If you are planning a cottage holiday
in Wales for the month of October, why not try and spot the following:
Top Row - From Left to Right
1. The Weir on the River Clydach at Plas Farm
This was built to raise the level of the River Clydach such that
it could be channelled off (see the hole in the bank on the opposite
side of the river) onto a tar lined wooden trough (which has rotted
away) which ran through the walled garden, past the back of the
holiday cottages and out onto the water-wheel that was once part
of Bwthyn Y Saer holiday cottage. You can still see some of the
tar on the walls.
2. Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis
October is a great time to see grey squirrels around
the farm, stocking up for winter. Their winter fur is dense and
silvery grey with a brown tinge along the middle of the back.
Lots of them live in the trees that surround the holiday cottages.
The grey squirrel was introduced to Great Britain in the mid-19th
century and after many releases it began to increase dramatically
at the beginning of this century.
3. Mynnydd Allt-y-grug from the Lodge Field
This October landscape was taken from the 'lodge field'
in front of the holiday cottages. The foreground is dominated
by a patch of withering thistles. In the middle distance, the
Welsh Oaks are starting to take on their autumn colours. In the
distance, the dramatic ice-carved western side of the Swansea
Valley enjoys the autumn sun. This barren rocky mountain is Allt-y-grug,
which translates as The Hillside of Heather.
Row - From Left to Right
4. Robin Erithacus rubecula
The robin is the UK's favourite bird - with its bright
red breast it is familar throughout the year and especially as the
leaves start to fall off the trees. Males and females look identical,
and young birds have no red breast and are spotted with golden brown.
Robins sing nearly all year round and despite their cute appearance,
they are aggressively territorial and are quick to drive away intruders.
The robin in this picture had some fairly strong words to say after
I had taken its picture.
5. Rams Fighting on the River Field
This picture was taken on the River Field, which is alongside
the farm drive, and visible from the holiday cottages. It shows
two young rams fighting by way of head butting, with a referree
looking on. The rival rams back off, then charge, meeting head to
head with a loud and slightly sickening thud. Whilst it is a shocking
spectacle, it is a natural behaviour which has carried over from
when sheep ran wild. It helps to sort out the social order within
the flock i.e. which ram gets all the ewes. They head butt, poke
with horns, shoulder push, block, and mount eachother until one
of them decides enough is enough. The fights can be ferocious and
according researchers, most male skeletons have fractured neck vertebrae,
broken while butting other males. Larger males with bigger horns
win these battles more often, and therefore mate more frequently.
Head butting among rams is highest during the rutting season (Autumn)
which preceeds the onset of heat in ewes.
6. Cow in Rush Pasture
This was taken on the rush pasture on the mountain behind
the holiday cottages. The leaves of the Welsh Oaks that line the
field have started to turn brown.
Row - From Left to Right
7. 'Red Sky at Night' Sunset at Plas Farm
This picture was taken from the bottom of the farm drive,
looking westwards. It is possible to see the silhouette of a Scotch
Pine towering above the broadleaved oaks. Does "red sky at
night" really mean "shepherds delight"? The hues
we see in the sky are due to the rays of sunlight being split into
colors of the spectrum as they pass through the atmosphere and ricochet
off the water vapor and particles in the atmosphere. The amounts
of water vapor and dust particles in the atmosphere are good indicators
of weather conditions. They also determine which colors we will
see in the sky. During sunset the sun is low in the sky, and it
transmits light through the thickest part of the atmosphere. A red
sky suggests an atmosphere loaded with dust and moisture particles.
We see the red, because red wavelengths (the longest in the color
spectrum) are breaking through the atmosphere. The shorter wavelengths,
such as blue, are scattered and broken up. When we see a red sky
at night, this means that the setting sun is sending its light through
a high concentration of dust particles. This usually indicates high
pressure and stable air coming in from the west. Basically good
weather will follow.
8. Badger Faced Welsh Mountain Ewe
The Welsh Mountain Badger Face is a color variation of the Welsh
Mountain. It is an ancient Welsh breed which was once common in
the Welsh Mountains. Number so this breed fell during the Middle
Ages when the cloth trade demanded a white wool. Numbers are now
on the increase. The main type is known by Torddu which means blackbelly
but there is also a rarer Torwen which is the reverse coloration,
black with a white belly. The Torddu variation have a distinctive
broad striped face with a black band from jaw to belly and extending
to the underside of the tail. The main fleece varies from pure white
to light tan. Rams have dark spiral horns and the ewes are polled
(hornless). They lamb easily, produce plenty of milk and strong
lambs with plenty of "get up and go". Ewes fed mainly
on grass produce high quality lamb, offering flavour, taste, succulence
and unbeatable eating quality.
9. Moonlit Mynydd Marchywel
This picture was taken from Plas Road, which runs past
Plas Farm. The trail from an aeroplane can be seen next to the moon.
The main flight path between London Heathrow and the United States
crosses this mountain. It is possible to watch them taking off on
teletext in your holiday cottage and then nip outside twnety minutes
later, look at the mountain and see the plane - on route to New
York perhaps. The summit of the mountain is marked by three prehistoric
funerary and ritual stone circles. Walking on a moonlit night in
October is magical - mist rising from the fields, owls hooting and
your cosy cottage awaiting your return. Your holiday cottage is
492 feet above sea level, the summit of the mountain is at 1,371
feet, the aeroplane probably at around 20,000 feet and the moon
is 1,263,123,362 feet away!