WALES. A spirit of its own.

WALES. A spirit of its own.

Now it is the turn of Gareth, our Welsh teacher!

Gareth was born in Abergavenny, a market town in Monmouthshire. Later, the family moved to Ross-on-Wye. Wye is the river that separates Wales from England. Gareth left the small town to study at the University in Sunderland (New Castle) but he misses so much living nearby the River Wye, that he moved to Hereford, a city in England approximately 26 km east of the border with Wales.

LOCATION

Wales (Cymru in Welsh language) is a part of the United Kingdom and forms a westward extension of the island of Great Britain. It is borded by England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west and the Bristol Channel to the south. The capital city and main commercial and financial centre is Cardiff.

WHAT IS IT LIKE?

Famous for its strikingly rugged landscape, the small nation of Wales comprises six distinctive regions: Gwynedd, Clwyd, Dyfed, Powys, Gwent and Glamorgan. Wales has a costline that is largely mountainous, with its higher peaks in the north and central areas, including its highest summit of Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa). The country lies within the north temperature zone and has a changeable, maritime climate. Wales is unbeatable when it comes to castles. We dare to say that Britain's best castles can be found within its borders. The architectural splendour of these fortresses blows you away!

A BIT OF HISTORY

During the rise of the British Empire, 19th century, Southeast Wales in particular experienced a rapid industrialisation and a dramatic rise in population as a result of the explosion of the coal and iron industries. Wales played an important role in World War One. During World War II Cardiff were bombed by the Germans but after the war full employment returned. However, the traditional Welsh industries such as coal, iron and steel continued to decline. Fortunately, new light industries came to Wales and tourist and service industries also grew in importance. Meanwhile in 1999 the new Welsh Assembly opened. In 2011 the people of Wales voted that the Welsh Assembly should be allowed to pass laws without permission from Westminster.

ANIMAL LIFE AND PLANTS

The biodiversity of Wales refers to the wide variety of ecosystems and living organisms. It has terrestrial habitats and many protected areas rich in biodiversity, including three national parks and five areas of outstanding natural beauty. On the coast, a great diversity of species such as seals, dolphins, sharks, jellyfish, crabs and lobsters can be found.

The Welsh government works closely with the Wales Biodiversity Partnership which promotes and monitors the Wales biodiversity action plan.

LANGUAGES

The two official languages of Wales are Welsh and English. The majority of the population of Wales is able to speak English, while Welsh is spoken by approximately one-fifth of the people.

RELIGION

Christianity is the largest religion in Wales. Religion in Wales follows the Church in Wales or other Christian denominations, such as Presbyterian Church of Wales.

GASTRONOMY

One of the most recognisable songs sung at Wales rugby matches features the rousing refrain "Feed Me 'Til I Want No More". Wales has a wealth of organic farmers' markets artisan producers, food festivals and award-winning restaurants.

There is a strong tradition of living off the land, stretching back as far as the ancient Celts. Food has historically been simple wholesome fare, thrifty dishes made with just a few simple, quality ingredients. This was designed to satisfy the hearty appetites of those working the land: farmers, quarry workers, coal miners and fishermen.

Some traditional dishes are: WELSH CAWL (a soup, similar to a stew), BARA BRITH (freshly baked bread), GLAMORGAN SAUSAGES, WELSH RAREBIT, LAVERBREAD (Welsh caviar) and many more. If you visit the country, do not forget to try its beef, lamb, award-winning varieties of cheese, chocolate, its traditional welshcakes and beer.

RUGBY

Rugby union in Wales is the national sport and is considered a large part of national culture. The national team play at the WRU-owned Principality Stadium and compete annually in the Six Nations Championship, as well as having competed at every Rugby World Cup.

MUSIC

Wales has a strong and distinctive link with music. Singing is a significant part of Welsh national identity, and the country is traditionally referred to as 'the land of song'.

Wales has a history of folk music related to the Celtic music of countries such as Ireland and Scotland.

Some remarkable Welsh singers are Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, The Manic Street Preachers, Gareth Boulton, lead singer of The Absent Artists and many more.

FAMOUS WELSH PEOPLE

Some of the greatest Welsh people are: actors Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins and Christian Bale; Gareth Edwards, a rugby player; Gareth Bale a footballer; Dylan Thomas, a poet; the famous writer Ken Follet, and a long list of others.

When Gareth talks about his hometown he says he misses eating a Full English Breakfast, crisps with strange flavours (spice riders), fish and chips, Indian restaurants, hanging around charity shops where you can find vinyl records at bargain rates, rainy weather, green countryside, real rivers and the unique and cozy warmth when you enter a pub and have conversations unrelated to work!