Today’s expansive guest picture comes from my Welsh correspondent Keiron. It shows the beach at Aberavon at dusk last week.
They promised us sunshine today and we got sunshine today. It was most unsettling.
We didn’t just get a little sunshine either, we got sunshine all day. There were two minor matters that affected our tendency towards unrestrained joy; it was literally freezing in the morning and the skies clouded over just before we might have seen the conjunction of planets in the evening. But all the same, a day of sunshine was very welcome.
Although the light was a bit better, the supply of birds at the feeder was very thin today….
…and as the feeder is in shade for most of the morning while the sun is so low during our very short days, I spent quite a lot of time waiting for single chaffinches to turn up and then not getting very good pictures of them.
I don’t know if they were worried about the sparrowhawk, or perhaps they found the metal perches too cold to stand on for long, but they tended to rush in, grab a seed, and flit away again in a moment. It was rather frustrating.
When the sun did get round to the feeder, the contrast between light and shade was almost too much for the camera to cope with, but at least a goldfinch…
…stopped long enough for two pictures….
…and a chaffinch perched on a stick on the hedge.
In view of the morning frost, it was lucky that I had picked a few of the last rosebuds of the year a day or two ago. They are trying their best in the kitchen
It had warmed up a bit by noon and there didn’t seem to be any ice about, so I had an early lunch and went off for another walk, hoping not to fall over today.
I had learned my lesson from recent walks when I have come back along the river and found myself in deep shade while the sun was still shining on the hill on the opposites side of the valley. Today, I started out along the riverside, finding Skippers Bridge looking as well as it could at the winter solstice…
…and then headed up the hill…
…and in to permanent sunshine…
…for the rest of my walk until I got back to the town.
I had hoped to see some hair ice on my walk but either it hadn’t frozen hard enough or I was too late in the day because there was none to be seen. On the other hand, I did see something very unexpected beside the road up the hill.
This was some Sarcoscypha coccinea, commonly known as the scarlet elf cup, a fungus which I have only ever seen in March. I may have remarked before that this has been a very odd year for weather.
I was going to take the easy way back from Broomholmshiels along the track through the oak and birch woods, but it was such a lovely day that the open hill called to me, and I followed the track up to the line of pylons that stride along the hillside.
The first few hundred yards were along the bit of the pylon track that has recently been returned to nature and I soon began to wonder about the wisdom of my choice as it was very soft and I had to go carefully. I was reassured by a line of boot prints in the muddy peat which were coming in the opposite direction and so I plugged on.
I was rewarded by finding that once past the second pylon, the track was in excellent condition.
…and although you can’t help seeing the pylons as you go along, you only need to turn your head to get pylon free views like this one of some old quarry workings..
… or this one of the town, taken just after crossing the stile at the wall.
A popular local song contains these words in its chorus:
“There’s a spot supremely blest
Sweeter spot than a’ the rest
It’s that wee bit toon that lies near Whita Hill.”
And on a day like today, it would be hard to disagree.
I had to keep an eye on where I was putting my feet but I did stop and look around from time to time.
I was sorry to see that the well placed bench near the stile had succumbed to old age and had fallen over. Unlike me yesterday, it hadn’t been able to get up again. The gorse was in very good fettle.
The track from the quarry to Whita Well is in increasingly poor condition and I was very grateful that I had my wellies on. I saw another walker sensibly following a new track a little lower down the hill, and I will investigate it next time.
All the same, I manged to negotiate the many boggy bits safely and got to the end of the track..
…from where I could see that there was a mist rising from the side of the Castleholm below me…
… which was not surprising as it is a gloomy spot in December, not seeing much of the sun at any time of the day.
I looked up the Ewes valley, full of shadows at half past two in the afternoon…
…and checked on the thriving lichen colonies on the wall at the top of the Wynd beside the golf course.
Many people will walk past this wall without a second glance as these little gardens of delight are tiny.
In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to listen to your knees creaking as you walk half a mile downhill at the end of a sunlit stroll, but it couldn’t be avoided and I was happy to get back the town without having lost my gravity at any point.
The most colourful thing that I saw on my walk was this very richly decorated bicycle propped against the hospital fence…
…and the most surprising thing, even more unexpected than the scarlet elfcups, was the sight of three Wauchope Waders, wading in the Wauchope Water while celebrating the birthday of the lady on the right.
It takes all sorts, as they say.
I would have course joined them, but I unfortunately had an urgent appointment with a cup of tea and some ginger biscuits after my five miles. so I waved politely and passed by.
Rather disappointingly, the forecast is back to wet and windy weather tomorrow, but looking at the weather maps, we are on the very edge of the poor conditions so we might be lucky and get two dry days running. Fingers crossed.
I hope that there are more birds tomorrow whatever the weather is like becuase I was hard pushed to get a quality flying bird of the day today and had to go into Impressionist mode.