The smallest kingdom in the world

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:

River Wye

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:

White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus)

White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus)

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:

Hay Bluff in the distance under the sun

Hay Bluff in the distance under the sun

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:

Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)

Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)

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!

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20 thoughts on “The smallest kingdom in the world

  1. Robert Hancy

    Reblogged this on RPHancy and commented:
    This was one of the best posts I’ve read for a long time – I’m reblogging it on mine, hopefully with your permission. My favorite photo, though difficult to choose, was the Hay Bluff. I’m a sucker for sheep for some reason, perhaps I was a shepherd in my previous life in the valleys of Norway. Thank you for your post!

    Reply
    1. iago80 Post author

      Hi Robert

      Thank you so much for your kind words and I am honoured that you are re-posting. Amazing to have been a shepherd in Norway – I bet that was tough but an incredible experience.

      James

      Reply
  2. Jet Eliot

    A wonderful story of the past and present, and the photos are so delightfully pastoral. In the U.S. we have the American Dipper and I always feel lucky when I have the rare treat of seeing one bobbing and dipping in the water. πŸ™‚

    Reply
  3. Shannon

    Ah, the elusive Dipper! We chased after the American Dipper on our vacation last year for two solid weeks. Once we found him, it was like the flood-gate of news opened up. I love what keeping eyes open does for us. Great story about the King of Hay. That’s the first I’ve heard it. Cheers!

    Reply
  4. brighamstephen

    Great story. The Hay Bluff picture is serene. Now I know how the Wye River in the US got its name. Its a small, picturesque tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, settled by the English in the early 17th century.

    Reply
    1. iago80 Post author

      Thank you very much. Great to hear about the US version. I imagine the person who named the Maryland tributary had fond memories from the homeland.

      Reply
  5. aussiebirder

    Great story Iago, and lovely pics. I know the feeling of getting sore neck from birding, especially from viewing raptors. We will be touring Britain in early June but doing a planned tour so we wont be birding much, but may do a little towards the end depending on time and what my wife wants to do with the daughter we are visiting.

    Reply
    1. iago80 Post author

      Thanks for your comment. I think my blog post contains the answer to your questions, albeit – as I state – Hay is not an official state, but rather a self-declared kingdom.

      Reply

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