If you live part of the time in mid Wales and the rest of the time in Kent, you experience some of the greatest contrasts in social, economic, environmental and political circumstances the country has to offer. Kent, being in the South-East is comparatively affluent (though inevitably there are pockets of poverty and deprivation) compared with mid Wales, which is one of the poorest regions in Western Europe. Population density in mid Wales is, to a first approximation, zero, whereas Kent is building houses for all it’s worth to accommodate the people who are piling in, attracted by its convenience for commuting, the opportunities for those fleeing urban life and the lure of seaside places for the retired. Although Kentish people grumble about it quite a bit, the fact is that communications are beyond anything mid Wales could dream of – high speed trains, motorways, routes to France, access to airports and so on. But at least mid Wales has the scenery, and it’s amusing that the North Downs in Kent are designated an area of outstanding natural beauty, when in truth there isn’t a square metre of Kent that’s natural at all, and hasn’t been for centuries. Finally, with the exception of one or two enclaves (for example Canterbury) Kent is rock solid Conservative territory and Brexit central, whereas Ceredigion has returned Liberal, Labour, Green and (currently) Plaid Cymru MPs since who knows when, and recorded one of the country’s highest Remain votes in the 2016 referendum.
Helen’s family has roots in Kent and we visited for many years before the opportunity arose to inherit her parents’ place in Wye. We feel at home there for several reasons. Like Aberystwyth, Wye is a small town with a historic University (Wye College) and has a congenial cultured and academic atmosphere. It’s a pity (actually an act of national vandalism) that Wye College, having been taken over by Imperial College London, was closed in 2009 and effectively asset-stripped, in the era when the UK was tearing up its network of agricultural R&D centres at the hands of the big University players. The village (actually it’s a growing town) still retains its college ambience, though it’s slowly ebbing as generations pass and the pressures of growth become increasingly irresistible. But anyway, for now it’s a very amenable place to live, allowing easy access to places that support our interests, such as fine bird sites (Oare marshes, Stodmarsh, Pegwell Bay, Rye Harbour, Dungeness) and the Canterbury and London music, exhibition and theatre scenes.
The symbol of Wye is the Crown (that’s it at the top of the page). There’s much more to say about Wye – for example here