Clive Doucet reaches the “end of the road” in Wales

Clive Doucet reaches the “end of the road

Posted by Trevor Pritchard on Friday, October 28, 2011

Over the past few months, we’ve been following Clive Doucet’s journeys across Europe. The former city councillor and mayoral contender has been writing extensively about his travels since May, usually with an eye to how Ottawa can learn from the places he’s visited.

Today, Doucet marks the end of his six-month trip. In a blog post titled “End of the Road,” he chronicles his visit to the book-loving Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye:

It seemed like the right place to end our long tour through Europe. Hay itself is a beautiful place with a couple of pleasant pubs, a small market place and a fine old church in the centre, but it is the books which make it. You can browse for hours through the stores. I found everyone from the autobiography of the Globe and Mail’s John Doyle to authors I’d never heard of like Ethel Mannin who had published 87 books over the course of her life, novels, memoirs, travel books. It was both fascinating and humbling to discover prolific authors who are as new to me as the day.

The town has 26 second-hand bookstores, writes Doucet, and plays host to an international cultural festival. While his post is more focused on his personal experiences than urban insights—and understandably so, given Hay-on-Wye marks the end of his journey—Doucet does offer this insight into how rural transit differs between England and France:

I was struck with the difference between France and Britain. In a similar village, Limoux, where we stayed in France, there was a twenty minute rail trip from the nearest large centre, Carcassonne and the service was being reinstalled further out into the hills. You simply walked across one track to the other, waited for a bit and off you went on a comfortable ride to Limoux. The Hereford/Hay connection was such that there were only locals and ourselves on it, not a single visitor.

The French commitment to small farmers and rural services contrasted with the English approach that small farmers are inefficient and rural rail lines be uprooted like noxious weeds. [The difference] couldn’t have been more vivid.

Rural mass transit is, of course, an ongoing discussion in eastern Ontario, with groups like MOOSE trying to forge better transit connections with the smaller communities outside Ottawa.

As for Doucet’s plans, now that he’s back in Canada: Spacing Ottawa says he’s returned to Ottawa to serve as a “visiting scholar” at Carleton University’s College of the Humanities.