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I'm a welshman of some 63 years, born in a mining village near Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales. I lived out my school years in the village of Aberfan across the Taff valley, so I easily qualify as a Taffy. Currently I live in the town of High Wycombe in the beautiful Chiltern hills in Buckinghamshire.
I was a keen walker as a child, and while I lived on the edge of a mining village in a mining valley, lived the life of a country dweller. Our family home on the steep slopes of Mynydd Merthyr backed onto a field where cows horses and sheep grazed (their by-products useful for enriching our garden soil), and was but a hundred yards from the disused Glamorganshire Canal and the deepest canal lock anywhere in the British Isles. I and my friends roamed the woods and rocks of the valley slopes, far from the industrial clutter of the valley bottom, often out-of-view of the spoil-heaps that marred our beautiful valley. How Green Was My Valley is the title of a novel by Richard Llewellyn about life in a Victorian mining valley, and is a phrase which often springs to mind when I think back to those happy days. Many people might think that life in such a mining community would be hard and unrewarding, the countryside despoiled, the air thick with the smoke from the mine chimneys. "We were poor but we were happy" is a modern cliché, but in my case, and for most of my relatives, friends and neighbours, I'm certain it was true.
My interest in walking, bird-watching, natural history, local history and industrial archaeology has its roots in those childhood years.
I have been a student (in the broadest sense) of military history and the technology of warfare since I was at school, especially Roman history and archaeology and the period covering the second world war. I have an extensive collection of books on both. My interest in the second world war stems from my father, who served with the South Wales Borderers from the mid 1930s to 1946. He served in the northwest frontier region of India (now Pakistan), Palestine (now Israel), and north Africa (Egypt and Libya). There's no doubt that his happiest years were spent in the area to the east of the Khyber Pass - Landi Kotal, Peshawar and Rawalpindi. His battalion served alongside a Sikh battalion, and he developed a lifelong admiration for these fiercely proud and professional soldiers, their philosophy, way of life and not least their food. I learned many punjabi and urdu words and phrases listening to his stories about military life and incidents in the border areas.
My interest in all things Roman can be traced back to a school visit to the site of the Roman Legionary Fortress at Caerleon in south Wales, and to the small but fascinating museum there. I now know that much of what the teacher who accompanied us told us about Roman legionaries and the fortress was wrong, but it whetted my appetite. I've since trudged over many lumps and bumps of Roman origin from Scotland to the south coast of England. An excellent aid to my Roman ramblings has been the "Memory-Map" application which gives me access to Ordnance Survey maps covering the whole of the UK, including complete sets of Landranger 1:50k and Explorer 1:25k maps.
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