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The Severn estuary divides Greater Bristol and Gloucestershire the Welsh cities of Cardiff and Newport. Because of its tides and currents, the river once acted as an effective barrier between Saxon and Celt but there are now two fine road bridges and a tunnel as well as the M4 motorway which connect them. If anyone was wondering about "Hafren" it is Weksh for the Severn. According to Wikipedia, it takes its name from a Celtic princess called Hafren who was drowned in the river by her stepmother. Her name in Latin was Sabrina and we have anglicized it to Severn.
I had originally intended to launch a blog on IP and technology in South-West England but the region is so large and so diverse that such a blog would have been of very little use to businesses and individuals there. It includes some of the most prosperous parts of the United Kingdom but also some of the least. The region breaks up naturally into three parts, namely the Bristol City Region which includes much of Gloucestershire, Thomas Hardy's Wessex (that is to say, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire) and Cornwall. The distance between northern Gloucestershire and the Lizard peninsula is about the same as the distance from Gloucestershire to the Scottish border. Geography imposes a limit to what the constituent parts of that region could possibly have in common.
It occurred to me that very much the same could be said of Wales. That principality has two industrial districts originally based on mining and heavy industry in the south-east and northeast. The rest of Wales is rural but the Wye Valley and Pembrokeshire have a very different feel to Snowdonia or even to one another. The Brecon Beacons in the South are different again.
On the other hand Bristol, Cardiff and Newport are very close together. So close that many who work in Cardiff and Newport commute from Bristol and Gloucestershire and many who live in Cardiff and Newport travel to work in the opposite direction. Only 45 miles separate central Cardiff from Central Bristol which is slightly less than the distance between the centres of the Northern Powerhouse cities of Leeds and Manchester. The journey by rail from Cardiff to Bristol takes approximately the same time as the journey between Leeds and Manchester. Greater Bristol and South East Wales may not regard themselves as such but they are for all intents and purposes a single conurbation of nearly 2 million inhabitants. They may lie in different nations but then the New York conurbation straddle three separate states while the Bâle, Fribourg, Mulhouse conurbation in three different countries, one of which is outside the EU.
The idea that South-Eas Wales and Greater Bristol could be a western powerhouse has already been canvassed by civic leaders in Bristol, Cardiff and Newport (see the press release Great Western Cities one step closer to realising Britain’s Western Powerhouse 12 Feb 2016 Metro Dynamics and John Murray Brown Bristol, Cardiff and Newport launch ‘Great Western Cities’ 12 Feb 2016 Financial Times). Metro Dynamics published a report entitled Britain's Western Powerhouse in support of greater cohesion and collaboration between the three cities.
The combined city regions would have a lot of strengths: the IPO is at Newport, international airports in Bristol and Cardiff, three world class research universities in Bristol, Bath and Cardiff and fine teaching universities nearby, good motorway and rail links to London, Heathrow and the Channel Tunnel, a highly skilled work force with a high percentage of graduates and beautiful countryside. great theatre and other attractions.
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