countryside hedgerows

Whites in a May hedge.

I love the frothiness of a May hedge when Hawthorn comes into flower, providing explosions of white blossom, while in front the white of Cow Parsley is a matching partner to it. The white of the Cow Parsley has a hint of green to it and it has open umbels of flowers atop wiry stems. A third white flowers joins them but looks less significant, the Greater Stitchwort, a neat little plant covered in white starlike blooms.

I want to share my set of photos with you, all taken within a few minutes on a short 10 metres stretch of lane.


While photographing the hedgerow plants, we noticed this old hedgeline with a few old Hawthorns remaining still flowering profusely alongside the ruins of farm buildings.

countryside landscapes migration Powis Powys trees Wales wildlife woodland woodlands

Waterfall Walkabout

We made a quick visit to the waterfall at Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, in Powys  last year and vowed to return. So in late august we did just that not thinking that being still in the holiday period it would be so much busier than our previous spring visit. But many people were walking off into the hills so our wander was still quite quiet.

After our usual coffee and cakes which we enjoyed in the cafe at the base of the falls we set off up a narrow path and quickly found the stream that flowed rapidly from the falls themselves. The cafe is part of an interesting and unusual endeavour, a business which involves a campsite and retreat as well as the cafe, a little empire to nourish the body, the soul and the mind. It is a place to find peace and get close to nature.

We heard the falls well before we saw them, the roaring and rushing  of water dropping over 100 feet splashing on rock outcrops as it falls. When the falls come into view we are always forced to stop just to stare and take in the scene. It is simply beautiful, a place where the gentle beauty of nature is disturbed by the sheer power of water. A mist of spray drifts among the trees. All around is green, bright almost fluorescent green. Ferns, mosses and lichen reveling in an atmosphere full of droplets of water, very pure clean water, not yet subjected to man’s pollution. It won’t be long before this stream, crystal clear but for a hint of the coffee brown stain from peat, will be subject to agricultural run-off. Nitrates, herbicides and sheep dip chemicals. But for now its purity adds to the delight of the place.

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After enjoying being close to the roar and rumble of the waterfall we took a narrow track into the valley. Our feet made no sound on the pine needles that covered the path so we could hear the sound of the falling water getting quieter as we moved deeper into the heavily wooded slopes of the valley side. The trees grew close together so had grown tall in their search for light.

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Every boulder and the bases of every tree trunk were carpeted in mosses and lichens, soft and silky to the touch.

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The boulders had been rolled down the slope by the forces of gravity after the equally powerful force of erosion had separated them from the rock faces of the vertical outcrops towering above the tree line. Erosion had also removed the soil and scree that once anchored this tree and its roots to the ground. Today it somehow remains upright by holding on with only half of its giant roots still in the ground.

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The openness at the end of the woodland afforded us vast views of the mountain range underneath which we had driven to find the waterfalls.

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In a place dominated by huge trees, massive mountains and rugged rock faces it is good to study tiny delicate things as a contrast. There can be no more delicate flower then the Harebell and no smaller plants than mosses, lichens and algae (algae and lichen are not strictly speaking plants). Although the beetles we came across were small at only a centimetre or so long they certainly did not look delicate. They looked tough as they moved through the grass with purpose. Theses little chaps are powerful predators in the mini-beast world.

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Fruit was colouring up on Hawthorns, Rowans and wild Crab Apples. We imagined that once the migrant thrushes passed through Wales they would home in on this valley side and gorge themselves on this fruit bounty.

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On the more exposed slopes of the valley trees live short lives and they grow stunted by the harsh winds and cold winters. This does though give them beautiful shapes, their branches and trunks taking on bonsai like twists and turns. The clean air here meant they wear coats of lichen, moss and algae. The first three pictures below are of a dead tree, partly felled but still giving a home to these tiny members of the plant world.

