Archives for posts with tag: BBC Countryfile Magazine

The town walls are thrilling. Crevices, turrets, gateways and twenty-one towers. Cold stone, still enclosing jammed-together streets, shops and homes. You can circle the town by walking on top of the walls, and visit the stout and beastly castle with its murder-holes and machicolations. It was built by Edward I who filled his walled town with English merchants and banished the Welsh to the hills – but times change. Now Welsh flags flutter in the turrets. Costa came and went (muscled out by the merchants’ legacy – a multitude of independent shops and cafes). And Father Christmas, snug in his jolly grotto at Jester’s Tower coffee shop, goes by the Welsh name of Siôn Corn. (Siôn Corn is sometimes even spotted scaling the castle walls, but this is a magical somewhat fugitive event, and difficult to corroborate.) Snug within these walls, Conwy is clud (cosy), cyffroes (exciting) – and very Christmassy.

Read more in the December 2022 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine

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

Gold light floods the grazing land between the two woodlands, saturated by an avian soundtrack so tangible it is almost visible – a cloud of chirrups, whistles, warbles and trills. Dawn-fresh dewy grass shimmers.

You might not expect these tired old inter-war plantations to be the setting for such an ebullient dawn chorus. The Corsican pines in Coedwig Pen-bre are diseased and wind-stunted, while those in its nursery wood Coed Pen-y-Bedd, are ivy-swaddled as jungle-swamped temples. But even these veterans provide homes for greater-spotted woodpeckers, blackbirds, owls, and common crossbills. More importantly, as forest management continues to evolve (with a Coedwig Pen-bre Recovery Plan) they are belted by broadleaf coppice and scrub from which the majority of the birdsong emanates.

Read more in the March 2022 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine

It is a wow moment. The walk here was impressive, with its views to Eryri (Snowdonia) summits – but now that I am peering into Moel Tryfan Quarry, I am stunned.

It is the colours that are beautifully shocking. The detergent-blue reservoir lying in a crushed ring of purple slate is encircled by green-gold grass and snow-powdered peaks roaring up to a bruised sky.

I have walked here before – I remember being saluted by a passing scrambler-bike rider, and swirling cloud revealing waste tips and walls – I already knew the quarry had drama; but I had not before seen its true colours.

Now cloud dissolves the hues, leaving only a memory – and slate waste underfoot that clatters or shatters, fragile yet resilient.

Read more in the March 2022 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine

 

‘At dusk, light from the illuminated campanile, spills onto wet cobbles, is absorbed into blue and rose walls and twinkles off small panes of glass. Waves lap the stone quay and white sand, and behind the turrets and domes, enveloping the rocky peninsula is a dark woodland that conceals a labyrinth of tracks.

Portmeirion is an illusory place, full of magic, colour and light, its buildings intermingled with water, trees and rock where you are easily lost, if not physically in the woods or the piazza, then at least in your imagination.’

Read more in the April 2018 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine

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Clutched in the calcerous grip of the Great Orme and Little Orme headlands is Llandudno, where a seafront crescent of palm trees and grand icecream-block-like hotels seems to continue the colours of the Ormes’ vegetation-cloaked limestone pavement.

Mountains brood inland, and behind the hotels, sheltering from the mountains and the sea, bistros hunker beneath ornate arcades. But the brave pier, wave-raked and salt-assaulted, marches boldly into the bay.

Read more in the August 2017 issue of BBC Countryfile Magazine

A cold cloud swirls down from the hills and cloaks the chapel, the slagheaps, the grey stone and pebbledash houses and the brightly coloured playground. The roads are empty, and the school quiet, its roof ripped off by Storm Barbara. This is Rhosgadfan, where Kate Roberts spent her childhood on the slopes of Moel Tryfan and Moel Smytho” and is the setting for her earlier novels including Feet in Chains and Tea in the Heather. Suddenly the cloud dissolves. The sea glitters, skylarks rise over the moors, children laugh on the swings and the mountains are revealed.

Read more in the July edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine 2017

‘Firelight flickers over faces and gilds the silhouette of a bicycle tossed to the ground as we join a small crowd of people sitting on strawbales around a musician and his acoustic guitar. Suddenly I’m awash with serene joy and equanimity. I often get this feeling at festivals – like I do after days spent hiking – a kind of fusion with the landscape, but at festivals it’s also about shared human spirit…’

Read more in the June edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine

‘Mountainous in spirit if not in height, Yr Eifl is a hill of vertiginous vistas and igneous granite intrusions. Its craggy summits have various names but are referred to here as Garn For, Garn Ganol, and Tre’r Ceiri, and this walk scales all three.’

Read more in the March 2017 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine

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‘Meanwhile, as the train arrives in Blaenau Ffestiniog, the platform is a-billow with pungent smoke and all other sound submits to the hiss of steam. Raw and beautiful, Blaenau Ffestiniog in the belly of Snowdonia is overlooked by jagged mountains disembowelled for their slate. The air feels more brittle than down at the coast. Trees are few and bent, and terraced stone inky-dark houses bear witness to the industrial age in which they and the railway were built.’

Read more in BBC Countryfile Magazine, February 2017

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