Last year we went to see a friend of ours in West Wales. We only wanted to go for a few days and couldn’t find anywhere that would take bookings for less than a week.
One holiday park even told me that they would take my booking but only if I booked it 48 hours in advance after they’d tried (and presumably failed) to find someone who would take it for longer!
‘Why don’t you try Happy Donkey Hill?’ said Sue when I called her in a state of mild panic. ‘Great name,’ I said, ‘do you have a number?’ ‘Just Google Happy Donkey Hill, you’ll find it’.
Sure enough I found it straight away on my phone, called the owner and made a booking over the phone immediately for 4 nights staying in a newly converted static caravan next to a chicken shed (sadly the donkeys were in a field down the road).
Now I discover that owner Kate Clamp is at the centre of a linguistic row with the Welsh authorities who are trying to, pardon the pun, clamp down on traditional Welsh place names being changed (in this case the original Welsh name is Faerdre Fach).
An internet search for Kate Clamp reveals that she has incurred quite a bit of hatred from local Welsh bloggers since moving to Wales a few years ago, one of whom has branded her a ‘foreigner’ and ‘colonialist’ (she is English) for her actions. It seems a bit harsh to me.
Now, I met Kate and I found her completely bonkers in the nicest possible way, and although I have some sympathy with Welsh speakers trying to preserve their culture and language I can also see her point of view which is basically she needed to change the name in order to attract tourists – especially those searching online.
Would I have Googled ‘Faerdre Fach’ as I was out and about trying to book somewhere to stay via my mobile phone? No almost certainly not. And that’s the reality.
I suspect the vast majority of people staying there probably don’t speak any Welsh whatsoever and the only reason the place survives and makes money (much of which goes into the community) is because of tourists like me who go there for the memorable name ‘Happy Donkey Hill’.
You can hear the feature on Radio 4’s Today programme here. Go to 1 hour 22 mins 30 seconds.