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

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Well ... it's been an odd sort of a day in many ways, maybe something to do with the date.
Witchety kind of weather, in other words, which way is it going to turn next ... and oh boy did it change throughout the day. What didn't we have wet-wise apart from the frozen form of wetness, well no frost, ice, or snow! But we had breezes to stiff winds blowing the leaves off the trees at a rate of knots, though we escaped the gale force ferocity that the Shipping Forecast this morning forecast for all bar one of the areas of the U.K  coastline.
As I write now in the early hours of this last day in October, the rain is lashing the windows and I doubt there will me much "trick or treating" done this evening, unless there are some brave, mad souls out there who want to venture out on such a drizzmal night.
But ... in order not to let my followers down on the last day of October, I found these ...
mini pumpkins, nestling in amongst the (by now) very wet autumnal beech leaves. 
And ... strangely enough they seemed to follow me around the old churchyard.
I think the top one may have been playing "King of the castle"
but the other two thought they would have a go at being top pumpkins ...
but as the weather got darker and the rain was getting heavier ...
they grouped atop an old stone stile, with views over the valley below.
but ... the paler of the three, still felt it had to be King Pumpkin.
The last time I saw them together, they were huddling in the protection of the side door of 
the old church. Wherever will they appear next ... ?
As I write the rain is coming in heavily, very few Welsh witches will be flying tonight!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


This morning I drove up the mountain road to let my charges (chickens) out for the day.
Having watched the news about Hurricane Sandy which has been really quite horrendous
I feel that here ... we, in comparison have little to moan about as regards local weather.
As I scattered the wet mash (cooked food) and layers pellets and corn it was lovely to see them clucking and pecking and being most un-photogenic it has to be said but at least they and I were very lucky compared to so many folk in The U.S.A. who have had to deal with weather abnormalities that have been far more to have to cope with than we have here.
But local is what I know best and whilst across the United States aircraft were grounded,
here the skies were full of con-trails. They may look like clouds but they are formed by aircraft flying the busy airways that cross our country to land who knows where.
Meanwhile back at ground level ... a view across the local landscape, grass and old stone.
It may seem hard to believe now, but these remnants of locally sourced stone were once dwellings for a few hardy folk. Water and coal had to be gathered from the valley below and as for survival in the long months of winter, the conditions were unbelievably bitter. I know folk whose relatives lived here and their stories about life then are quite amazing. They had no easily accessible water, no electricity, no vehicles back then and very few other families for miles around and as you can imagine conditions in winter were harsh.
But, at least they, like me would have watched the changing of the seasons and maybe taken some delight in the ever changing skies that are so much a part of this landscape.

Monday, 29 October 2012


Now ... I am very well aware as I write this that much as I moan about our local weather, there is currently Hurricane Sandy already causing havoc and threatening the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. A hurricane over a thousand miles wide, that is awesome! But I can only really write about what happens within a few miles of where I live and yes today, started with a fog bound mountain and the steady fall of very light rain as I headed back up the mountain road to let the chickens out from their safe. overnight roost.
But this late flowering  rose caught my eye, all bejewelled with raindrops. A cheery sight on what initially promised to be a very dull and dreary day. The chooks were quiet, but as I approached their overnight accommodation, I heard a satisfying choir of "clucks". I deliberately scattered the corn and layers pellets in an area of where I could take photo's.
And there most of them were greedily pecking up the corn and layers pellets that I had spread out on the grass for them. Too busy to look up to camera and be photogenic. Who can blame them, they had been stuck inside overnight and were eager to feed. Then there were the two rabbits to attend to. Far too wet to let them out into an outdoor run, they were fed extra goodies in their lovely dry hutch. But another bird I became aware of, who kept flying back and forth, was a robin ... who wanted to eat the food I'd spread out too.
Shy of me at first, he kept flitting in and out as I tried to stay incredibly still, but at least I got one photograph of him on top of the swing and then he joined in with the chooks.
But much as I loved this interaction between wildlife and fowl, the dog needed to have his own exercise and so we headed off for a small gentle stroll down the mountain road. Beech roots glistened in the overcast conditions, some things shone out beneath the rather dank and at times almost dark seeming fogginess and we were surrounded by a clinging, damp, moving mist.
Then it gradually began to clear so that at least one could see across a field, but not much further than that.
Even the ram was lazily grazing, seeming to be more interested in eating the dew glistening grass in the pasture than chatting up any of the many ewes in his vicinity. The view across the valley was obscured by clouds. Around me the trees were dripping and under what is left of their autumnal canopies the road seemed rather dark even though by now it was mid morning. Then as we reached the point of turning back, there began a cloud clearing change as the sun began to break through and I stood and watched, entranced by the sudden highlighting of the suns rays on the view. It was, quite simply quite magical to see the mist slowly clear and all the autumnal colours begin to slowly appear.
What you cannot see here is that between the disappearing mistiness and the trees is the rainbow colours that seemed like a light show as the sun just lit up mountain and valley.
I took so many photographs today, that it has been hard to choose which ones to use, but this was next was the view as we headed back up the mountain road that when I had driven up it earlier seemed so dismally grey, rain drenched and rather dark and damp.
Fields that I had passed within the last half hour where one could hardly see the sheep ...
were easily visible both close too and far across the valley, it really was just wonderful.
And above amongst all the white sheep one black "tear faced" ewe that I had seen on the day she was born, though her twin was as white as the others you can see in this field.
I stopped to talk to a farmer who was clearly fed up with all this wet weather and was feeding his rams extra pellets to increase their stamina for the busy months ahead and as we walked on heading back to the car, I could hear him calling them to be fed. I could just see him through the beech leaves in the hedge, now beautifully lit by the bright sunlight.
What a change in the day over less than an hour! When I had headed off up the mountain in the rain to see to my friends chickens and rabbits I had never expected this amazing  change in the morning. Then the weather closed in again.
Much later in the day, as once again I drove up the mountain road to put my charges safely away for the night, out of the rain dank anmd gloom there was another surprise ... a rather moody but in it's own way, beautiful sunset. It had begun to rain again, but very lightly. I managed to get the chickens all safely locked away and the rabbits bedded down for the night, then took the dog for a last walk around the old churchyard and to watch the sunset change as it ... yes ... started to rain yet again. But looking back down the valley I could see ground mist rising ... 
As I got back to the car, I met another farmer just closing up his gates for the night, he too was fed up with the weather and talked about how badly this year has been for him. He reckons the knock on effect of this year will cost him dearly in the year ahead. Returning home, the ground mist had risen up over the village making visibility poor and though there was a full moon tonight, I had not been able to see it. Time to stay in the warm!

