Cymru. Or Wales, in English. Its greenery, swift streams and rainy summits stole into my heart as a child. We went on caravan holidays to Cymru like everyone else I knew from Shrewsbury, but Tywyn was just ‘the seaside’ till I heard local women there speaking Welsh. That ‘Wales’ was different, sparked excitement that still makes me shiver. Cymru was where I yearned to be when living in England, the place I thought of when working overseas.

Read more in the October 2022 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine (and the book it’s promoting – The Edge of Cymru, to be published by Seren in October 2022.)

Aberystwyth Pier, Ceredigion You might hear them before you see them – a thrilling whoosh above Heol y Wig. Clusters of people gather along the seafront, silently respectful, as the sky pales to lilac then deepens. Some 30,000 starlings swirl in from their coastal feeding grounds to roost beneath the iron latticed pier.

Read more in the October 2022 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine

Many paths traverse Cwm Nantcol – from over Y Rhinogydd, or Llanbedr. Once we hiked up from the south. Having just crossed Pont Scethin – the bridge used by drovers leading cattle from the coastal plain to Dolgellau and English markets beyond, we had farming on our minds.

The bwlch on Moelfre proved a good spot for contemplation. Y Rhinogydd were blushing as the sun slid towards the sea. Below us, drystone walls radiated from scattered farms in glorious scribbles. Sheep nibbled the hills, and cattle lowed nearer the river.

Neolithic peoples who left tombs around Afon Ysgethin, were the first farmers. Bronze-Age hill deforestation followed – for grazing livestock on what was initially, fertile soil. Both soil and climate had deteriorated by the Iron Age, and peat developed.

Read more in the September 2022 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine

Deep rhythmic rumblings reverberate around the farmyard. Astonishingly loud yet – so soporific. I’ve never heard a pig snoring before. Save for birdsong and hen-cluck, it is the only audible noise and holds me captive. The isolation of a simple, primitive sound is so rare now, it surprises and soothes. But tranquillity is normal here – where light, and sound, and materials are natural.

Welcome to Llanerchaeron. In a wooded valley through which Afon Aeron bubbles, this National Trust estate includes meadows, a lake, a walled garden (representing 200 years of herb, vegetable and fruit production), a farmyard, and a collection of agricultural machinery. Whenever I visit, peace settles within me. As if technical stress is left at the gate.

Read more in the September 2022 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine

The woodland is luminous, the air lucid, waiting a pleasure. We board, and momentarily glide quietly before the rich rhythmic rumble returns. The Talyllyn Railway is gorgeously romantic. Yet this lustrous woodland exists despite of, not because of it. Coal has driven the climate crisis and sourcing it from Russia is now intolerable, so biofuels like e-coal (an amalgam of coal-dust, olive stones and molasses) are being trialled, despite being expensive and the long-term impacts on engines as yet unknown.

Read more in the August 2022 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine

The Good Old Days

Perhaps we all have memories of simpler golden days, or remember someone who would pedal off into the countryside for hours, days even, with just a sandwich. Now we are snarled up in urban sprawl, traffic, conspicuous consumption and digital ambush, those experiences are difficult. But gone forever? Maybe not. Rock-pooling and bird-watching remain free, as does whiling away time beneath a tree. When I see kids absorbed in crabbing off a pier, Glaswegians bivouacking under an old tarp, and teens in footy shirts on mountain summits armed with only a bottle of cola, it makes me smile – they’re creating the good old days to come.

Read more in the August 2022 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine (incorrectly credited)

‘It’s a funny little site’ says Andrew Roberts, the National Trust ranger who cares for Mosshill and the ponies which graze it in winter.  Neither farmland nor technicolour dazzle, this meadow is uneven and rocky. ‘But’ Andrew continues, ‘botanically it is very important. In early summer we’ve got orchids – butterfly, early purple, and a record of frog orchid. There’s betony and yellow rattle, then come August-September, devil’s-bit scabious.’

Read more in the May 2020 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine

Photograph by Plantlife http://www.plantlife.org.uk

At night, the old town is dark except for a few lights reflected in the rain. Streets disappear into a perspective of dripping wires and gangi-dori. The old town, with its scent of red pine, is like an abandoned piece of antique furniture with quiet sliding drawers and grainy gold lustre, full of rainy temples, and dignified folded people slipping into shadows behind mysterious doors. But it is a magic box and I can’t get in.

Extract from The Murmuration. Read more in An Open Door; New Travel Writing for a Precarious Century, Edited by Steven Lovatt, published by Parthian, May 2022

“‘The Murmuration’ by Julie Brominicks, on the other hand, is an episodic account of a ‘Brit on a scholarship’ to Japan that deals expertly with questions of identity and belonging.” From review by Josh Weeks for Wales Arts Review https://www.walesartsreview.org/an-open-door-ed-steven-lovatt-travel-writing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=an-open-door-ed-steven-lovatt-travel-writing

The ponds welcome rain with a gentle hiss. A drop lands on a water lily leaf and rolls to the centre where more raindrops accumulate and enlarge until, too heavy at last, they slide into the water through the slit in the leaf. I am watching a frog watching me. Despite being overcast, it is luminous, poetic even, under the trees by the lily ponds…

Being both popular and environmentally sensitive, Llynnoedd Bosherston (Bosherston Lily Ponds) in the western extremity of Sir Benfro (Pembrokeshire) is one place that to visit, deserves careful and imaginative planning. The ponds are special, forming one of very few hard water mesotrophic lakes in Wales. They are spring-fed, so lucid, but artificial – created by the Cawdors of Stagbwll (Stackpole), in testament to that period zest for water features. Weirs were built across three adjacent valleys to slow the water’s flow to the sea, and the resultant ponds stocked with lilies and fish. But it is the underlying limestone which is responsible for the concentration of calcium carbonates which encourage the growth of the stoneworts that are sensitive to nutrient enrichment. The combination of natural ecology and human intervention has resulted in a biodiverse-rich site (12 species of bat, 40 species of dragonfly, 30 species of butterfly) – that requires continued stewardship. 

Read more in the May 2022 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine

Walking weekends nourish body and soul. Trekking just that little bit further increases our exposure to fresh air and the restorative phytoncides plants release, while the satisfaction that accompanies singing muscles, tingling skin and a hearty appetite at the end of the day is a truth universally acknowledged. Where we might differ in opinion of course, is how then, best to relax. For some, nothing less than a lavish meal you don’t have to cook and a comfortable bed followed by a big fried breakfast will do. Others prefer to extend their rapport with the wild by sleeping outdoors – and camping is certainly a cheap option.

Read more in the April 2022 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine