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This report is taken from PN Review 191, Volume 36 Number 3, January - February 2010.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams

I ended my previous letter (in PNR 190) with a few brief reflections on Peter J. Conradi’s At the Bright Hem of God, an excellent book, which is suffused with a tender melancholy evoked by contemplation of the passing of a traditional way of life. It was in 1965 that Conradi first tasted ‘the colossal, timeless, golden silence of the hills’. Again he testifies, ‘I did not think on that first visit to Wales that I had ever visited a place of such transcendent magic … Here were sublime views over ancient hills, the shock of silence, and then the surprise of a new feeling compounded of exhilaration, trust, and peace of mind.’

I fully understand the sensations he describes, although the upland moors of my experience are neither as remote nor as extensive as those of Radnorshire, and are, furthermore, hacked into by valleys that, collectively, were one of the cradles of industrialisation. Books, photographs, films of the industrial valleys in their heyday (and I suppose reputation) have given outsiders an impression of unalleviated toil, noise and black dust. But that is a false picture, or at least one not entirely true. I stepped out of our back garden gate onto the mountain, Mynydd y Gilfach. If I chose the direct route, a stiff climb of a few hundred feet brought me to the crest of a steep slope. At the crest I was still within hailing distance of home, with much of the village, its ...
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