I have often wondered what it must be like to have a local patch that you can explore on an almost daily basis. In the past I have never lived anywhere that really offered that opportunity, being either stuck in a housing estate or hemmed in by dual carriageways. For me a local patch is somewhere that I can walk to from the house without the need for a car and preferably somewhere that is relatively devoid of other human life. As a few of my recent posts have shown I think I now have somewhere that fits that bill perfectly and I have decided to officially delegate it my local patch. As a result you can expect many more posts from this locality as the joy of walking from home straight into the wild is something that you can only really appreciate if you have sat in front of a PC all day working for ‘the man’.
The Cwm Dulais valley may look wild and natural today but its recent past could not have been much different and indeed you don’t have to look very far to see the scars on the landscape. The valley floor used to carry a standard gauge railway that traveled its length to serve the various mines that used to work the area.
(Top) The old track bed looking up the valley (Bottom) A detail shot of the railway bridge over the Dulais
Where this railway ended a short but steep incline continues up to a level track-way that extends for the rest of the valleys length. I am finding it hard to locate any more detailed information than this at the moment but I will persevere as there must be so much history to discover here.
(Top) Looking down the incline towards Pontarddulais (Bottom) The track bed after the incline
As a result of its industrial heritage and traditional farming the Cwm Dulais valley offers a wide range of habitats. From mature woodland along the banks of the River Dulais and up onto the open and exposed hillsides it is not hard to see why am I excited about the opportunities that this place offers. I walked its entire length this evening and was not disappointed. I hadn’t even left the garden before the first opportunities presented themselves with this magnificent male Bullfinch and male House Sparrow.
I was greeted in Cwm Dulais with the familiar sound of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler once more, while the Blackbirds and Blue Tits added their own unique vocals. I was pleased to see a couple of Stonechats as the valley began to open but was quickly distracted by a Grey Wagtail flying past down the river. This was not to be the only river dweller as not much further on I spotted a Dipper heading upstream. This is fantastic as I was hoping that Dippers would be present but to actually find one is quite remarkable. It was very mobile so I couldn’t relocate it but there is plenty of time left for that. Overhead I was joined by several Swallows and numerous flocks of Linnet that once landed allowed me to get fantastic views of their full breeding plumage.
By now I had reached the incline and pushed on to explore further. A few steps later the familiar call of ‘a-little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheeeeese’ signaled the presence of a male Yellowhammer. The bird soon put in an appearance, no doubt helped by the Red Kite that drifted overhead briefly. A couple of Jays took to the air as a pair of Song Thrushes sang to one side of me and a Mistle Thrush called loudly from the trees on the other. A tiny Wren topped things off as my stomach began to tell me that it was time to head back. I think the stomach was on to something as it was at this point I realised that I had actually walked quite far and after a days work my energy levels were getting rather low. Still, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The sounds, smells and location all added up to make a quite simply perfect evening.