Sunday, 28 October 2012


I mentioned yesterday that I hate this change of clocks twice a year, much as I can appreciate the extra daylight it gives us. It isn't really extra light anyway, just the way we have to adjust and the person to blame is a builder, a certain William Willet, who wanted more working hours and so in 1907 proposed the idea in a pamphlet entitled "Waste of Daylight Hours." He died just a mere year before the Government enforced "British Summertime." in 1916. So ... almost one hundred years later, here we are coping ... just.
Now ... chooks adapt their body clocks to light changes, so by the time I managed to get up there to let them out, I think they felt a little bit cheated and were eager to free range.
They were not in a suitable photographic mood for me and my camera, so no photo's.
The weather this morning was to say the least, not great, rain overnight and misty.
I don't know where all the cattle and sheep that normally graze in this field were hiding,
probably in the shelter of the trees as a rather brisk breeze blew across the mountain.
Across the other side of the road, looking across an old (beautifully constructed) wall ...
there was a thin stripe of light beneath the rain laden, grey clouds above the sea.
In the foreground, the recently fallen autumnal leaves provided some lovely colour.
But notice the bareness of the trees in the middle ground, stripped by the wind of their leaves and ... in this case as they are hawthorn trees they are devoid of lovely red berries.
It seems that the beech trees are the only ones left with much foliage and that is falling at an alarming pace. Nearly all the other species are now, sadly almost totally leafless.
By the top mountain gate, the view was very much the same, but notice the vehicle tracks in the mud of the pens. Here is where many of the last sheep were gathered in off the commons and were sorted out as to which ewes and lambs belonged to who. It has been a busy time of year for our farmers as they choose which ewes will go with which rams and then basically it is up to the tups to do their annual job of mating to produce next years lambs. Gestation period is an average  of 147 days, so, depending on mating time we can expect lambs in approximately 5 months time, so come March we may see the first lambs.
Meanwhile ... in-between we face all the bitter, harsh winter months and the struggles that our farmers have to face to feed their flocks. Meanwhile, the light will change so many times and scenes photographed from the same viewpoints as seen here will change time and time again. But it is one of the things that I just love about the area I live in, the constant changing of the seasons and the skies, all the differences in the natural growth in verges and hedgerows and as followers of my blog will know, all the details from small to large that can appear throughout the year ... whatever the weather of the day may be!

