So much for my plans for another long walk today. Had a late swim in the sea last night after most of the beach-dwellers had gone home for the evening, and it was still very warm when I returned to the house. I had been planning another hill walk today, but the weather forecast wasn’t promising, and it’s just as well I didn’t venture out early because by mid-morning thunder was rumbling and there were flashes of lightning and by the afternoon the sky had turned charcoal, and when the rain came it wasn’t messing around! Even so, the view was amazingly striking. Aberdovey and Ynyslas still look fabulous even under looming blue-black clouds! The photos below show the sequence, over 16 minutes from 1502 this afternoon, from mildly intimidating to fully apocalyptic 🙂
On the next one, see if you can spot the bandstand on Pen Y Bryn!
The high winds recently have been a challenge for some of the local garden birds. When I did this video the weather was dry but wow what a gale! I had to strap my bins down with bungees to prevent them flying down the hill. I am always entertained by the way that the goldfinches take all sorts of weather in their stride, but this was particularly fun. The cherry tree looked like a whirlpool of movement, but the bird feeder was remarkably still, and the goldfinches were apparently oblivious to the the surrounding chaos, scoffing away with admirable dedication. Sadly there are only muted sounds of the wind, because I’m not daft and was safely indoors when I shot this 🙂
Yesterday was a truly extraordinary weather experience. I sat on the decking in the sun all afternoon, working my way through a number of books, loving the heat. But looking out over the estuary all morning and afternoon, it was bizarre to think that the sun could penetrate anywhere, because it was impossible to see beyond the folly on Pen Y Bryn. The first photograph was taken at noon. The water was quite invisible, and Ynys Las and Ceredigion were just a figment of the imagination. I checked regularly, because it was fascinating, but there were almost no perceptible changes until well into the late afternoon/early evening, when the second photograph was taken at just gone 4pm. The sand banks are visible, and Ynys Las can be just about detected, but Ceredigion is still shrouded in mist. The temperature was diving at this time, really chilly.
I set out for my usual exercise circuit today. Walking down Gwelfor Road towards the sea front, it was lovely to see so many wild flowers providing a colourful display.
Instead of turning left at the bottom of Gwelfor Road, past the Neuadd Dyfi, through the tunnel and left along the beach to return up Copper Hill Street, I found myself turning right into the sand dunes and walking in the direction of Tywyn. I am so glad I did, because it was a lovely walk. In the sand dunes the story was quite different from the hedges and verges of Gwelfor Road, with only occasional dots of colour in an otherwise attractive but fairly unvarying selection of shades of green over the powdery ivory sand, dominated by marram grass. Marram grass is super. It casts spiky shadows, sways so elegantly in the breeze and carves out perfect circles in the sand. The occasional dots of colour came mainly from small dandelions, daisies and, to my great surprise, huge and simply stunning colonies of violets. Peacock and red admiral butterflies kept me company, and there were plenty of bumble and honey bees. The dandelions were doing a particularly good job of keeping the bees and butterflies busy. Little meadow pipits erupted out of the grass, taking to the sky with much angry peeping.
Walking back along the beach, countless dead jellyfish, a translucent myriad of opal colours, had been washed up, but there was not much else of interest on the strandline. The sparkling sea, however, was a wonderful almost Caribbean blue, very clear. In spite of a strong and slightly chilly wind, it looked untroubled and still. Very peaceful. A single white fluffy cloud interrupted the endless flat blue of the sky. The wind had built up thousands of little sand ramps, raising shells and pebbles on customized, sloping plinths, utterly fascinating. A pied wagtail stayed a few jumps ahead of me for maybe 15 minutes.
There was no-one in the dunes, there were very few people around on the vast sands and as I walked along the silent shop fronts and turned up Copper Hill Street there was no-one else visible. Oh for a salted caramel ice cream 🙂
I checked the weather forecast yesterday, and it said absolutely nothing, zero, zip, nada, about snow. But on drawing into Bala, a slightly blustery day turned into a minor blizzard and it didn’t let up until I was passing Wrexham. I do the round trip from Aberdovey to Chester and back again quite frequently, and the weather is rarely as predicted, but often radically interesting in a rather challenging way!
On my travels today I was lucky enough to see some remarkable weather. Things started out with a sky so blue and a sun so yellow that the colours seemed almost fantasy-land. The grass was white-topped and scrunched under foot when I left the house, and the air was so cold that it froze my breath. It was a challenge, after turning right at Bryncrug and heading towards Tal y Llyn, to keep my eyes on the road, because the scenery was so glorious as it emerged from its icy white lace. Tal y Llyn itself was simply spectacular, mirroring the sun-lit south-facing slopes in a near-perfect reflection. At this time of year the contrast between sunny colours and black shadows is dramatic.
