Every morning I wake up, raise the blinds and feel enormously privileged to live where I live - and that isn’t an exaggeration.
I might be biased, but I think The Hills HQ is situated in a particularly lovely corner of the British Isles, set as it is at the foot of the breathtaking Welsh Hills. And my view has, not surprisingly, been validated by external eyes - the people over at Landscapes for Life, The National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.In fact, of 46 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (or AONB) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, three are in North Wales: Anglesey, the Clwydian Range and the Dee Valley, and Llyn.
What exactly are areas of outstanding natural beauty then, other than the obvious? By what criteria is such a label bestowed on a place? Well, it’s a designation which only exists in the UK (excluding Scotland) and the definition is a place considered so beautiful that it requires preservation. They’re diverse places, comprising coasts, villages, moorland, meadows and more. The designation attracts more visitors and more funding - funding which goes back into the area to protect what made it special in the first place. Simple and effective.
The Landscapes for Life website contains a wealth of information and tips for would-be visitors of natural beauty sites, from coastal stretches in Northumberland to South Cornwall. Recently I visited Cornwall and admired the work of fused glass designer Jo Downs; I couldn’t help but think about how her gorgeous designs featuring fish, leaves and coastal colours must have been inspired by her surroundings. Sure enough, the About section of her website explains how her work “draws inspiration from the beautiful coastal landscape” - how could it not? And the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that we all are to an extent - all of us rural entrepreneurs and creative types must, I feel, be inspired by these places of outstanding natural beauty on our doorsteps - whether they have the ‘official’ label or not.
So where do I go looking for inspiration in my own stamping ground? Well, I often head to Anglesey, where almost all of the 102 km coastline is designated as an AONB. There’s enough to keep everyone from birdwatchers to botanists happy in this stunning landscape teeming with natural life and sites of historical interest, from castles to Bronze Age burial grounds.
The Clwydian Range, in contrast, really is a landscape for life, where natural beauty and people’s working lives coexist, largely peacefully. Country and craft shows emphasise the special relationship between the land - most notably those purple-topped mountains - and the people who work and live here. There’s inspiration around every corner, whether you’re in the town or countryside.
And then there’s the mainly Welsh-speaking peninsula of Llyn, where a camper or caravanner can happily spend a week or two soaking up the atmosphere - and the watersport action. The Iron Age hill forts, winding country lanes and picturesque whitewashed family farms also pull in the tourists if they haven’t already been drawn to Llyn by the miles of unspoilt coast, breathtaking cliffs and sand dunes.
If you are at a loose end for the final week or two before summer is officially over and autumn descends, take a look at the Landscapes for Life website and plan a trip to your closest AONB - and perhaps join in on a new hashtag with #thelocalwayfarer from @thefullshillingblog to share your adventures on social media.
Tell me, which beautiful places do you draw your inspiration from?
I’m Janet, and I live at the foot of the beautiful Welsh Hills with my children Mary, 21, and Mark, 18. We share our four-acre plot with our six dogs, six cats, four hens, an assortment of wild ducks and all the other wonderful wildlife that visits our garden.