Walking our countryside has always been one of my favourite past times and is something that I try to do every single day. I’ve often wondered just how far I could push myself however, and have long coveted the idea of completing one, if not all of Britain’s national trails. The recent opening of the complete Wales coast path reawakened that desire for adventure within me, and in doing so kicked off an effort to build my stamina and fitness levels beyond their current state. Thinking that there was no time like the present I pulled out an OS map and plotted a 14 mile circular course from my back door to the Lliw Reservoirs. As I wanted to travel light out went my usual camera to be replaced with a small compact and I downsized my binoculars to a less weighty pair. Suitably kitted up I headed out and returned five hours later, no worse for wear and pleasantly surprised at just how fit I’d become since my lazy days at university. On the way I’d even managed to squeeze in some great birds including two Cuckoo, three Tree Pipit and three Spotted Flycatcher in the Bynllefrith plantation, as well as a great encounter with a young Fox cub in the entrance to an abandoned mine.
Buoyed by my success I headed out again the following morning to Glyntawe where we plotted a course from the Dan yr Ogof caves up to the summit ridge of Fan Hir, past the twin lakes of Llyn y Fan Fawr and Llyn y Fan Fach, before looping back down across the moors. The scenery up there was absolutely staggering, with the sheer drops of Fan Hir being a particular highlight. These are just a few of the many landscapes taken throughout the day.
Obviously such long walks were out of the question on the following work nights, but I kept up the pace by knocking off three or four miles each evening. All of these were again done without my usual camera, and up till then I hadn’t regretted it. On Wednesday though that all changed and I was reminded why I had previously vowed to never leave home without it. I’d already made my way to the top of Cefn Drum and Twyn Tyle, and was on my way back when I disturbed two largish birds from the dead bracken. Initially I thought they were Snipe, but as soon as I relocated them I realised they were in fact two male Grey Partridges! These are nationally rare birds and as far as I know unheard of locally so it was a real star find. Reaching for my camera I groaned as I found only the compact, so the record shot below is very much a case of what might have been.
I was able to get relatively close but they were very wary and soon ran off up the hill as soon as I exceeded their boundaries. Nevertheless what a great encounter and certainly a lesson learned. There were also other successes that evening including the discovery of Yellowhammers on the eastern slopes of Cefn Drum (thereby extending their range beyond what I had previously known), as well as great views of one of the elusive Pheasants and another Cuckoo being chased by a Meadow Pipit. Needless to say I will be back up there this week with my proper camera in tow.