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

Sunday, 19 January 2014


Well folks it is almost hard to believe that a whole week has passed since I last wrote a post. There a several reasons for this mostly weather related but also due to a cold, lots of sniffles, snuffles and sneezes but the almost constant varieties of external wetness. Yes we Brits are renowned for our daily conversations about the weather but for farmers it is a an important consideration. The mountain water level has reached saturation point and everywhere are streams and rivulets fast flowing downwards into the valleys below.
Though just to make things more interesting it has come over us in many different forms ...
including the grey, clinging dampness of mist.
It clung to the trees ... to the dogs coat ... to my waterproof clothing  and my face. I had to use the camera from under the hood of my coat to prevent the mist droplets on the lens.
Yet, strangely enough below the mist heavy canopy the ground colours almost glowed
and right by my feet there were temporary diamonds clinging to the beech leaves.
A very brief glance of the mist hidden sunshine spotlighted the contrast of a very young pine seedling clinging perilously close to the edge of the small, deep ravine.

 But all that happened a week ago and over the last seven days, chances to go out and stay dry were minimal. The downhearted dog was getting really fed up, he wanted to be out and about getting coat drenchingly wet and could not understand my refusals to venture out and about. Oh to lead the life of a dog, I sometimes wish I could swap and not have to bother about getting wet, muddy and cold and then just get dried off with a towel before sitting patiently waiting for a hot meal to be prepared for me & ... no washing up!!
For me however, one look at the storm threatening skies was quite enough. I stayed in.
And the wind has been constantly changing battering the rain against the house windows
blowing wet winter leaves into all sort of corners and chasing the litter all over the place.
In the village, water was responding to gravity and creating small streams down local gullies and even the main road at times looked like a tarmac bottomed if shallow river!
All the water flows past us and down into the valley below where the River Ebbw rises dramatically and races noisily in a surging white, burbling flow towards the coast . 
But ... there were brief breaks when I ventured out to go shopping and managed to take the mad mutt down to see how high the river level was. It was so cold that we were trogging through ice covered puddles as the mist hung low over the ground and yet even on days such as these over the last week, there were signs of nature to cheer up the day
such as these bright yellow gorse buds, like candle flames lighting up the mist darkness.
But today the whole mountain had changed as we woke to a brilliant blue Sunday. The whole landscape had gone through one of those heart warming transformations when the January sun highlights the contours of the undulating landscape and the air warms up so that even just a few degrees rise in ambient temperature cheers up the January blues.
In the fields the ewes are now showing definite, heavy bellied signs of lamb bearing and despite the winter bare branches of the trees one feels that Spring is now not far away.
 But ... having seen the weather forecast for the week ahead, where two opposing weather fronts are due to do battle overhead (even the meteorologist cannot predict what is likely to happen) it's obvious that the wellies and waterproof clothing isn't due to be hung up yet
... except to dry out once again!!

Saturday, 11 January 2014


Well what a lovely surprise today has been after all these last weeks of seemingly almost perpetual wetness. We've been lucky here compared to so many places in the U.K suffering from varying degrees of wind and water chaos, some of the images on the news have made us realise how lucky we have been lucky living up a mountain in South Wales.
Yes my winter weather clothes have been daily drip drying after trogging the dog and damp dog towels have been a daily experience, at least he wears the same coat each day.
Last night as it rained, all be it lightly, the windscreens of the cars were freezing quite fast and so to wake this morning to cheerful bright sunlight, was a very pleasant surprise.
However, I also woke up with a migraine which basically wiped out the first half of the day whilst my migralieve tablets took their time to work and the dog was eager to be out.
Late afternoon and the skies were looking promising so off we headed to a walk just down from where we had parked up by the old church and headed down the aptly named Shady Lane which even with the now winter bare trees can be a multi shadowed bridleway. Last year it was cleared and made into a proper bridleway suitable for riders to actually ride their horses along it. Being a down hill, rather steep slope, it had acted like a gutter and any rain swept leaves and stones down the slope and had narrowed it to the point that it was difficult to even walk down on foot. What a change now though, wider and easier for both the dog and I to enjoy as well as local riders.
On this late afternoon the sun was highlighting the colours in the January landscape and it was just delightful.

