The missing three weeks. It sounds like a title for the next Hollywood blockbuster but in truth its a simple introduction to me catching up on a blog that has been sadly neglected for much of January as work and life, with a very heavy emphasis on the former, have swept me along with barely a minute to spare. The past two weekends I have been stuck in the office, racking up some impressive overtime admittedly, and boy am I itching to get back out there amongst the scenery and wildlife that help keep this restless soul satisfied.
I have only managed one full days outing since that foggy walk exploring the ruins of Dunraven, and that was to the mightily impressive Ystradfellte waterfalls on the southern fringe of the Brecon Beacons. Over thousands of years the Rivers Melte, Hepste and Nedd Fechan have ground away at the bedrock to form stunning steep sided, tree lined gorges where every twist and turn hides ever more impressive falls and splash spools.
Waterfall country as it is known has been on our list of places to visit for as long as I can remember, but it was the gift of a BBC Countryfile walk book for Christmas that finally spurred us into action. Being a widely available guide we expected the paths to be very gentle but to my delight we found them to be anything but. The areas topography, popularity and high levels of rainfall have led to trails that are at best very uneven and in places almost none existent. Numerous times we found ourselves scrabbling down steep, slippery banks, hanging onto tree roots for support and with nothing but a several hundred foot drop ahead of us if it all went wrong. In an age of nanny state health and safety rules it was a pleasure to find the vistas uncluttered by fences or warning notices, something which should really be the norm not the exception. Being able to walk right out onto the rocks above the waterfalls and stare down into the abyss was exhilarating.
The largest and probably most famous of the waterfalls is Sgwd yr Eira, an imposing sight that hides a secret. Behind the towering wall of water lies a narrow ledge that runs the entire width of the fall. Walking along it is not only damp but also one of those things that has to be on everyone’s to do list. I tried to get my camera out for a photo but I really don’t think it would still be here to tell the tale if I had. Instead this view from down river will have to do instead.
Away from the waterfalls the gorges themselves were packed with wildlife. Nuthatches, Treecreepers, Buzzards and flocks of Tits were all about, but the highlight for me was the numerous Dippers that were to be found along the quieter stretches of river. We saw at least eight individuals including one that gave a brief outburst of song. Grey Wagtails were also out in force, completely smashing last years total for the species in a single outing. The damp setting itself was perfect for the growth of many fungi including this great example of Birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) which measured some thirty centimetres across.
There have been a couple of other notable incidents these past few weeks that I should mention here for prosperity. The first was a Robin in full song beneath a street light on the next road over from my house. Not particularly strange in itself but it is when you consider the fact that it was almost eleven o’clock in the evening. Other after dark sightings have included a Woodcock shooting across the sky above junction 47 of the M4 followed a day or so later by a probable Tawny Owl in the same place. Back at work at least one Peregrine Falcon is still in residence and today it was joined by another. I wonder how long it will be before they start courting again?