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The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain

A little story about Welsh Identity.
Taff Valley, Craig Yr Allt and the Garth, Wales
Åpne bilde i et nytt vindu

One day a Welsh village right across the English border was visited by two land surveyors from England. They were going to map the village and its surroundings and record the topographic details of the area. The English gentlemen were well received and invited to the pub for a pint of the local brew before they attended to their business.

Taff Valley, Craig Yr Allt and the Garth, Wales

The next day the villagers were gathered in the pub when the two Englishmen came in after they had finished their work. The locals were quite curious about the findings of the two surveyors, and asked them to tell what they had found out.
The chief surveyor told them that it was a hard job in the summer heat because, he said, “That hill over there was really hard to climb.” “Hill? What hill?” The villagers didn’t seem to understand. “That is not a hill – it is a mountain,” they said. “Well, we have measured it, and it is 998 feet high, which means it cannot be classified as a mountain," the Englishman replied. "The minimum height of a mountain is 1000 feet above sea level, that’s the standard we use. So, I’m afraid it is just a hill.”
The villagers were furious. “What! A hill! If that is not a mountain, this could just as well be England. It is a mountain because this is Wales!” one of the angry villagers shouted.
The atmosphere was getting a bit tense, so the Englishmen said good night and went upstairs to spend the night at the pub and then go back to England the next day.

Now the villagers gathered for a council. They were both hurt and angry, and they decided that they had to do something. Different solutions were discussed; one person even suggested that they could simply kill the Englishmen, so the survey result would not be reported. That suggestion was soon abandoned, as new surveyors would come and killing them all would mean declaring war on England, which was not a good solution.

“Well, if this is not a mountain, we will have to make it a mountain,” one of them said. There was silence, and then simultaneously they all seemed to know what they had to do. During that night they gathered together all the people in the village, including old people, sick people, women and children, and started to carry stones and sand to the top of their mountain. They united forces for a project that seemed important to them.

When the morning came the Englishmen were getting ready to leave and the villagers gathered to see them off. One of them stepped forward and said, “My dear friends!” “We would like to apologize for our behaviour last night. You probably understand that it is very important to us that this is a mountain and not just a hill. So, we would like to ask you to please go up and measure it again, just to make sure?” The two English land surveyors reluctantly agreed to take another measurement of the hill, and off they went. A couple of hours later they came back down with a funny look on their faces. “Well, it seems we were wrong yesterday, because today this is a mountain.”


  1. Why were the villagers angry after they had talked to the land surveyors?
  2. Why did the villagers carry stones and sand to the mountain during the night?
  3. The land surveyors were English – why is that important for the story?
  4. What does the story tell you about Welsh identity?


If you like the story, you might enjoy the film too. It has the same title.


Explain these words / expressions in English:

  • The locals
  • To record
  • A land surveyor
  • Simultaneously
  • Reluctantly

  • Locals: People living in the neighbourhood, the local surroundings
  • To record: To put down facts and figures on paper or a file
  • A land surveyor: A person who registers topographic details to make a map of a specific area
  • Simultaneously: At the same time
  • Reluctantly: To do something against one’s will

Find Out

This story is supposedly based on a true story. Use the links below to find out:

  • The name of the real mountain
  • Where it is
  • How high it is according to the latest maps
  • Who wrote the story
  • When it takes place
  • Who the main actors in the film are

"Backsights" Magazine, Surveyors Historical Society

Wikipedia - Englishman Who Went up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain

CC BY-SASkrevet av Jan-Louis Nagel.
Sist faglig oppdatert 07.10.2018


UK & Ireland