 Yes the air was winter crisp but there was no need for hat or gloves and plenty of scope for photographs. The skeletal tracery of the trees framed moments of sky and the nearly half moon suspended in the blueness of the expansive and rapidly, colour changing sky.
 The whole landscape was bathed in the deepening sunlight as the minutes passed by.
A rose gold sun was beginning to set and the effect on the vista was almost magical.
One of the ponies in the field below me seemed to have a whole new sun golden coat.

 As we progressed further along the fence beside the right of way the sun was setting
and on the horizon across the valley I saw the wind turbines that I visited the other day.
They stood out starkly against the dramatically striated sky their blades silhouetted starkly, showing just above the winter leafless trees and due to no wind, were not turning.
 Also in stark contrast to the last of the to the days wonderfully fire bright display these leafless beech trees were still clinging on their seed cases and creating wonderful patterns.
 As we headed back to the car with the sky speedily darkening with the last red shades
I espied these sheep quietly grazing, in the quiet of early evening I could clearly them munching the grass. Time to head for home and get warmed up and my own roast dinner.

A lovely way to end what has been an illuminated January day.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014


Well in yesterdays post I promised you a closer look at the two tall turbines standing behind Pen-Y-Fan pond. I am a day behind time at the moment but yesterday we drove over to the site. It is the best preserved canal feeder reservoir in Wales but now a Country Park run by Caerphilly Council, much used by dog walkers like myself and many others.
As we parked up, I could see the two recently completed turbines at the far end of the pond, they stood out against the grey and rather rain threatening skies but yes it was windy and no sign of either of them turning.
Caerphilly Council put in for planning permission in 2011. According to an article in the South Wales Argus, on 31st July 2013, it will be a "25-year scheme by renewable energy developer, Partnership for Renewables .." powering at least 2000 homes. "The turbines will generate eight gigawatt hours of green electricity a year." Considering recently published figures that the U.K currently only provides 53% of our own electricity, it seems to me that the more wind turbines that can be usefully utilised on our own land, the better.
Now ... I know that viewpoint does not go down well with those that want to see an "unspoilt landscape" marred by these tri sailed leviathans of modern technology but given our massive dependence on electricity for our day to day living, something has to give way and appreciate the fact that as a small  collection of islands, we need to be more self sufficient by providing our own power sources. Now I know that is not a popular viewpoint but ... we are a country with electric pylons marching in long lines across it's landscape with almost regimental precision and seem to me to be far more unsightly.
Maybe  it's due to my aeronautical engineering background but I would rather see a gracefully designed turbine stood either individually or in small groups than the pylons.
Even seen from a distance, two wind turbines  seem far less intrusive in the landscape.
and then, from a closer viewpoint, the two turbines stood alone and the high pylon wires
that stretch for miles and miles, ribboning across vast acres of our island landscape.
Why waste the energy provided by free wind, something very current in our recent weather patterns causing all sorts of problems and yet we could be farming it to our advantage. Alongside hydro electric power we could be providing more than the 53% of our own electricity that we currently create and not be held to ransome by other countries outside of the U.K even if they are part of the European Union. We are still indebted to others and their need to make a profit for their own survival in what is let's face it an increasingly fragmenting union as each country within that amalgamation of countries, seeks only it's own survival. There are tough times ahead and need sensible solutions.
By creating our own energy sources, we are investing in survival for our future and if that means what some may see as disfigured views then it is something we have to get used to.
Meanwhile there are still "turbine less scenes" that can still catch our eye, like this swan ...
slowly remaining seemingly stationary on the turbulent windswept water of the pond but ... what can you see on the horizon? The two turbines or the years old electric pylon! 
One of our local farmers, officially has had recorded, one of the windiest fields in Wales.
Not only could he economically supply all that his small farm needs but create electricity for our local community and yet the opposition to his application for a turbine has been vociferously fought against by some local residents, why?  Come the need for electricity in our cold, harsh winters, well one day they might be grateful for a local turbine. I often wonder if there was such an outcry against windmills burgeoning over our countryside landscape providing so many with flour for their daily bread. Now they are 
rare working windmills relying on donations from others to keep them restored and in the case of Wicken Mill it relies on donations to keep it going as a working, flour producing museum piece, Maybe one day in the future, someone will preserve some electric pylons and even (almost unimaginably now) there will be nostalgic groups preserving wind turbines. Technology will as throughout history advance  and then slowly decay into a "lest we forget" history. So maybe ... one day ... both of these will be museum pieces ...
meanwhile, that which is biodegradable will be long turned back into the living soil ...
the remains of a beech pleached boundary hedge that will eventually return to the soil never to be seen again unless this photograph survives in hundreds of years to come.
Where as maybe in the future there will be an electric pylon and a wind turbine in some museum, possibly lovingly restored as a part of our cultural heritage and history, who knows. Perhaps future archaeologists will unearth and preserve the tall metal objects ...
who knows what the future will preserve as a part of human history?

