Book reprint – Exploring Wales by William Condry, an appreciation

This is not a wildlife book, although there is wildlife in it, but it is a reprint of a book first published in 1970 and written by a great naturalist, and this book reminds us, a great writer. Also, the introduction is written by Neville Jones, a friend of Bill Condry and an acquaintance of mine, and Iolo Williams rightly praises the book on its back cover.

It’s beautifully written and what was described 50 years ago as history is still worth knowing and what was described then as current is now sufficiently distant as to be interesting history.

As a Bristolian myself, born of a Bristolian father and Welsh mother, I remember journeys to Pontypool, in particular, to see relatives on my mother’s side of the family, first by way of Gloucester and then skirting the Forest of Dean and then after 1966 by the new Severn Bridge which is now the elder Severn Bridge. And so I read the chapter on Monmouthshire with interest and found much to enjoy from the description of entering the county faced by Chepstow Castle to exploring the hills of the northwest which seem a lifetime away from the valleys of the south.

But those valleys have changed in the intervening years. They were changing when this book was originally published. The mine in which my grandfather hewed coal was closed and Pontypool, which Condry describes as ‘a thriving industrial centre’ was already on the downturn. But the years of the Pontypool front row were still to come.

I dipped into this book to read about many other parts of Wales that I know less well and found much to enjoy and much food for thought. The quality of the writing is wonderful.

This is an appreciation rather than a review of this reprint. I’d take it with me on any journey to Wales.

The cover? It’s OK – I’d give it 6/10.

Exploring Wales by William Condry is published by Y Lolfa


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