Saturday, 27 October 2012


<<< This was the scene that met us this morning up on the mountain. Deep tractor ruts completely iced over! The dog who normally loves splashing through such places, looked suitably unimpressed with this state of his playground but with a rather chilly breeze he was happy, his tail feathers shaking in the air. Talking of tail feathers I am chook minder over this week as the family take a half term holiday in the hopefully warmer climes of Spain. which reminds me, I've just left two freshly laid bantam eggs in the car. Bothers, they were going to be my breakfast.
So while mad mutt was snuffling the scents in the now wintry rushes and grasses, I was almost nose to the ground myself, because one thing I love a about ice like this, is the patterns that get formed across the surface of small puddles, all sorts of fascinating shapes appear and some as you'll see, are quite intriguing.
Look at the image on the right, it almost looks like a seal sniffing the few strands of grass.
Or maybe it's a pair of seals, looking out of their frozen pond at the clear skies above.
This one is almost floral, or is it some kind of ice fungus, there are figures in there too.
And in the one below, the sheep may have been gathered off the mountain ...
but I can see an almost cartoonised lamb faced little critter ...
I just love the fun nose and the clarity of the eye, a shy looking lamb.
But not all the puddles were so icy white, where the sun shone on ale coloured puddles
There was a sudden burst of colour under the ice and I could see tiny water creatures diving around underneath their newly frozen canopy which, not easily seen in this photo had obviously frozen as the wind last night, caused all sorts of patterns as the ice was forming.There were straight lines, swirls, ripples, all caught in a freeze frame moment.
The beech trees are fast losing their colourful canopies, but there was one special joy today, the scrunching of crisp, tobacco scented leaves. After all the soggy days we've had recently, this felt more like autumn past and yet on a day that felt like the first day of the winter ahead. Tonight the clocks go back an hour. On the radio today I heard an easy way to remember which way the time changes ... "Spring-ahead & fall-behind." I hate this time change thing, it throws by body clock out and the dog too, but with the cold evenings ahead at least the chooks will be ready to roost early. Tonight as I saw them safely locked away, there was a beautiful luminescent full moon ... guess who had left their camera at home? And who had forgotten the washing on the line, so before taking it off the line, I had a chance to take a photo in the near dark. Not very good (camera too small ... no tripod) but a nice way to end what has been a cold but interesting autumnal/winter day. 
P.S. The council have salted the roads, but with rain forecast for tonight, Tomorrows forecast for rain due in for most of the day, will simply wash it all away. Oh well.
It was fun while it lasted!

Friday, 26 October 2012


I bet that title has got you wondering what I'm going to write about ... and no I'm not going to show you photographs of substantially tall trees or a giant pot grown specimen.
But plant wise, I saw my first primrose flower the other day, sadly too slug eaten to take a photograph of. Normally at this time of year the primrose plants are looking good as they come up through the grass, but they seem reluctant at the moment and I'm not surprised after all the weather we've had, ranging from damp to almost drowned. There were also Oxeye daisies still in flower in the old churchyard but the unseasonal holly which was flowering  a week ago had no blossoms on it yesterday. But ... the autumnal colours have been better than expected, the sad thing has been how fast the leaves have fallen off the trees. Just two days ago I went down to where the weir project has finally finished and in the wind I watched as a tree across the river was shedding its leaves at great speed.
And no, that is not the heavy plant I have used as a title, but sorting out some of my photo files, I came across some pictures of the men driving the heavy plant machinery and thought it might be interesting to show you some of the conditions they were working in.
The above was taken when the lower weir was about to be demolished, by what I can only described as a great big mechanical "knuckle duster". One of the guys explained to me that the concrete used almost sixty years ago was easy to demolish due to the fact that unlike the mix used in the newer design up river, this had not been reinforced with steel.
It has been a pleasure to meet the guys working on this project, they were cheerful and put up with all my questions about what they were doing and why. They had to cope with all the weather conditions that the last few months have thrown at them. As if working in the flow of the river wasn't enough, they had to cope with the water falling from above!
All the above photo's of them working were taken on one of our rather rare sunny days.
In one area there were huge piles of earth building up that needed shifting. Just look at the size of the dog compared to the big yellow truck that was constantly moving several tons of stone and a lot of the stuff that had been dragged out of the river as part of the reconstruction project. Lovely rounded boulders that had gone through years of being rounded off by fast flowing water have been replaced with much chunkier, sharp angled rocks, many weighing as much as three tons! No doubt in time, they too will have their sharp edges worn away and the river -scape will begin to look more natural.
The above photo was taken two days ago, just look at the difference. Gone are the big piles of earth, the  big yellow monsters have moved on to another river rescaping project.
But just look at the trees in the background ... very little autumnal colour. The trees have have already shed their leaves and are looking so bare . But looking ahead to a year on, I look forward to seeing how this expensive river re-designing project works out. Maybe next Autumn won't be such a short termed disgrace. Maybe the salmon, trout and eels will have migrated further up the Ebbw river. Meanwhile the heavy plant and the guys that have worked so hard have  moved on to work on other river regeneration schemes. I wish them all the best, they were a lovely bunch of hard working guys. So there you go, that was the heavy plant I was waffling on about. The herons have to find new fishing sites, the  sadly devastated local landscape has to regrow ... but given time  ... who knows!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


At the risk of sounding repetitive ... though forecast wise, not for much longer, more fog!
But this morning at least it was moving, not that made much difference to visibility.
In the top sorting pens by the mountain gate, another farm was sorting out ewes but with the swiftly swirling fog, photography was, sadly nigh on impossible. I could only just see them as they waited patiently to be sorted out. These pens like yesterday were muddy.
In this case, father and son were working hard to get their ewes sorted out, ready to move down the mountain road and to be finally let loose in the in-bye field for tupping.