Monday, 6 January 2014


Well Dafad here has been kind of busy catching up with all sorts of things since my return to hills and hollows of my home countryside. In between breaks in the daily doses of rain
we've managed to get out and about and have seen some wonderful sights in the landscape. I love all the changing moods of the mountain and yesterday it was dramatic.
This was one of the first sights that met my eye as I drove up to the cattle grid, I just had to stop, get out of the car and take this shot of the suns rays highlighting the valley below.
The effect was dramatic with the sunlight reflected from houses back towards the sky.
Then looking right from this stand point I noticed the two new wind turbines spotlighted under the thunderously threatening clouds over Pen-Y-Fan pond. I promised myself that I would take a closer look at these modern electricity producers, which I did today, yes I am a day behind time but things have been kind of busy over these last few days and I am trying to catch up with everything and seem to be constantly chasing my tail as they say.
 We went and parked up on a high part of the commons where the view is just expansive, 
and as we walked around but a short way away from the car, the scenery was changing so fast it was hard to keep up and when I tell you that I took 86 photographs within an hour without walking very far. The valley below was full of low lying mist but the prevailing winds were pushing that mist up and out of the lowlands to higher grounds.
 All of a sudden the scene before me just turned rather dark and yet bright behind the cloudiness that almost obscured our view for 360 degrees, I could just spot the silhouetted
figures of two walkers on the rise where the car was parked and yet could hardly see the dog just a few feet in front of me as we navigated through the rushes back to the car.
Then just as we were about to shake off the clinging wetness and head for the warmth of home the sun appeared from behind the clouds and shone across this temporary small pond with an amazing reflective clarity as the mist dissipated and there was the sun again.
 Heading back down the mountain just after the cattle grid, lots of muddy coloured sheep were grazing on the mist laden grass just as the sun was beginning to set on a cold  day.
 I stopped where I took the first photograph and looking at a slightly different angle across the valley, I could see the mist rising like smoke from the evergreen of the forestry.
With hands so cold that I couldn't even operate the camera properly, I decided that it was time to get back inside the warmth of indoors and drove home with the sun setting at speed. By the time we got through the front door it was almost dark and raining again and I was just too tired out to write all this out but today I drove over for a closer look at those two rather "outstanding" turbines but more about that windy adventure tomorrow.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014


