Summer Strands

Get out the stepladder to cut the best flower heads from our two big elders in order to make cordial. So enjoy the simple sticky fun of it. We freeze some and use the rest. This year the swallows have nested under the porch, above the wood shed. My office affords a good view of the parents comings and goings to feed the chicks and last Thursday, working at my desk, was rewarded with the sight of the fledglings bursting from confinement to launch themselves onto the wood partitions between wood and coal stores and later to roost on the porch lamp. The air full of excited activity as the parents returned, flapping wildly, to feed the three youngsters. Within days flying school was in full flight with the single power cable from house to garage their landing line and family mess.

At the pond red damselflies team up. The male standing sentinel on the neck of the female who bends her abdomen to oviposit her eggs on the lily leaf edges. I count three pairs at one time. Spot the odd dragon fly larva in the water, although the number seems down on last year. Still no sign of the newts. I get close up to one of the two adult frogs I know to be inhabiting the pond to take this photo.

Our neighbours are busy cutting, woofling (turning) and baling their hay. The large round bales lying askew all over the fresh yellow fields strike me as where art and agriculture meet. It’s a satisfying sight to see. Most of the sheep are finally shorn. There is muckspreading on the new cut fields once the bales have been taken off to barns. Sheep and their fat lambs about their endless grazing, suckler cattle herds with calves wade through lush green pastures in between.

Our domestic use of dried grasses is an infinitely more modest affair. I strew barley straw between strawberry plants ready to receive and cushion the ripening fruit. Soon we must net the raised beds to stop birds and mice getting too much of the crop. Returning to water I discover Pip our old cat gratefully snoozing on the improved bedding I’ve kindly provided her with!

Kim & I take a casual walk up the river from our main village here in the valley. Lovely old woods and flat pasture boundaries. We meet no-one once past the elegant late Georgian road bridge. Out of the oak trees blackcaps surprise us with their loud and confident singing. Further on maple keys present with a curious bright pink and cobwebs encase shrubs. Sand martins swoop over a wide bend of quiet water. A south facing steep riverbank full of meadow flowers; hawk weed, salad burnet, birds foot trefoil, spent pods of yellow rattle and many others. In the warm shallows shoals of agile trout fry move as one, forming scattering and reforming. This pasture a small part part of the 1,000 acre tenanted hill farm Kim & her family worked for 20 years and she had set a part of one of her stories, ‘One Summer Day’, at this idyllic spot.


The north of England/west Wales trek is a long one but it offers tempting diversions and when traversed over decades, as in my case, you get to witness key developments and social change. Two such positive and welcoming projects can be visited within a short distance of each other…

It must have been around five years ago that the old service station on the A487 north of Aberystwyth in the village of Tre’r-ddol closed and was taken into community ownership. The locals made such a success of the old premises, proving their case, that a successful funding bid secured a brand new cheerful eco-building – christened ‘Cletwr’ – to house the cafe, shop, facilities and meeting room. Locally sourced food, art & craft work, Welsh & English language publications all feature. The forecourt says ‘welcome’ in any language with a wealth of beautifully blended floral beds and shrubs. The volunteer teams here should be proud of their achievement. A tribute to their vision, hard work and co-ordination. Encouragement for other rural communities to bring their community facilities into the 21st century.

Pushing on north towards Machynlleth the banner sign for the Dyfi Osprey Project appears like the great raptor itself; in vision for a wide winged swooping moment then gone. I’ve been wanting to stop here for a while so on this unhurried sojourn home I did…

What a wonderful place! 15 years ago Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust (MWT) bought and started the process of clearing some 40 acres of commercial spruce plantation. To help they drafted in a herd of water buffalo and replanted with native alder, birch, willow and hazel alongside wet scrub plants like bog myrtle and swathes of reed (now more than head height). I diverted from the fully accessible wooden boardwalk to check out the hides and read information boards. Glimpses of ragged robin, brooklime and orchids; caterpillars crawling and lizards basking on the slate like edge boarding. The meandering walkway brought me after a third of a mile to the towering timber edifice of the 360 observatory. Here I enjoyed a mesmerising close up view through the centre’s mounted telescope of the nesting osprey parents and brace of chicks on their platform nest of sticks edging the tidal Dyfi estuary. A century ago these magnificent fish eating birds were hunted to virtual extinction in the UK but today they are beginning to thrive – thanks to sites like this and those at Rutland Water, Dumfries & Galloway, Bassenthwaite Lake and Kielder Water. Ospreys may be the star name on the bill to pull the punters but also in the huge cast are otters, reed warblers & white fronted geese, darters & dragonflies, toads and frogs and many other native and migrant creatures. Both Cletwr and Cors Dyfi are great examples of what can be done at a grass roots level where there’s sufficient will to make change happen.