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This report is taken from PN Review 197, Volume 37 Number 3, January - February 2011.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams

Long ago, during my years as HMI, I was for a time district inspector in Powys. Extending along much of the border with England, Powys has the greatest land area of all Welsh counties, and is sparsely populated. Most people live in small towns and scattered villages and hamlets. Newtown, birthplace of Robert Owen (1771–1858), the social reformer, and Geraint Goodwin (1903–41), the novelist and short story writer, and the largest town, has a population of fewer than 13,000.

I had then an enviable job; liaising with the smallest local education authority in Wales and visiting its schools was pleasant enough, but the freedom to travel the county was much more. There were twelve secondary schools and some 115 primary schools, and visiting them invariably involved driving along roads made for contemplative plodding not speed. In the old days, I was told by A. G. Prys-Jones, a retired colleague who was a considerable poet and survived into his nineties, HMI would have travelled by train to a convenient station (decades before Beeching) where a pony and trap would be waiting that would carry them along narrow country lanes between verdant and blossoming banks and hedgerows to small, remote schools. One-horse-power travel meant there was time to look about and appreciate the landscape. Driving, I covered the distances between schools in a fraction of the time, usually with a fraction of the pleasure HMI of the past had enjoyed.

There were occasions when I could not ...
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