Well folks, it is New Years Day. Yesterday was one of looking back at the year gone by which for me was been a sad one in so many ways. I started this blog as a way of showing Dad where we live as I knew he would never be able to make it down here to see it for himself. That was just over two years ago when I wrote my first post in late October, Two years and two months ago. He loved it and so enjoyed sharing my life via the things I wrote and the photographs that I took  (he was also an excellent editor of my posts).
 I miss him greatly. We shared a very similar sense of humour and we were able to laugh a lot. I also miss his witty morning emails that helped me to start the day here with a smile.
He too loved Wales, and his ashes will be scattered in a very scenically beautiful place in North Wales where his and my mothers ashes will overlook where he proposed to her
on a very special day in the Welsh calendar ... St David's Day.
These last few days as we've been wandering about in various locations catching up on the changes in the local landscape whilst we have been away and there have been many.
Even now I think about how I will word things in these posts and what he would think.
 This photograph really caught my mood the other evening when we visited the memorial. the Guardian of the Valleys, how Dad would have loved to have seen it for real, even from a distance with the low lying mist in the valleys, this steel figure stands out in the evening.
That evening matched my mood, the feeling of loss of not just a father but the friendship and laughter that we shared, just as those 45 names on the memorial will also be missed greatly at this time of year and also those all over the world that find it difficult to really celebrate this festive time of year. There are so many who are far worse off than I have been in my life, a sobering thought that helped me gain a sense of perspective. Over the weekend my recalcitrant computer refused to work which left me unable to send or receive email, a minor matter but frustrating. I took the "pooter" to the P.C Doctor and whilst it was having it's innards checked out, we went for a walk.
Time for a trog with the mud loving mutt and after all the rain overnight, mud & puddles were easy to find and oh my ... the winter wind was to say the least very refreshing!
The view was over clouded and the air bitterly cold but the daft dog took no notice of that.
He was loving the chance to visit a place we have not been for quite a long while now and in a way so was I, it was good to be back on tracks that I've not seen for well over a year.
I love the view from up here looking over  Festival Park, now a major shopping centre and the old Corus Steel Works site which only a few years ago now, hosted the famous Welsh Eisteddfod 2010 and before that Ebbw Vale last held this famous celebration of  great Welsh creativity in 1958. Today the view over the old, dismantled steelworks which is in the process of getting rebuilt with the new Aneurin Bevan Hospital being the main completed building down there in the valley and other structures are beginning to appear,
but up here in the wind blown tracks I also had a weather eye on the sky and it was changing, quite dramatically.
It's hard to believe but as a young dog The Keepers Pond above was a place he loved to swim in. Now, this whole area was bought by our local council and is a "Nature Conservancy Project" with cleaned out pond now a designated area for the preservation of newts and other wildlife. To me it seemed muddier water than it was before  and all I saw were four male mallards and one female, only a few years ago I witnessed a much greater diversity of fish and water loving birds than I counted when we walked up there on a more regular basis. Hopefully time will heal this seemingly rather desolate area.
It was lovely to see two of my favourite beech trees, skeletal against the afternoon sky ...
and then as I looked across above Man Moel, which means Bare Place in Welsh, this sky.
We made it back down and I picked up the mended computer, just before the rain began in earnest yet again. It was still pouring down when I awoke yesterday morning but in a much needed break in windy and wet stuff  we headed out to make the most of the last day of the year. A walk spent amusing the mad mutt with a ball through puddles and yes lots of mud and thin skins of ice in the puddles on the moorland but also a reflective one.
As the last of the December sun shone down across this vast expanse of our small corner of Wales I just knew that I was happy to be back again. To be able to view where my collie companion started what turned out to be a rather strange kind of life and me ... ?
As the old saying goes ... "Home is where the heart is." and I am most definitely at home.
All this beautiful scenery with its undulating landscape and all the moods of the weather,
the seasons of field and flock and the changing views of these wonderful expansive skies.
The beauty of nature is that you never see exactly the same thing ever again ...
it is in a perpetual state of change and diversification ... which is quite simply ... magical !!
Thank you to all the regular followers of Dafad's Days ...  may the year ahead be  for you be as full of moments of magic when you look all around you over the months.
My thanks also go out to all those friends, who in various ways were so supportive throughout last year and most of all that lifted even the gloomiest of days with their humour and much laughter. I have been so grateful to  all of you for helping me cope during those long months and made it possible for me to deal with all the various things that I had to face. To friends old and new, I hope you all have an interesting year ahead.
My dearest wish is that world wise ... we can see some peaceful resolutions to conflict.
So folks, wherever you are I wish you all an interesting and loving New Year!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013


