Getting the Dingle Tingle

A beautiful walk with the dogs this morning up through Clyro Dingle, which is a short walk from the house. There are five of these steep sided secret places within a mile or two of the village. Each has been cut to the bedrock by water and each still carries water from the hills down into the River Wye.

Much as I love our dogs they do not make good companions when I’m trying to make photographs, so I have learned to leave the gear behind and just enjoy the walk and their company. I do take my iPhone, which comes in handy when I see something interesting and want to record it for a later visit – without the dogs. Such was the case this morning: two excited dogs, water and the time to explore further up stream than we have been before. Sam our Labrador loves water and tends to charge on ahead and disappear; but in a confined space like the dingles I can generally tell where he is by the noise, and if he finds something scary: pile of rocks, odd shaped stick, a shadow, he is always back very quickly. Millie our 14 year old Terrier is, by comparison, stoic. She doesn’t see the point of water except for refreshment. She is a very agile, fit, little dog who enjoys a walk and exploring new territory, but prefers dry land to water. Having to follow me this morning produced a look of silent suffering as we trudged, splashed and slipped our way up stream. Her thought bubble clearly saying “I love him but he is a complete idiot”.

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Millie has a habit of standing on anything small that you might be studying. I found what I thought was a Yellow Nettle and was kneeling to get a better view, when she comes trundling past and true to form tanked all across the poor plant, which was surprisingly robust considering it had just had 10 kilos of dog on it.

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These places are unique and so important for the preservation of species. Fortunately our dingles still seam to be clean: the water smells fresh and there is no evidence of farm slurry or poisoning by pesticide run-off. Places like this will only remain safe if those responsible for the headlands above behave responsibly. Fortunately a large area of the hills above is owned by the National Trust (God bless’em) so no risk there. All the surrounding farms grow sheep and most seem to favour permanent pasture over the questionable benefits of the annual ploughing and resowing with rye grass regime favoured by so many lowland farmers. So hopefully we will be exploring and enjoying these wonderful little oases of wildness for a long time to come.

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It’s been a long time

A low yew hedge removed and replaced with espalier posts and old varieties of apple and pear. The raised beds on the left have had their soil improved and now grow salad and vegetables.
No hedge room

I last posted here on 28th June 2015, just after we had moved to Wales.

The time since then has been well spent. We ripped out much of the ornamental elements of the garden – roses on sticks particularly; dug in loads of well rotted organic manure and this summer our garden has rewarded us not just with fruit and vegetables but more importantly a huge increase in biodiversity. When we first arrived there we’re very few birds in the garden and hardly any insects. Removing yew hedges and replacing them with espaliered apples and pears (old varieties) and letting the herbs grow in the lawns so that the nectar loving insects could feed has transformed the place.

 

A rambling rose in full bloom climbs over a timber frame.
A well fed rambler rewarding us, and the insects, with lots of blossom this year.
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Millie our Fell Terrier enjoying her favourite snack of Mange Tout.

 

The time has also been well spent with a camera and I plan to post on that subject much more in the future months. In the meantime if you are interested some of my landscape work can be seen on the new web site also called, not surprisingly: Hares on the Hill

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.

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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.

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Red Kite at Bwlch Nant y Arian

The Red Kite feeding station at Bwlch Nant y Arian in Wales is a wonderful way to see these beautiful raptors close up. This is a joint project between the Forestry Commission of Wales and the RSPB. Strictly speaking these are not raptors in the ‘Wild’ as they fly in to be fed. But given that this species was persecuted to extinction in England, Scotland and most of Wales it is an amazing privilege to be able to stand at the lake edge and watch these huge birds in flight. Successfully photographing them on the wing is all together another matter… this one was benefiting from a food mugging out of shot.

I am going back to Wales in September and part of the plan is to photograph them in the mountains. Well that’s the plan………….

More information on Red Kites here: http://www.redkites.co.uk

More information on Bwlch Nant y Arian here: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/bwlchnantyrarian

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