We're all familiar with Monty Don's stunning Longmeadow garden in Herefordshire but when he's not digging the beds and tending the flowers in his own plot, Monty Don can be found in another outdoor beauty spot – on his favorite country walk to Hay Bluff, in the Black Mountains at Hay on Wye.
Monty climbs a mountain
'I love mountains of any kind but the stark, linear image of the hills of the Black Mountains is especially beautiful to me,' says Monty Don. The landscape he's talking about spreads across Powys and Monmouthshire in South Wales, and straddles the border with England.
'At the western end of the mountains is Hay Bluff, a cliff that rises almost sheer and which you can see from miles away – I can actually see it from the attic room of my house in Herefordshire. This view has been a part of my everyday life for 32 years.'
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Walking the highest road in Wales
'From Hay Bluff itself and, in particular, Gospel Pass, the highest road point in Wales, you have the most staggering, extraordinary view out west towards Wales,' says Don. 'This part of the country is very wild and unoccupied, with the steep wooded valleys on the plain and River Wye glistening down below, and the hills of Wales rising up in front of you. It's one of the great views, I think of the British Isles.'
Why Wales looks like an American landscape
Monty Don's new book American Gardens (opens in new tab) (Prestel Publishing, with photos by Derry Moore) takes a grand tour of outdoor spaces in the US, from desert oases to lush Palm Springs celebrity escapes. And it's the magnificence of the American landscape that Don is reminded of when he looks across the Black Mountains.
'One of the things that's so striking about America is this sense of space and enormity, which is not something we really have in the UK,' he says. 'But you go from Herefordshire, which is an agricultural, bucolic landscape and you suddenly rise up and you're in the middle of mountains and vast, untamed country, and that's very exciting.'
Why we should preserve our British countryside
It's no surprise that Monty Don values the natural world, but he believes the British countryside is as important as any historic building.
'Our history is laid out in the countryside and should be preserved in exactly the same way as we would treasure a cathedral. It's also a working landscape, so it's part of the daily life of thousand of people who earn their living off the land,' he says.
And finally, the British countryside is unique. 'There's nowhere else like it in the world,' Don says. 'We may take it for granted but it's precious and if it goes it won't come back.'