Well folks, what an interesting day it has been and a fun one too.  We were awake early before the sun came up and so sorted out a few things that needed doing before heading off up onto the mountain in the late morning sunshine and ... what a wonderful surprise.
Yes ... snow! What a lovely sight for a Christmas morning, but look at those blue skies,
it really was a treat to see the mountain looking so wonderfully,  festively decorated. But it was late morning when we got up there and already the sun had melted much of the snow and so the winter pastures were still full of easily accessible grass for sheep to graze.
 But on the higher commons land there was still even at midday, a good sprinkling of snow and on the higher ground in the distance the mountain tops were also white in the sun.
But there were even more signs of the fact that this was Christmas Day and fun things too
Someone ... had created a sort of Santa and using ones imagination ... an  Xmas pudding!
though the sheep in the in-bye fields had their own sort of Christmas feast ...
Though a few seemed not to be interested in what is let's face it, just another pile of hay
though these two seemed to be more intrigued by those passing by, like us.
One last look over the landscape , then to the pub for a mug of warming tea and a chat,
then home to a late afternoon dinner of pheasant with all the trimmings and a rest.
Now, in the mid evening we feel more like the festival turkey, tired out and well stuffed!
Wherever you are in the world & how ever you celebrate today ...
I wish you all a goodly, peaceful end to this year.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


Well ... what a day of weather changes we had today, from hail just after I got up, mist turning to sleet, snow. light rain, heavy rain and then luckily this afternoon a dry break.
So ... we took the opportunity to head of to the local supermarket to get a few essentials for the next few days ... mainly dog food! Then as the dry spell continued enough to take the daft dog for a short trog ... so we headed off down to see the miners memorial. 
Now I have covered this amazing corten steel structure in a previous post on the blog and there is much mentioned if you google The Guradian of the Valleys in Six Bells. It has caused much controversy but I personally like this massive miner overlooking the valley. As we approached it the skies were dim and gloomy and I really thought that we were going to get caught in another wintery blast of the wet stuff. 
But ... the mad mutt had been patient waiting until mid afternoon to go out and run around so ... suitably dressed in the event of such a wetting we had carried on and as I took this photo the sky magically changed.

Suddenly there was a gradually expanding patch of blue sky and the wind gently faded. I was almost laid down on the small, timber landing with the camera trying to get the balance of the shot right and there it was ... a wonderfully clear reflection.
But there were other things to reflect upon as well. The 45 miners who lost their lives in the pit disaster that killed 45 out of the 48 man that were working in that area of the mine at the time. It was a day that still affects the living relatives of those that died as seen by some of the tribute wreaths I saw today.
 I know some of those that lost relatives in that pit tragedy, but also it made me reflect on others I know locally who also face Christmas without their loved ones and that also this year includes me. Now I promised Dad that I would put a candle in every window at the front of the house ... so tonight I did, all be it that they were all  fire safe electronic ones.
But there are times when I feel that like The Guardian of the Valleys, he still looks over me  and that ... is a very comforting thought at this time of year when loss of loved ones can make the bright lights of the festive season can seem rather dimmed due to the memories
of those that we have loved and lost throughout the years. But ... we must remember the love and the laughter and feel comforted that we at least have those loving memories.
So ... wherever you are and however you feel, just remember the times of bright light
and with that caring thought ... I shall wish you all  that you sleep well tonight.