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An itinerant observer and thinker about life in general, sharing some moments of wandering and wonderment.

Sunday, 30 September 2012


As I write, this time last night, I was chasing a sunset and watching a full moon rise in the sky. Outside now there is little to be seen in the cloud darkened, rain drizzmal evening.
It has been like this most of the day, so no photographs taken, no Sunday surprises, so ...
I thought it a good time to catch up on what has been happening on the weir project.
Going back just a week and the lower weir was being reshaped in a drastic way ...
The river had been diverted into a narrow channel, enabling the guys to re-sculpt the river floor.
Once more a mixture of three ton stones, combined with rocks of smaller sizes were being carefully put into place. This is the area where the trout and eels were rescued just a few weeks ago.
Down river a substantial silt filter was bulging with the disturbed mud and finer grains that the work up river had created. This is then scooped out and taken up onto dry land. Also, finer earth is being used to re-sculpt the river bank to make it seem in the future "more natural". This after all the trees were felled to allow access at certain points along the bank. But nature can heal fairly easily and within months this now seemingly bare earth will begin to green over. By this time next year one will hardly see the scars made by such machines as these ...
But meanwhile ... yet more deliveries of three ton rocks were arriving on site ...
The above was just one single truck load, approximately about fifteen tons of stone!
And now to bring you up to date to what was happening in the river last Friday.
The massive rocks were being loaded one by one into another machine. It was amazing to watch the dexterity of the driver, as he carefully scooped up each 3 ton rock ...
then ... with it carefully balanced in the bucket, swung it around and deposited it ...
in the back of the vehicle that would then drive into the river and upend its load.
All this work has been understandably noisy, but, not for much longer.
The guys tell me that there are only a couple of weeks left to go. They are just about there with the re-sculpting of this area of river-scape. But there is all the tidying up of the site to be dealt with and all the heavy plant has to be decontaminated before going off site so they don't transfer any unwelcome organisms to the next area. Talking of which, there has been sightings of at least five mink along this stretch of the Ebbw. This non native predator (often mistaken for our native otter)  is a threat to local wildlife and will no doubt be paying much attention to the newly installed eel runs. Another non native but very invasive plant species, Himalayan Balsam has spread rapidly along the banks of the river. It is a very beautiful weed, much loved by bees, to the detriment of our local flora.
One type of bird in particular has been put out by all this re-arrangement of its local habitat. A heron who could be regularly seen on one particular rock at the edge of the water, is visibly confused by the fact his favourite fishing spot is no longer there. No doubt he and the other herons will find possibly more suitable sites amongst all the new rocks.
Of all the thousands of tons of rock and boulder added to this stretch of the river ...
I'm sure they won't find it too difficult, in fact they will be spoilt for choice.
So folk just two weeks to go and the work will be complete.

Saturday, 29 September 2012


This morning dawned sunny, bright and ... dry! Having recorded things locally for the last few weeks, it seemed a good idea to head off in the car and look at another area on the other side of a valley, so we drove over towards Mynydd Lwyd, a mountain that we've not visited for a couple of years but from there our mountain can clearly be seen.
A different persective.
This too is commons land adjoining Mynydd Maen but even as we parked up there was one big difference. A long string of skeleton pylons stretching across the open landscape.
These steel giants can be clearly seen from our mountain, highlighted on the skyline, but here we were walking right underneath them. I could hear the buzzing of electricity as I stood and took the photograph. I also noticed that something here was different (and no, not the lack of sheep, there were plenty of those around, mainly Mountain Welsh. The terrain was very similar to ours. The rushes too, just like ours had been harvested in great swathes but it was the hoof prints in the muddy terrain that gave the game away. These signs were not ovine but bovine! I became a bit worried about the dog, used as he is to cattle on the other side of the fence, these would be roaming free.
And, as we were soon to discover the bulls had threateningly large horns. I got as close as I dared with instructions to the dog to "stay by" and took a few photographs before quietly backing off. Luckily these grazing bulls seemed unperturbed by strangers, just quietly carried on grazing the grass amongst the recently harvested rushes. Phew! There was also another potential danger looming nearby, cows with calves can be dangerous.
But these Galloways seemed just as quietly curious about us as we were about them. There were many more grazing in amongst the rushes and heather but I wasn't chancing my luck by trying to get better quality photographs. I trust my dog totally with sheep but cattle can be a very different matter, the dog may be able to run away, but I can't, so we moved gently away and left them to continue chewing the cud in the late September sun.
I had my eyes on the ground, although the flora here is very much the same, it seems very differently arranged and to my delight, something I have been looking for in our area.
Touch it and it turns into a tight, defensive ball. It's a fox moth caterpillar. Last year on our commons I saw literally hundreds of them, but have not seen one in our area this year.
They are gorgeous, brightly coloured, hairy little creatures and here there were plenty.
I was also on the look out for something unique to this area that I have come across before when we've explored this stretch of mountain in the past. As you know, I love old stone walls and a few years ago I spotted a cuckoo on top of of one of the boundary walls.
It also drew my attention, to what seemed like a gravestone, curious I took a closer look.
It reads  ... "B.H Boundary of Minerals Settled by Act Two of Parliament 1889." N0w, try as I might to google this particular site, I've found no relevant information regarding the stone I photographed today. Though I found references to the act in places as far flung as Canada and Brazil? So sorry folks but no further info regards this stone. I had hoped to bump into the local farmer to ask him what he knew about it, but no such luck today, so you and me both are none the wiser regards the significance of this possibly 203 year old boundary marker. It is still in amazingly readable condition!
But that was not all to today. After a well earned. easy afternoon we were to witness a wonderful sunset. The gold glow of the planet that gives us day warming in the west ...
and in the east, it's complimentary planet was rising above the horizon.
A full moon to end an interesting and unusual day!

Friday, 28 September 2012


My goodness what a day today has been, full of surprises, but it all started off with the first photograph of the day and this tiny bramble plant bearing berries.
I've been eating them for a few weeks now, sun warmed or rain washed the blackberry is a generous fruiting plant. Now here's a strange fact ... "there are up to 400 species and sub species." (Collins Gem Guide)
I bet you didn't know that! But it explains why some are full of flavour and others ... well insipid! This tiny plant growing in an old railway wall was trying to ripen seven fruits. Another fact ... blackberries don't need to be pollinated to bear fruit another being dandelions. I was on my way down to see the progress on the weir, but more on that over the weekend because the end of the day was more exciting to witness. We started off here at the trig point a mere  489 metres above sea level. (this is a ground eye view).
And that got me thinking about seeing things from a different point of view. What if ... one saw things from an alternative perspective, as someone much smaller in size than me? If that was the case, then one would see things so differently and the effect would be great.
what to say an insect, would seem to us, like a lake ...
and to human eyes, the normally small would seem many times larger .
A dog might seem like a monster ... he was determined to get in on the scene as I lay on the ground with my camera a mere inch off the earth. I was fascinated with perspective, he just wanted to paddle in the puddles. I wanted to capture an insect eye view, he just wanted to play and I don't blame him, he couldn't understand why I was laid flat on the earth with my camera, trying to stop him causing ripples in the reflections. Now ... if you go back to the second photograph of what seems like a lake ... well folks it's all an optical illusion because my camera was just an inch off the ground because it wasn't a lake, just a puddle!
If ... anyone had driven by when I was prostate on the ground would have wondered what on earth I was doing, But folks just remember this ... sometimes one needs an alternative view of life. Let's face it, it makes the day to day ... much more interesting! And then to almost end the day, as we were driving back home, I captured this calm peaceful scene.
It all depends how you look at life
to be able to see what you get out of it!
P.S. just to give you an idea of how small a trig stone can really seem ...
and I leave you with grasses seen from an insect perspective, in the sunset.

