The month starts grey and wet. The river, very full, has little life about it and the trees and greenery have lost their spring sparkle.
Another short walk by the river. There is something uninteresting about it and I wonder for a long time what this is, then realize: it is the combination of summer foliage with gray skies and a full river. This heavy foliage needs an empty river and sunlight sparkling through the leaves, without it, it can seem dull. In the fields beside the river the creeping thistles are taking over. Tall, gangly creations spouting out of the grass. Not much sign of the dippers but eventually one flies downstream. Returning back over the road bridge I meet my friend Brian and have a long cuddle with the dog Spud he is walking -- a cross, we think between a chocolate Labrador and a spaniel. There have been floods all over the country but it has not been so bad here. Brian tells me that he has seen the water almost coming over the wall by the bridge and that before his time it used to come down the high street. The new bridge has improved things as the old arched bridge used to back water upstream.
A lovely walk on common ground up near Llanafan Fawr where we dropped down to the river Chwefrei across which were strung curious looking fences. We speculated about their purpose but could come to no conclusion. The Chwefrei flows down past Llanganten church at Cilmery and then into the Irfon near Builth. Some of the footpaths had disappeared beneath bracken and fences but all was redeemed by the sight of yellowhammers. It is the first time I have seen them in Wales. They are a sadly declining species, but still hanging on in rough pieces of ground like this. My first instinct when I saw a flash of yellow was that it was yellowhammers but then I doubted myself and wondered if it was siskins. But my wife’s ipod app confirmed that they were yellowhammers. They have longer tails than siskins.
Summer progresses. The farmers are making hay (when they can in this cold wet summer) and the cows have moved into the field above the Cammarch while the sheep are on the hills. The Irfon is still full, but at least for the time being more interesting than the great green torrent that it has been. The little beaches are returning and today I saw a dipper having a nap. All I saw at first was the white breast, like a white stone in the river bank, but closer inspection revealed the bird. In a little while he woke up stretched his leg, then his wing and finally he evacuated a white line of guano. By the river clumps of large white umbeliferras are beginning to bloom.
Three continuous days of rain and then the sun appears. The river is a great brown monster swirling between the banks. The lost field is cut off and everywhere the water swirls around tree trunks, gushing into unfamiliar places, bubbling up and gyrating in whirlpools. All the vegetation is sodden, the long grass drooping over paths and slugs climbing up for the fresh shoots. Little sign of life except for a song thrush flying up into a tree with a snail or worm in its beak and emerging from the hazel trees, a first sign of autumn, little hard green nuts.
My wife tells me roads have been flooded in the area. Looking at the river data from Cilmery downstream is clear I visited the river pretty much at the peak of a surge
Summer has eventually come. The river is still full but slowly the temperature is rising and sun rather than rain predominates. Down by the Cammarch flies buzz about my head as the swallows make low swoops over the cut hayfields and on the ungrazed pastures harebells have started to appear in all their gentle beauty.
Hot, sticky, overcast. Down by the river the flies were buzzing but not much sign of life, only a noisy Blackcap in the trees. The river is much reduced and is once again exposing its skeleton. The only sign of dippers were white streaks of poo in their favourite resting place. I heard another story of otters from a neighbor, a large streak of brown and a heavy splash, then silence. Otters do not give up their secrets easily.
The weather turning colder. Down in the lost field the undergrowth has become thick and almost impenetrable in places, large umbeliferras sprout out of the grass, not sure exactly what they are, maybe Burnet Saxifrage. Elsewhere it is spotted with more modest flowers such as Birdsfoot Trefoil and the white flowers of brambles. The surface is very uneven with the large mounds of anthills proliferating.