Friday, 10 October 2014

The bracken was the colour of a good bay horse . . .

It was not the best day to choose for a day out, but we had arranged the date last week to fit in with my friend A's plans.  So after a very rough night of terrific storms - thunder rumbling round all night, keeping us all awake, we set off to the foothills of the Cambrian mountains to pick A up from her cottage, and set off for Hay-on-Wye, a favourite place for all of us.

As you can see, the flower shop in Backfold had set out a lovely selection of colourful plants and flowers.  The pumpkin-orange of the Physalis really brightened up a grey day and the pink blush on the succulants at the front went well with a box of heathers and some small cyclamens.  A and I both exclaimed "Oh look," at the tiny Narcissus, so out of season.  Deliberately hot-house grown? or  early starters like some of my spring flowers which have been confused by the seasons - a cold wet August and then 6 weeks of quite warm weather have given me a 2nd flowering of one of my Delphiniums, and early spring Anemones.  They made me think of Derek Tangye and his wife Jeannie, making a living from early daffodils and posies which they made up and sent off to the London Market in Covent Garden from their Cornish "cottage on a cliff" at Minack.

A has spent a lifetime spinning, weaving and knitting and so we couldn't resist the wool shop.  The little green top was like a cobweb, made from the merino wool on the top shelf.  I managed to resist the sock wool hanks below, since I still have two lots to use up already in my stash!

We spent two hours in Hay, having our usual bacon bap (I have sausage) in the Sandwich Cellar in Backfold, looking round the Market, and the Antiques Centre, and in Booth's bookshop, where A bought a lovely book about Virginia Woolfe's garden, and I succombed to a book about Thomas Hardy.

Then we braved the weather, which had been flinging down heavy showers through the morning, and took A up on to Hay Bluff and Capel-y-Ffin as we had promised to show her.  When she had been there with her daughter at the end of August, she hadn't liked to ask her to take a detour.  It poured all the way up there, but by the time we had navigated increasingly narrowing lanes to get to Capel-y-Ffin, the rain had stopped, but light levels were very poor and the little chapel was grey against a uniformly grey sky and colour-leached hills.

Inside it was cold and dank and had sadly lost the beautiful ambience it holds in summer.  The little jug on the windowsill contained faded flowers, and I shivered as I took photographs.

The bracken on the familiar hillside had lost every trace of green, and was the colour of ground cloves, but the trees are only just starting to discolour on the hillsides.

As the rain had stopped, I was able to stop and take photos on the way back.

These photos are the journey in reverse . . .  There were some obvious water runnels down the hillsides, which had sprung up from the recent heavy rain.

The single track road clings to the contours of the hillside . . .

I was so glad when the sun came out to light up the view.

The bracken was the colour of a good bay horse all over the hill-slopes and commons.  These photos show ribbons of road leading to homesteads.

The rain-clouds were stacked up beyond the view.

Looking towards the Brecon Beacons, which were shrouded in low clouds.

This is looking back over the Radnorshire border in the distance, also shrouded in low clouds.

Sunshine brought forth extra colour.

Then it was time to head back homewards, stopping at the Junky Antique Shop as we always do.  A had not been there before so had an enjoyable wander round.

Then it was off the beaten track again and yet more single track lanes back to her home.

Then finally, one last view as the sun was sinking in the West . . .

My one indulgence, apart from 3 birthday cards, was this book:


  1. Very evocative photos, looks like a lovely day out in spite of the rain Jennie.

  2. Glorious. I've just finished the latest Merrily Watkins book which is based in Hay, so it was lovely to see your photos. It has rained a lot here this week too. VERY autumnal now, leaves changing colour and falling....

  3. Lovely photos, it must be good to live within an easy drive oh Hay, I love the place but it's a long way from here.
    I've made myself a note to grow some Honesty again as it's a while since we had some here and I love the lanterns and the seed pods

  4. Lovely Welsh hills -- at least I think they are Welsh. Not sure where Hay is. I'll have to look it up.

  5. The photos reminded me of our trip to Wales in May. Similar weather too!
    I did like that window. Not what I was expecting at all.

  6. Thelma - it was a lovely day out. All the more poignant as my friend has terminal cancer and is unlikely to get the chance to go up there in half-decent weather.

    CT - I had that for Christmas last year, and very good it is too (I know Hay so well so could really imagine the scene). I am on a Phil Rickman season right now, and re-reading plus freshly reading. Currently on the Secrets of Pain. Despite sunshine on occasion, Autumn has finally got here now.

    Smallholder - Hay's 60 miles from us, so a good place for a day out, not too far. We love it there, and have our favourite routines (which our son thinks must be SO BORING!!)

    Chris J - the English/Welsh border runs along one side of them. Hay-on-Wye is between Brecon and Hereford, if that helps.

    Kath - it is rare to go long without rain in Wales (this summer has been exceptional, apart from August). The window is special, and I had that psalm read at my mum's funeral.

  7. Glorious photos to cheer up a rather gloomy grey day BB.

  8. Such beautiful atmospheric photos and what a lovely day out - the little chapel is beautiful :) I would have been very tempted to buy the Hardy book too :)

  9. Sounds like you had a great day out despite the weather. Love the changes in the scenery.

  10. RR - the chapel is beautiful, but 'twas chill in there on Thursday, I have to say. I hope they have a good heater when they have a service there! Thomas Hardy is one of my main literary interests (along with Edward Thomas), and I have many biographies about him and critiques of his work.

    Suzie - I was so glad when the sun came out for A. I was worried we would go up there and there would be no view, just a torrent of rain.

  11. Those chapel photos are wonderfully atmospheric in the gray weather.--hart

  12. Thanks hart. The window view was better than back in the summer when light levels were different. The outside one makes the chapel cwtch into the landscape.

  13. Such beautiful landscapes! Jean