The countryside in this part of the world, from the photo-gallery of Kilverts, Hay-on-Wye (see bibliography), by kind permission of the inn.

Sunday, 9 July [1871]

April Storms. Shower and shine chasing each other swiftly. The little clerk coming down the road in his mackintosh cape to chime the bells at 9 o'clock. The galloping and pattering up and down the passage. The old cat bringing in a young blackbird dead for the kitten. The red roses in the garden bright against the sunny light blue mountains. Mr. Venables preached morning and evening and I was glad to go to Bettws.

It was sultry hot climbing the hill though there was the blowing of a wind from the west. In the Chapel field the tall brown and purple grasses were all in billows like the sea, as the wind coursed over the hill driving one billow after another, sheen and dusk, up against the Chapel wall. And the Chapel in the grass looked like a house founded upon a rock in the midst of a billowy sea.

How quiet and sunny and lovely the village was this evening as I went to the Vicarage to dinner. There was not a person in the roads or moving anywhere. The only living creature I saw was a dog. An intense feeling and perception of the extraordinary beauty of the place grew upon me in the silence as I passed through the still sunny churchyard and saw the mountains through the trees rising over the school, and looked back at the church and the churchyard through the green arches of the wych elms. Then the glowing roses of the Vicarage lawn and the blue mountains beyond broken by the dark Castle Clump. [142]


Kilvert starts his diary entry with impressionist snatches of the morning's events on a summer's day: unsettled weather, the clerk in his mackintosh, the bells summoning people for morning service, and at the same time the cat with its prey, the roses, the mountain backdrop. Sunshine by now... it is a masterly evocation of the life going on around him, from near to far, and moving forward in time. Later, walking over to the Vicarage, he describes the wind blowing the grass into waves, and the Chapel standing firm in their midst. His words recall Jesus's to Peter, "Upon this rock will I build my church" (Matthew 16, 18). This would come naturally to a clergyman, yet the reference was surely intentional too. Colour is another important part of the effect here. The entry begins with those red roses and blue mountains, but in between are the brown and purple grasses and the green wych elms. As on other occasions, the observant and susceptible young man remembers feeling overcome by an "intense feeling and perception of the extraordinary beauty of the place," which he has conveyed to his readers too.

Related Material


Kilvert’s Diary (a selection). Ed. William Plomer. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977.

[Illustration source] Kilverts (an inn in Hay-on-Wye).

Created 12 April 2020