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Top of the world: dual nationality for hills that straddle the Welsh-English border

26 Sep 2021 4 minutes Read
Black Mountains. Image by Dave Noonan from Pixabay

Two hill surveyors from Wales have defined a new category called a National Top, for hills which straddle a national border.

Aled Williams and Myrddyn Phillips, who co-author Welsh summit list Y Pedwarau, developed the new category after looking at hills which straddle the Wales/England border, but say the same process can be applied to any hill or a mountain which crosses a land border.

In an interview with UK Hillwalking, they explain why they developed the category and how they defined it.

Until now, if a hill straddles the border between Wales and England, but the summit is in England, the hill is not recognised as a Welsh hill. The surveyors argue that as both countries can lay claim to the land, the hills should appear on both lists.

Myrddyn Phillips said: “The National Top concept covers summits that are a part of the overall hill, where that hill has a higher summit in the opposing country. It’s simple really, as boundaries such as national borders are man-made, whereas hills are natural.

“So why restrict a hill from being listed just because its higher summit is in say England and the list is to Welsh hills? The hill is a part of both countries and for our listings the Welsh part of the hill will have a high point, and if it meets the criteria then it makes sense to include it in the list.”

The surveyors said that they are building on an idea developed by fellow surveyor, John Kirk, who began looking at ‘hill nationalities’ and created a progressive approach to listing dual national hills. In an article in 2015 on the Mapping Mountains blog, Kirk explained:

“As a classic example, the villages and farms of West Herefordshire see the dark line of The Black Mountain as the Western backdrop to their lands. All they can see is English and the mountain is their boundary. Conversely, when the people of the Vale of Ewyas look to the wall of hills to their east, all they can see is Welsh and that hill ridge is ‘owned’ by them.

“The boundary is the ridge of the hill, and the greater hill performs an inclusive dual national role. One side is English, the other Welsh, and all are happy. The true logic is that the Black Mountain is a dual national summit; it is both a ‘Tommy and a Taffi’. Anything else would be divisive and unreasonable.”

Scrutinised

Concerning the latest work, Myrddin added: “Aled did a lot of work on the concept of National Tops and scrutinised the whole of the Welsh – English border, resulting in other hills that meet Welsh National Top status. However, these hills do not appear in lists that we co-author.”

He explains that in that lists, two hills are affected by the new category. Hergest Ridge, which has a 401.0m summit and the Welsh summit is now listed as a Pedwar and Stonewall Hill which has a 400m summit, with the Welsh summit now listed as a 400m Sub-Pedwar.

“In essence Hergest Ridge has a Welsh summit and an English summit; both are a part of the same hill. This is also applicable to Stonewall Hill. Therefore, for each National Top the drop is taken to the connecting col [the lowest point of a high edge between two mountains] for the overall hill.”

The rules they have established for defining a National Top are

  • Hill lists that include National Tops use a national boundary as their defining land area.
  • The highest point and connecting col of the hill are positioned within the country defining the list.
  • The highest point meets the minimum height used within the list.
  • A National Top connects to a higher adjacent summit via the national boundary.
  • The concept of National Tops is that many lower and their adjacent higher summits are a part of the same overall hill. Therefore, for each National Top the drop is taken to the connecting col for the overall hill.

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
2 months ago

They will have to film a sequel to the Englishman Who Walked Up A Hill And Came Down A Mountain…

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
2 months ago

It’s ironic. We in Wales are considerate enough to devise a term to describe when a hill or mountain straddles two nations. Where if this were England, they would just say England. Wales wouldn’t be in their thoughts. They have a history of doing similar. See Union Flag. Royal Coat of Arms. Past Maps of Britain. The ECB (England & Wales Cricket Board) soley referred to as England. I know my history. Do you? To be brutally honest & factual, as I always am, that those hills or mountains, especially in the borderlands, were and are Welsh. Just look at… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Y Cymro
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
2 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Re. ECB, when there is trouble in the cricket camp then it is the English and Wales Cricket Board I’ve noticed…

Dim problem
Dim problem
2 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Mad, rambling nonsense.

Grayham Jones
2 months ago

It’s time to close the borders with England

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
2 months ago
Reply to  Grayham Jones

And how am I supposed to get to the Co-op then?

Dim problem
Dim problem
2 months ago
Reply to  Grayham Jones

Why on Earth would we do that?

Iolo ap Gwynn
Iolo ap Gwynn
2 months ago

I’m afraid the image shown is not of the Black Mountains. It is an image of Eryri/Snowdoni. The view of Cnicht and Moelwynion from Harlech! Know your geography of Cymru 🙂

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