A change of viewpoint

We walk our dogs on the Begwns, an area of moderately high grassland common that sits between the Black Mountains and the Wye Valley to the South and high moorland to the North. Some mornings when mist or rain obscures the view I do wonder why we are plodding across open grassland and bracken without any shelter from the howling winds or wandering about in thick mists trying to find: (a) the dogs and (b) the way off. But on every other morning we are treated to views like the one below.

Waun Fach from the Begwns

Looking across the Wye Valley to Mynydd Troed early this morning with the sun rising over Hay Bluff.

Most of the snow and ice has disappeared now from the southern hillsides of the Begwns but not on the little ponds and streams that appear in the autumn and are gone again by summer. Jill and I have started to visit them every morning to see how the ice has changed overnight and I thought that I would share a few of them here. There seems to be no end to the variations in the ice formations or the patterns made by the frozen plants.

Begwns Frozen Water Weed Begwns Frozen Water Weed and Bracken Ice Patterns in the Frozen reed Stumps Begwns Frozen Stream 4 Begwns Frozen Stream 3 Begwns Frozen Stream 2 Begwns Frozen Stream 1 Begwns Frozen Bracken

Finally one image of the Begwns as it was a week ago after the thaw had begun. No images of it under snow – there was nothing to see but snow.

_DSC9211Twmpa 16.12.14



A wet Tuesday morning on Hay Bluff

It has been four and a half months since we moved to our new home in the Welsh Marches. I foolishly thought that once we had unpacked all the boxes and hung a few pictures on the walls that it would be back to normal and out of the door for a long walk with the camera. I had forgotten how long it can take to get a new home straight and an unfamiliar garden under control: four and a half months in our case.

By the time December arrived we had completed all of the urgent jobs and felt that the rest could wait until the new year, so it was time to get outdoors with the camera again. I’ve made several attempts in the last week to capture the clouds that have been sitting on top of the northern edge of the Black Mountains range. Last week a blizzard hid the tops and finally drove me off Hay Bluff, this week the weather has been kinder but is still very wet. Yesterday Hay Bluff was completely hidden by cloud but from about half way up the single track road that leads to the car park and the Gospel Path beyond it was possible to watch the clouds formations over Twmpa, or Lord Hereford’s Knob if you prefer, and what I think is Mynydd Bychan beyond. This was hand held into a howling gale and driving rain, so no opportunity for graduated filters, tripods and other luxuries.



Dryads by Cilonw Brook

The Cilonw Brook falls quickly from the foot of Hay Bluff in a series of small waterfalls, cutting a deep channel through the woods before slowing and spreading into a broad, shallow brook, where it can be forded, and then on again in a rush down to join the Wye below Hay. High up in the wooded valley where the broad leaf trees begin to give way to conifer we found these spectacular examples of the Dryad’s Saddle.


The ancient Greeks believed that dryads were forest nymphs who cared for the trees and protected them from intruders. These very solitary mythical creatures did not mingle with the other gods, preferring the shelter of the wood and forest. The Dryad’s Saddle provided a flat pliable surface on the side of the tree, affording a protective vantage point: a saddle for a dryad.


Polyporus squamosus is one of the most common of the bracket fungi seen in Britain and Ireland. It occurs across most of mainland Europe and in many parts of Asia and North America. It was first described scientifically by the English botanist and apothecary William Hudson in 1778, who named it Boletus squamosus. The species was renamed Polyporus squamosus in 1821 by the Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries in his Systema Mycologicum.


Also know as the Pheasant-back Polypore: pheasant because of the feather-like scales on the surface of the fungus and polypore because the underside of the cap is covered with pores. The pores serve the same function as the gills that are on the underside of the cap on most mushrooms; they contain structures called basidia that create, protect and eject the spores when the environmental conditions for propagation are present.


There are recipes for cooking this fungi including one that suggests frying slices of young Dryad’s Saddles with bacon and serving on hot buttered toast. Another suggests marinading the saddle in olive oil and garlic overnight and then baking it whole. Personally I prefer to enjoy them in the woods rather than on a plate.


Top two: 22mm handheld: f.6.3 @ 1/160, ISO 360, sun through tree canopy.
Bottom three: 105mm macro handheld: f.7.1 @ 1/125, ISO 640, sun through tree canopy.