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Capturing Rural Wales by Emma Bennet

I was born in London, and grew up and went to university there. I considered myself a city girl through and through. I can’t remember owning a pair of wellies past the age of 5. But then I met my husband, a Welshman who was just starting his Phd at Swansea University, and I upped sticks to Wales to be with him.

Though we started out living in a city, our home was practically on the beach, so it felt very different from London life. It wasn’t long before we moved to a little village and it was then I experienced ‘proper’ Welsh country life and the importance of a decent pair of Hunters! I discovered so many charming little oddities and characteristics of rural Wales, I couldn’t help but try to recapture at least some of them in my first novel ‘The Green Hills of Home’.

My heroine, writer Gwen Jones, lives in an old farmhouse outside the fictional town of Tonnadulais. Her family have lived there for generations, and Gwen can’t go anywhere locally without people stopping to ask after her and her ill mother, and quizzing her about the mystery man she’s been spotted with. Everyone knowing everyone is definitely something which has taken me a long time to get used to! It can take forever just to pop to the local shop for a pint of milk, especially if I’ve got the children in tow…

There are also little things about village life, such as the fact that the local library is only open very few hours a week, and the much more sedate pace, which I tried to include in the book to really bring Tonnadulais to life.

I live in the middle of the Brecon Beacons, so although my house is in a town, in just a few minutes I can be in the middle of some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. Gwen’s even luckier: she’s got the hills right on her doorstep! They provide a comfort to her, as well as being a wonderful place to walk her beloved dog, Oscar.

Gwen’s home is quite old-fashioned and isolated: it doesn’t have mains gas for example, and she doesn’t bother with a mobile because it’s impossible to get a signal – a fact Gwen’s London-based editor, John Thatcher, finds very hard to grasp. My own London-based editor was a little unsure about whether it was realistic to have Gwen without a mobile phone and emailed me regarding it. I read his email just after chatting to a friend of mine about how her well had dried up – rural Wales really can be very different I typed in my reply!

One extremely important aspect of life in Wales is the tractors of course! You can guarantee that if you need to drive somewhere in a hurry, you’ll get stuck behind one! This wasn’t something I managed to work into ‘The Green Hills of Home’, or its novella sequel, ‘Snowed In For Her Wedding’, but you never know, maybe I’ll choose to visit John, Gwen and Tonnadulais again at some point…

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