Thursday, 27 September 2012


After the last days of rain it was lovely to see the weather become more settled overnight.
A barn owl was hunting at dusk behind the house, normally I hear it hunting in the very early hours. On of the things I've missed this year is the wonderful starry skies we get here due to very little light pollution, in the evening the Plough can clearly be seen from the back door. No such sight last night, the sky was still rather cloudy and moody.
We headed up to the old church to enjoy the views that can be witnessed from there and found that some of the hay figures still remained, though somewhat reshaped by rain. 
I smiled at a memory of a small four year old who when these hay folk had been freshly made, wouldn't touch them because he thought they were dead people and in a quite defiant voice, said they were decomposing.
After the last weeks they are definitely doing something similar ... composting! Beneath the dry surface the hay was damp and mouldy and so ... they had to go. They are all now bagged up and will soon be heading off to the farm manure heap for spreading next year.
<<< This one was formed to look rather like a local character called Dude. Who is not human but could be confused with being a sheep.Can you see the similarity?

I know this is not the best photo >>>
but trying to catch these two on camera wasn't easy. Ffin wasn't quite sure what to make of this fluffy white creature. Being trained as he is, not to chase sheep, he wasn't quite sure how to play with a dog that looked like one. Dude is only five months old and full of all the boisterous, dash about fun of an energetic pup. Ffin is more sedate these days due to his early onset arthritic joints and ... not being used to other canine companions, wasn't quite sure how to play this game of race around the gravestones. But they got on reasonable well together though when Dude stopped for a rest he looked more like a cosy fireside rug!
Meanwhile as these two were chasing and exploring I had my eyes more focused on the clouds forever changing and rearranging themselves, I never tire of watching the sky.
One minute bright sunshine and then the cloud s occluded the sun darkening the stones. But then there would be moments of early evening warmth and soft muted colours ...
as if inviting one to sit and just witness the goings on around this lovely churchyard.

It is a beautifully peaceful place and I love just sitting and watching the changes not just in the skies above but also throughout the seasons. It seems the swifts and swallows are preparing to leave on their long flight to warmer climes and who can blame them, there was a distinct chill in the air as sun started descending beneath the western skyline. At first it didn't seem as though the sunset would be a beautiful rosy glow, but ... I waited patiently and was rewarded for getting rather cold. Sadly, it was then that I realised my camera battery was getting very low and I subsequently missed the best of this evenings dramatic display.
The trees on the horizon almost look like grazing beasts, some even resemble bison. Not that we have any around here, though there is a man fairly locally who breeds Llamas!
As we drove back down the mountain road, I was to witness the sky turn red and gold with patches of clear blue sky and deep blushing pink clouds. The jackdaws were revelling in an end of day flying display, it was wonderful. We've had so few sunsets like that this year, but as I listened to the news on the car radio, I heard that an old haunt of mine, York has suffered the second worst flooding problems since records began. Other areas too have had terrible flood problems and gale force winds, so we have been quite blessed here.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012


The last three days have not been conducive to wandering about with a camera. Why?
Because it has rained and rained yet again. The worst for thirty years. To be fair, we have not had it as bad here as other areas of the country. The news has been full of areas flooded out, some even getting hit three times and my heart goes out to them, here as I've mentioned before, being on a mountain has advantages because the water flows down past us into the Afon Ebbw where the team on the weir were unable to work on Monday due to the fast flow of the river and torrential rain all day. We didn't even get out and about on Monday, the mad mutt was obviously very miffed at this, heaving deeply disappointed sighs. He should count himself lucky that we were safely warm and dry inside. Yesterday wasn't much better, but what I thought was a dry break in the day, saw us getting suddenly drenched by stinging rain that felt more like hail. Dog unimpressed! Today we waited again until late this afternoon for some moments of sunshine and (shhh ... no rain) we grabbed the opportunity for daft dog to stretch his legs.
It looked promising ... sunshine highlighted the green pastures ...
but ... it was a window of opportunity with the net curtains of mist drawing in ...
as the sky started to look ominously dark and were heading our way and swiftly too. 
Everything was turning darker fairly quickly and as it was the moorland was already soggy underfoot with the vehicle tracks looking like a string of deep pools. Thank goodness for wellies! But ... I had not prepared the upper body for what was about to happen. Yes ... I had only several layers and a warm fleece, not quite the protective clothing required to protect against the wind blown rain. We got soaked once again. But then in another moment of a glancing chance of sunshine I captured this scene ...
Balwen sheep in a corner of a field and ... some Welsh rams, it's tupping time again!
and despite what the weather may throw at us, they are eager to start a new generation. Ram sales are already happening around the country and on Radio 4's Farming Today a Blue Leicester ram was sold for 6.800 guineas. Yes you read that right, and ... it didn't happen in Leicestershire where you'd expect such a sale, but at The Royal Welsh! Our local Nelson ram sales are due on the 5th of October, but I doubt we will reach those heady heights. But ... new blood in our flocks will produce better quality lambs for our future. A wether, is a castrated male ram, very different from ... the weather!