As I approached Llanuwchllyn, which sits at the foot of Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala) and according to the Visit Bala website means “Church at the top of the lake,” there were fascinating horizontal bands of cloud sitting above the ground and beneath the hilltops. On the south-facing slopes these were against bright hillside colours and blue skies. On the north-facing slopes they sat above trees and fields still spiked with frost, the sun so bright that the sky seemed silver against the darkness of the hills. My lovely Canon digital SLR (known for reasons lost in the mists of time as Josephine The Second) turned out to be impossible to get to in a hurry, so I used the little Sony that I keep in my handbag. It struggled desperately with some of the lighting conditions, but I have posted the photos anyway because they do capture something of the magic.
These strands of white mist presaged, to my surprise and dismay, a tediously dreary fog. Ahead of me a car was just a ghostly shape, and beyond that any other vehicles were a mere suggestion. The lake was invisible. I had been expecting to stop and take photographs of another beautiful mirror image, another spectacular vista, but beyond the road that runs along its north bank there was nothing but a dense veil of unvarying, damp, impenetrable murk. In the picture below, where I pulled the car over, I am standing at the water’s edge. Normally the lake would stretch out as far as the eye can see, contained within a sloping valley, very beautiful. Today even the seagull floating only a few feet away from me was seriously blurred and ill-defined.
When I quite suddenly re-emerged into the sunshine, the impact was rather like stepping off an air-conditioned plane onto the top of the mobile steps in a very hot country – a moment of pure sensation and a blissful sense of mild disorientation and very pleasurable surprise.
The first video shows a male pheasant preening in a burst of sunshine – a post-peanut mellow moment. Two male pheasants arrived today, some time after the females had arrived, eaten, sat for a while with their feathers puffed up, and left. It had finally stopped raining and at mid-day the garden was bathed briefly in a thin silvery sunshine, which lasted for about an hour and a half before the rain resumed. The familiar harsh loud squawk announced their arrival so I threw down some peanuts and went down into the village, leaving them to it. When I returned they were pottering around in the garden, and one of them was enjoying an industrious preen, the bright feathers given a thorough going over.
The second video shows two views of Pen Y Bryn from my garden, one clip from yesterday in the pouring rain and the second in the today’s brief reprieve when the sun came out before the rain returned. Both are shades of grey, but the main difference between the two scenes is the sound. In the first clip, even in the downpour Pen Y Bryn looks atmospheric but the sound of the rain is unrelenting. In the second, with light glinting off the water, peace and quiet has been restored.
I should perhaps apologize for the completely gratuitous scrolling text. I’ve been messing around with new video editing software, as my previous prog was at all not user-friendly and it had the antisocial habit of freezing solid. Many of the features in the new application are very gimmicky, with shades of PowerPoint, but the ability to add text in various different forms is useful. This is the fourth piece of video editing software that I have tried, so I am seriously hoping that this one will be a keeper.
Yesterday’s walk along the beach was extraordinary. I had intended to park by the cemetery, but by accident parked opposite the row of houses at the foot of the road from the Trefeddian Hotel, crossed the golf course and emerged from the dunes at the Second World War pillbox. The sun was hazy and incredibly pale, but at the same time reflected off the wet sand, creating some beautiful colour and light combinations. I walked for far longer than intended, and it nearly became a case of walking into Tywyn and getting a bus or taxi back to my car! Instead I retraced my steps, and because of the light it was like doing an entirely different walk. It was lovely to see a pair of oyster catchers, obstinately refusing to do anything other than stand, preening in the sun! They are in the video at the end of this post.
Snapshots today, walking down Balkan Hill for some odds and ends in the village. Not very sharp, because I was using the tiny camera I keep in my handbag. I didn’t dare take my good kit because I knew if I had it with me I’d end up walking along the beach for a couple of hours, and I didn’t have time today! The very short video at the end is just the view over the estuary and Cardigan Bay beyond from my window as the sun went down, with pink smoke! The days are getting noticeably a little longer, although it seems like a very long haul to get from the shortest day on 21st December to the end of March.
Yesterday morning my first job was to go and retrieve the blue bins that had cascaded down the hill when their trolley fell over during the night. I was awake much of the night listening to it. Today was an amazing contrast. Things started off a little grey, with sunshine filtering through the clouds, but by the afternoon the sun dominated, and although there were still clouds, they were an attractive gradient from pure white to dark purple and charcoal, the perfect foil for the brilliant cerulean blue. I had only walked down to go to the Post Office, but somehow found myself cutting through the dunes and striding along the incoming tide on the beach. So happy.