Harvest Thanksgiving in Llangammarch and the heat wave beginning to abate. At the harvest supper I spoke with a man who works with the British Trust for Ornithology. In the dead of night he skulks under old bridges ringing dippers and said their numbers are increasing especially since the foresters have been persuaded not to plant trees right next to rivers which poisons the water with their acidic needles. He also confirmed my sighting of a Goosander but said they competed with dippers for shellfish and so had his reservations about them. He said dippers liked spate rivers and could go two days without food when the waters are up. I have certainly noticed how they like shallows, standing on rocks and exploring little beaches.
Autumn is coming. Leaves are curling and beginning to fall, blackberries shriveling and the earth drawing back into itself. This morning I saw a large, longnecked bird flying overhead and this afternoon by the river saw it again, flying low over the water: the rather monstrous black shape of a Cormorant. I was not expecting it so far inland. Otherwise the river was quiet and full with no sign of life, except for a few slug ravaged russula on the woody bank.
We traveled up to Abergwesyn and parked near the ancient Anglican cemetery. The parish church of this tiny hamlet has long gone. It witnesses to the long decline in churchgoing, but also to deeper processes of change and mutation. From reading the history it appears that attendance at these small rural churches was never great and varied depending on the economic situation which affected population. Churches have fallen into ruin, new churches have been built. There have been times of revival and times of decline and things often depend on individual personalities. "Time like an ever rolling stream bears all its sons away". The car is, perhaps, the final nail in the coffin of remote rural churches, there is no longer the need for meeting places in such out-of-the-way locations. Although it does also, perhaps, open up the need and potential for places of quiet retreat.
We could not walk for long by the river but climbed up the hill and down past the faded grandeur of Llwynderw (Grade II listed house on the banks of the River Irfon dating back to the 18C. The estate is said to have been created from Cistercian lands at the dissolution of the monastery at Strata Florida. 8 Bedrooms. 4 bath rooms. 3 reception rooms. Estimated value £1,253,835). Then we found our way down to the river and were followed by three beautiful horses as I walked beside the bank looking for dippers. But no sightings.
A lovely warm, sunny October day. Down by the Irfon at Llangammarch I strolled happily along and saw two dippers flying fast downstream. Then I found myself little seat in a tree overhanging the river and explored it with binoculars. After some time I found a dipper feeding on a shady beach underneath the bank. He was very active, bobbing up and down into the water, paddling out into the river and then diving beneath the surface. He even climbed up into a tree before diving back down. Always active, always energetic. Then he flew out into the swirling rapids, perched on a rock and plunged into the rushing torrent. For the first time I captured the bird with my camera. Tiny and very distant, but my equipment is basic.
The Cammarch joins the Irfon River at Llangammarch and just after the confluence of the two rivers there is a reasonably sized island which splits the flow of the conjoined rivers. Apparently it can be reached during the summer when the river is low, but most of the time it is an isolated wilderness. A week ago I was foraging for autumn berries and discovered an area of ground beside this island bounded by the two rivers and the railway line. It was once a small field but it is now a wild and untamed place with tussocky grass, a large elder bush and on every side it is being encroached on by scrubby growth and trees. A little hidden wilderness
The river is flush with water, green and fast. On the bank the leaves are browning and beginning to fall. The ram is in the riverside field, sniffing the ewes whilst his enormous testicles swing between his legs and in the sky flocks of Redwings hurry south searching for the red berries of Rowan trees which seem to be very scarce this year.