Saturday, 22 September 2012


There is an old folk song about John Barleycorn  and one of the verses reads like this ...
"They've hired men with sythes so sharp,
to cut him off at the knee,
They've rolled him and turned him
and served him most barbarously."
The dog was all ears alert this morning to the sound of machinery working in the barley fields that we visited just two days ago and had returned today because they were due to be harvested and not on the old fashioned way with scythes. These 50+ acres were being cut off below the knee, with modern machinery.
The forestry that normally mutes the sounds of traffic in the valley, resounded to the vibrations of this crop being harvested and we were curious to watch this modern leviathan at work.
No signs of pale green stalks today, the last few days of sun have finished the ripening and here was the large. John Deere combine harvester navigating through the mature crop.
This year is the 175th anniversary of John Deere, a one man blacksmith working in Illinois, USA. He designed a polished steel mold board to replace the cast iron plough shares that were currently in use, thereby making ploughing in heavier soils much easier. That was just a small moment of change and if you are interested in his inventions, just google John Deere, fascinating!  A simple idea, that changed the face of agricultural history. That man, started something that has become such a huge part of our agricultural mechanisation.
The machinery in it's classic green and gold with the leaping deer logo is now so much a part of the farming scenes across the world. It is quite  an incredible achievement.
Just imagine how long it would take men with scythes to harvest this much acreage?
 Now, just one man, driving this machine, can harvest all these acres, the grains being taken up into a hopper on the back and leaving just the stalks neatly in rows, which will be dealt with by another man with a baling machine.
Then a baler will come in and scoop up the straw left behind and bingo, the harvest is in!
The timing has been just right, today is the autumn equinox and ... as the weather due to change overnight, with rain forecast over the next four days . A lucky break methinks.
In the song there's a line ... "They've let him stand 'till midsummers day."
I guess that shows how times have changed, as that usually takes place on June 21st!
As we returned down the track between forest and farm. I looked across the valley ... towards Man Moel (in Welsh that means bare place) and all that you see in this view has been sculpted and changed by man from the forestry to the mine changed land and the farm land behind me and I thought of an apt way to describe all this terrain ... manscape!
It also occured to me that even the skies in today's photographs have contrails from planes, (they are always more noticeable on a Saturday). Is there no escape from man?
And by that, I am not being gender detrimental. just referring to the effect Homo Sapiens has changed on all of our landscape. and at times one has to wonder  ... "For better or worse." To quote an old phrase ... "A curates egg."  I would say this ... good in parts.
To end the day there was a sunset of sorts, but even then I had to position the camera in such a way that the scar of a contrail across the clouds didn't spoil an otherwise clear sky.
A rather special way to end this memorable day!

Friday, 21 September 2012


Today was one of those days when the forecast was unpredictable with changing skies ...
It was hard to know what to wear. I seemed as if we were going to get rain, we didn't!
But it was quite chilly out there, loads of layers like an onion ready for any event as it happened there was no watery downpour from on high and the day remained fairly dry.
This morning we went to look at the changes in the reconstruction of the weirs and watched as yet  more 3ton boulders were delivered ready for the next stage of the project.
They are working tomorrow, so hopefully I will be able to update with more info then.
But this afternoon we headed up onto the commons and watched the dramatic skies.
Enjoy ...
In the last one above ^^^ one can just see the barley fields highlighted in the sunshine.
I was content just to wander in amongst the moorland vegetation, watching the skies.
All too soon the remaining sheep on the commons will be gathered in for tupping
and the moorland will seem autumnally bare.
Next week, the forecast is for much more rain, so photography will be difficult
we shall see what the next few days will bring.