Meanwhile, to my delight today, I spotted this delicately gilled fungus pushing up in the grasses in the verge, with a delicate "necklace" of a dew bejewelled spiders web.
But apart from the few Dead Nettle flowers and some stubborn Yarrow blooms, there was little else to be seen. The hawthorns were bare of berries, the few blackberries were to be quite honestly, tasteless and teeth gratingly seedy.
More predominately in the verges was the dumped rubbish of passing cars. Drinks cans,  (both high energy and alcoholic) plastic bottles, food packaging ... as usual,  McDonalds! 
We wended our way back down the mountain road to the less foggy old churchyard.
The autumnal leaves are falling fast, littering the ground with at least what are bio-degradable leaves blown in and around the gravestones and trees.
One of my favourite corners of this lovely churchyard with it's carefully constructed old stone walls, the views over The Argoed, and rare for this old churchyard a Field Maple as golden as this carpet of beech leaves below it. As I photographed this I heard a sound ... 
that of farmers moving ewes down the mountain road from the pens. We stood by and watched as some 60 ewes were gathered in to an in-bye field and then that movement completed, time for the ram to be released ...
Not the best photo I know, but this ram was bought this year at local Ram Sales, so he now has  a new set of ewes to attend to and I feel sure that in the days ahead, he will perform at his best. We shall see in the spring lambing ahead just how well he has done to add his genes to the new generation of young lambs on the farm. He has sixty ewes to attend to and I just know that this lovely looking Welsh ram will do what he was bought for. (producing the next years generation of lambs). New blood in our local stock is what is needed to ensure that our Welsh breeding line is kept very much alive. Up here there is a mixture of Texel and Welsh and in one local farm an almost forgotten breed of Balwen sheep. I look forward to seeing next years lambing to see what breeds appear on the mountain ... locally.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


This view says it all ... this was the sheep pens up on the mountain this morning. Visibility reduced to almost nothing, damp, muddy, wet! Through the mountain clinging fog I could hear the sounds of a quad and a farmer working his dogs. He was gathering them in for sorting out in the pens. Due to the weather being as it was the ewes were further down the mountain, sheltering in amongst the beech trees. The farmer, unable to see them clearly had to rely on his working collies to gather them in for him. I could hear through the white cloudiness, his commands to the dogs and heard the quad get closer.
Out of the white mountain mist they appeared, all bunched up as if uncertain which way to go. But, with the skill of the farmers commands and they were very soon penned in.
All bar one, which defiantly leapt away from the collies into the dense white fields. The three collies went off on a chase and eventually brought the defiant ewe back to the pens.

There's nearly always one stroppy loner to contend with. Notice the depth of the mud, and mud that clung to wellies and quad tyres like glue. But at least it wasn't raining today.
A quick count and the farmer realised a few ewes were still missing, so off he went with quad and dogs to herd in the last of the flock. Once again all I could hear (but not see) was one man and his dogs gathering the last few ewes in for sorting out and treating. Once this has been done the Texel ram will be brought up to these out-bye fields to service 50 ewes.
Meanwhile as I waited, whilst listening to the quad and the farmer commanding his dogs, I was noticing smaller details on some of the structure of posts in the area of the pens. Old wood and rusted chains with a relatively new, shiny shackle. These "pens" are quite complex in design, allowing the farmer to sort out the ewes he wants to put to one side for the Texel tup to serve. Out of just over 200 ewes, he wanted the best 50 to go out with the ram, so they had to go through what is known as a race. Basically a narrow channel that only one ewe can go through at a time.
It is quite a compact area of fenced in pens and gates that allow the farmer to choose which ewes go where, and then the chosen fifty have to be checked over and inoculated before they can be let lose to be serviced by the ram. Today they were mainly pure Welsh Mountain ewes going to a Texal ram, the resulting lambs will be a breed cross. Wel-tex! The Texlel has greater body weight and fleece thickness, This crossing of breed should mean a meatier lamb with a a woollier fleece weight come shearing time. But time has been running short for the rams to be allowed to do their yearly job, so the ewes had to be selected and got ready to be let loose with the carefully chosen ram. 
Having watched all these "sorting out" proceedings, the mad mutt needed a run.
The commons were just threaded with shining, jewel like, moisture laden spiders webs.
I was lucky to get even these few photographs,  because they were close to the ground.
But one look at the nearby forestry shows how low the fog hung on the mountain.
It has been a dank and dreary day, but at the same time an interesting one.