Where England Meets Wales



The Border between England and Wales wiggles its way from the Dee just south of Liverpool to the Severn at Chepstow.

It's 160 miles long and Hardeep Singh Kohli journeys down it in two programmes, exploring its turbulent past, and its changing present.

Since devolution, it has a new significance, with the Welsh Assembly implementing policies which add interest, and sometimes, confusion, to those living around the Border.

But Hardeep also has time to explore its rich heritage, from the massive castles left by the invading Normans and English, to the areas of outstanding beauty from the Brecon Beacons to the Forest of Dean.

In the first programme Hardeep arrives at Flint Castle, the hefty stone marker put down by Edward I when he decided that the Welsh needed to be brought to heel.

The Labour peer Lord Barry Jones has lived in the Flint and Deeside area all his life, and talks to Hardeep about the industrial crash in the 80's and the new developments.

A Welsh Assembly priority was to put the Welsh language literally on the map.

Its bilingual policy is evident in the road signs, as Hardeep meets a group of Welsh speakers.

The Borders have fewer Welsh speakers, but with Welsh a compulsory language up to GCSE, 'Hello' is becoming 'Bored'.

Hardeep also encounters two massive artefacts- first the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, built in the early 19th century, and the much earlier earthwork, the dyke masterminded by King Offa 1200 years ago.

The dyke only survives in chunks these days, but, says expert Ian Bapty, 'We all have Offa's Dyke within us!'

In the second programme Hardeep continues southwards meeting Border people, who may relish their history, but find themselves entangled in policies now separating the place 'Where England meets Wales'.

Producer: Richard Bannerman

A Ladbroke Production for BBC Radio 4.

Hardeep Singh Kohli explores the past and present Border between England and Wales.

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Hardeep Singh Kohli begins the second half of his journey at the site of a famous battle where Welsh forces routed the attacking English sent by Henry IV.

This was the Battle of Pilleth, a battle recorded in Shakespeare's Henry IV part I.

The castle at Hay-on-Wye, straddling the Border, also saw combat, but is now home to the largest second-hand bookshop in Europe.

Its international book festival attracts the literary glitterati, as well as BBC Radio 4.

From Hay the gentle Border landscape heads into the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons.

Here Hardeep comes across the Offa's Dyke Path, a 177 mile long trail that links the remaining chunks of Offa's Dyke and winds its way down the whole length of Wales.

If Hardeep were fitter he might have attempted it, but the next stop on his journey offered a visit to one of the vineyards in Monmouthshire, a date which was slightly more attractive.

David Davies is MP for Monmouth and hears at first hand some of the problems of today's Border people.

Separate Health and Education policies can be confusing, and the coming referendum may make separation more evident.

There is one area though that has offered beauty and inspiration since the 18th century - the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley.

Poets like Wordsworth and Coleridge, and writers like Tolkien and JK Rowling were captivated by forest, woodland and river, now designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Hardeep makes a final nod to the Norman conquistadors at Chepstow Castle, before succeeding in walking the final half mile of the Offa's Dyke Path.

He ends his journey at the mouth of the Severn, reflecting on a Border which has seen the marks of history and is now heading towards a future in which more history will be made.

Producer: Richard Bannerman

A Ladbroke Production for BBC Radio 4.

Hardeep Singh Kohli explores the past and present Border between England and Wales.