Some believe that the tiny Island of Tavolara off the coast of Sardinia was the smallest kingdom in the world. They are wrong. The smallest kingdom is on the border of Wales and England.
It lies on a river. The fifth longest river in the UK to be exact. A river which helps form the border between England and Wales. The river Wye:
A much smaller tributary of the Wye also forms the border between England and Wales and runs through our pocket-sized kingdom: it is called Dulas Brook. As I stood on a bridge this weekend gone, straddling England and Wales with a leg in each and peering through a curtain of vines, I saw a pair of some my favourite British birds, the water-bound Dipper:
The Kingdom is nestled in a valley overlooked by the northern outpost of the Black Mountains, Hay Bluff – a plateau peak carved out of ancient sandstone by the glaciers from past ice ages:
Walking back down to the village kingdom from a morning in the hills, a friend and I stopped by some woods to look for Crossbills. We didn’t see any, but we did get neck ache from watching so many soaring Red Kite and Buzzards. Closer to earth, we also watched a busy Nuthatch, as I reflected on how hard I have tried in vain to see this bird in my local London patch:
Storytime: The Kingdom of Hay
Once upon a time there was a bibliophile, a man who loved books so much, he made them his life. This man lived in a small beautiful village on the border.
The man was saddened by the slow death that befalls many small places as their young inhabitants leave to work and live in bigger cities. It felt as if the life-blood of these small communities was being sucked away.
He wondered how he could save his own village from this ignominious fate. He found the answer in books. Not inside a book, but in books generally.
This man took the strongest men from his village across the Atlantic ocean and started buying up cheap books and carrying as many back to Hay as he could find.
This was the beginning of making Hay one of the most famous destinations for books in the world.
He further secured the village’s place on the map by declaring it an independent kingdom with him as its king.
The King of Hay still runs a bookshop in the village to this day, and the smallest kingdom in the world, though not recognised as a state officially, has secured its place in the world. Long live the King! Ling live Hay-on-Wye!