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.
There was a light smattering of snow around Cader Idris, and near Dolgellau at Brithdir, but once I was approaching Bala it thickened up significantly, and in Bala itself cars were under 2 inches of snow. From there to Llangollen via a somewhat curcuitous route along the foot of the Clwydian Range and down the Horseshoe Pass, it was a winter wonderland, very lovely. There aren’t that many places to stop safely to take photos, but I managed a few.
This is a poor photograph, taken through the side window of my car in a mad rush, whilst I was held up at the roadwork traffic lights on the Aberdovey to Machynlleth road, on my way to a dental appointment. My closest friend Cheryll, to whom I emailed it, argues that I should post it in case no-one has been lucky enough to see this particular cloud formation. So here it is, with the cloud in a thin strip hovering just above the floodplain on the opposite bank of the river Dfyi, with apologies for the poor quality. I don’t know what this type of cloud formation is called (if anyone knows, please do let me know), but it happens around here quite often. This, however, was the first time I have driven alongside it along the estuary and river all the way from Aberdovey to Machynlleth. It was an amazing sight. Every time I glimpsed right (south), it was still there in the 20 or so minute drive some time between 1120 and 1145. So here’s the photo, and please remember to blame Cheryll if you don’t like it! By the time I was driving back to Aberdovey it had evaporated completely.