a favourite corner and could be looking at a vignette from a musty old book. An unkempt farm with broken down outbuildings and old wooden fences nestles under the foothills of Offa’s Dyke. Even though a stiff breeze blows over the bluff a mile or so ahead, smoke rises vertically from the farmhouse chimney pot. I wonder what the inside is like; maybe they don’t have electricity. Serious rain falls in these parts and steaming Welsh Black cattle, caked in mud, walk slowly through the damp fields. There’s a timeless feel to the place and I think of my mentor Gilbert White again and imagine that Selborne felt like this centuries ago.
I drive on slowly through the narrow lanes. A well-dressed country lady in jodhpurs rounds the bend leading a pair of perfectly groomed horses and disappears into an immaculate farmyard. The yuppies are here and I realize that this romantic 18th century world will vanish soon. I go back to take a picture of the old farm, but think twice about it; it’s the feel of the place I want to bottle and I can’t capture this in a photograph. Each time I take this road I vow to return and look for more old farms, but of course I never do. Maybe this one is the last one and the rest have all been improved by city dwellers from the east.
There are no more romantic farms up the hill towards Hay Bluff. The tops are rugged with buzzards and ravens playing in the wind. From the summit I can see for miles. The magical Brecon Beacons stretch out to the west and behind me is rolling English countryside. The incomers will find it hard to change this.