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On our return back along the track we took a detour to see if we could get a closer look at the falls by going upwards. The path rose steeply and we found ourselves on a ledge almost halfway up the falls so we did get different views but not as dramatic as we had hoped for.

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What a great place this is, possibly as close to wilderness as we can find in this part of Wales. The walk isn’t easy or indeed sensible for either of us – me walking with a crutch and one leg without any feeling and Jude being scared of heights and hating walking with a gap alongside. But we did it and we enjoyed! And we will probably do it again! No – we will definitely do it again!






bird watching birds Shropshire The National Trust wildlife

Follow that stream!

A walk along a tiny stream in a deep valley in our Shropshire Hills seemed most inviting on a warm May afternoon, so we set off for a half hour drive from home to Cardingmill Valley at Church Stretton. Much of the countryside here is managed by the National Trust so at weekends the valley gets too busy for our liking. Hence we chose midweek for our stream side walk, and found a few cars and people close to the Visitor Centre but as we left that behind we were almost on our own.

The stream leads us into the valley.

The wide valley where we joined the tiny stream looked most inviting with its steep slopes running up the tall hillsides towering overhead, all topped off by a clear blue sky. We hoped to see different birds here in this upland habitat and a scarcity of plants but those we see should be interesting in how they adapt to their environment.

One of the gentler slopes.

We were heading for a narrower side valley called “Light Spout Hollow” where if all went well we anticipated discovering a waterfall. So the first section of our walk along the Cardingmill Valley the path was relatively wide and even and the climb gentle. Looking up the slopes towards the sky we searched for the Buzzards which we could hear mewing overhead as thye wheeled in the thermals. But these are steep head-spinning slopes so it was a matter of glances of these wide-winged soaring birds of prey. It was easier to appreciate the hovering hunting tactics of the Kestrel hunting on the lower slopes.

Storm clouds brewing over the hills.
The green side of the valley.
Looking back to see where we have come from.
A Hawthorn bonsai shaped by the weather.
Looking up at the bonsai Hawthorn.
Fresh Whinberry foliage.
We turn left as the valley splits into two.
Clear water stream.
Lichens enjoy the moist atmosphere near the stream and clean air.
Some boulders have a soft cuhion of moss.

The extreme winter conditions here become apparent in a variety of ways. The huge boulder has been split in half by repetitive freeze-thaw action in successive winters – such nature power. Trees are sculpted by the weather into natural bonsais which create dramatic silhouettes on the horizon.

Mother Nature – rock splitter.
The extreme weather takes its toll on wildlife and livestock.
Bonsai Hawthorn.

The effects of the weather varied from place to place and from slope to slope. On one side of a hill Birches grow in abundance but just turn a corner and the hillside is empty of trees bar one lone stunted Birch.

All on my own!

The stream changed character as we moved up the little valley with miniature waterfalls, rapids and swirling deeper pools, until finally we reached our goal – the main waterfall. Here we stopped for a well-earned rest and to take in the atmosphere and views, and enjoyed our usual outdoor victuals of fruit and coffee. The boulders which we rested on were slippery and shone from the action of resting walkers’ bottoms.

The stream clambers noisily over boulders in its path.
The stream flowing over smooth rocks under an overhanging willow.
The clear water passes beneath sprigs of scented Water Mint.
Water power has gouged deeply into the rock.
Nearly there.
As good as we expected.
Looking and listening while enjoying a coffee.
Our little green friend who joined in our picnic.

Here at the top we listened to the constant songs of the birds and tried to identify those fast flyers over our heads. Wheatears, Stonechat, Whinchat and Pipit. On our way back down we concentrated on finding the wild flowers that managed to find a foothold or sheltered place.

Jude the Undergardener leads the way down.
The winding path shows us the way.
The glossy round leaves of Pennywort.
Fresh ferns flourish in the cool shade at the base of rocky outcrops.
Almost back.

What an enjoyable walk, wandering up valleys with just birds and sheep as company. We must return in the Autumn.

Shaun the Sheep was here!