Back from a 50th birthday holiday in Somerset. The blossom and bullfinchs have disappeared but swallows, house martins and swifts fill the air as budding spring unfurls into leafy summer. The rivers have been very full. On our way down to Stogursey castle the road beside the Wye at Clyro was closed due to flooding and on our way back we saw flooding warning signs on the road at Abernant. The rivers went from anorexia to obesity very quickly. In Somerset we saw one or two cuckoo flowers but here they continue to be abundant especially in the churchyard at Llangammarch. They are a lovely gentle but conspicuous flower which have come to symbolize spring in the Irfon Valley for me. But yet again I have lost my heart to the swallow, nothing in all creation so enraptures my soul, although driving alongside a sparrowhawk in flight yesterday in the Wye Valley was pretty special. Felt like I was in a David Attenborough film.
Still frustrated at not feeling comfortable with walking down to the river. I keep thinking I'm missing the chance of seeing baby dippers! But I am improving, so hopefully...
Yesterday we drove up through Abergwesyn on a beautiful sunny evening. The valley was extraordinarily beautiful, the river full and shining in the sunlight. The quality of the light and the way the shadows highlighted every hedge and tree gave everything a very special quality. The countryside is very hilly and I love the way this provides fresh views as you crest the brow each new hill. We drove on through the Devils Staircase into the valley of the Towy and across the bleak moor land and regimented forests of conifers. Large swathes of this have been taken down giving it a very desolate appearance, but there is still beauty in the vastness of it and great stillness.
Today a visit to the open garden at Llysdinam: glorious views over Newbridge on Wye, then cutting down to Builth along a gorgeous country lane that runs parallel to the Chwefri, that joins the Irfon at Cilmery. I have been reading Ruth Bidgood's Parishes of the Buzzard which gives lots of interesting history, particularly on Abergwesyn but inevitably the story spreads out into Llangammarch, Llanwrtyd and Llanafan Fawr. It is clear from this that Llangammarch is the mother church for the Irfon Valley and Llanafan Fawr has a similar role for churches to the north. In Abergwesyn there were two churches St. David's which came under Llangammarch and St. Michael's which came under Llanafan Fawr, they are only a stone's throw from each other across the Irfon, very strange considering how sparsely populated Abergwesyn has always been. St. Michael's (Llanfihangel) became the parish church but was finally demolished in 1963, but our plans for an outdoor service there by the banks of the Irfon and the Gwesyn are proceeding. Everything here runs along the rivers.
The beauty of this garden perched above the Cammarch almost overwhelms me. Two swallows chase each other over my head, where earlier a crow had been wheedling and irritating a gliding buzzard. The bullfinch dropped down onto the grass before returning to its mate in the apple tree, which had previously been the perch for two yellow siskins. On the guttering of the house a starling wheezes and chatters as owning starlings can and over the church collared dove flaps up before descending in a wide-winged glide. Higher up troops of swifts curve briefly into sight and a whole area is full of bird song. I only wish I had the skill to identify all the outpourings! But, really, I'm just content to live in the infinite variety of its beauty.
Today a confirmation service in Eglwys Oen Duw a few miles up the Cammarch where it is a gentle shining stream. The new annex for the church was also blessed and the Victorian church, which glistens like a bright Gothic jewel in the rising landscape, was full of song and people, although numbers were, perhaps, diminished by the smallholders fair at the showground in Builth!
Many trees are still some way from being in leaf but the sun has come and the morning is warm and bright. On one of these leafless trees I saw a small family of nuthatches. The youngster kept to one branch but was visited regularly by its parents returning with choice tidbits gleaned from the bark. Also a song thrush filling the valley with snatches of melody.
Summer has arrived in the glorious warm sunshine. Most of the trees are now green and down by the Cammarch everything is delightful. I saw a family of nuthatches down by the river, feeding and flitting from branch to branch. The same family, I presume, whom I see in the big ash trees on the cliff above the river in the morning.
The blossom of the fruit trees has now long gone but the Crabapple is now in full bloom. It is a big tree which cleans stoutly to the cliff. Last year the harvest was poor but maybe this autumn it will do better.
A brief glimpse of a flycatcher, I think, darting up from a post before returning to its perch. But by the time I had got my binoculars it had gone.
In a big ash tree over the Cammarch a song thrush has a favored perch and sings all morning. He fills the valley with song and provides sterling competition to the roaring and grinding of the lorries in the council depot on the other side of the river! Swallows and house martins fill the air but their acrobatics are upstaged by the scything flights of small groups of swifts in formation.
A delightful walk by the Irfon. On the way a definite sighting of the pied flycatcher, flitting amongst the branches of a large ash tree. By the river I disturbed a Sandpiper, first time I have seen one here and as I walked dippers regularly flew past, then by the dipper bridge 10 minutes watching one work the shallows on the far side of the river. The river bank, ungrazed by sheep, is spread by a gentle sheen of bluebells and the hawthorn has burst into life. Perfection.
The heat and sun has coaxed the ash trees into life and the soft green leaves are now emerging.
Today found this in A Celtic Primer compiled by Brendan O'Malley
The Mountain StreamMountain stream, clear and limpid, wandering down towards the valley, whispering songs among the rushes – oh, that I were as the stream!
Mountain heather all in flower – longing fills me, at the sight, to stay upon the hills in the wind and the heather.
Small birds of the high mountain that soar up on the healthy wind, flitting from one peak to the other – oh, that I were as the bird!
Son of the mountain am I, far from home making my song; but my heart is in the mountain, with the heather and small birds.
Welsh, John Ceiriog Hughes (1833–87)
A little while ago I found this verse about the Irfon in Ruth Bidgood's Parishes of the Buzzard
Home of my fathers, they oak-circled hill,
Abrupt on every side, and towering high,
A mountain fortress formed by nature skill,
Might well the foreman's fiercest shock defy:
But tranquil now beneath the summer ray,
In heightened contrast either shore is seen,
Here purple heath, with rock of time-worn gray,
There's a dark further, and oakwood forest green:
While Irvon, ever as it circles near
Thy sheltered churchyard, and romantic hill,
Its voice is speaking more than to the ear,
And long-forgotten dreams awakening still.
John Lloyd writing of old Llanwrtyd Dinas
Everything has now bloomed. The trees are thick with green and the last blossom clings on in this final day of May. Clouds gather and it seems the long hot dry spell is now coming to an end as rain approaches. The song thrush is still singing but apart from swifts and swallows filling the air the other birds are not so abundant. The bullfinchs have retired to secret places in the woods.