Winter 2004-05 PART 1:
Grey December followed by a White Christmas!


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November 2004 merged imperceptibly into December as high pressure stayed to the south of the UK and the Polar Jet kept well to the north, trapping most of us under the endless stillness of a grey stratocumulus blanket for days on end. Hard to imagine that sat here (Jan 7th) after the Atlantic conveyor has for the past week pounded us with wind, rain, squall-lines and tornadoes (more on that in a week or three!)....

There was the occasional hole in this awful cloud blanket. This was taken one beautiful still morning near Abertafol just up the Dyfi estuary from Aberdyfi, at high tide.........

...and this one from Frongoch Boatyard, a little further up the estuary, one peaceful evening....

...Tywyn provided a few decent sunsets over a period of several weeks.....

....while this is near Forge, a small village close to Machynlleth.

Here is one attempt to do something on a grey day, at Tonfanau north of Tywyn. Luckily the cormorants stayed still - this needed a long exposure with the camera set up on a small "tripod" made from rocks!

But mostly it was dry so that gave a chance to help friends unearth some 3-year-old seasoned oak from the brambles and rhododendrons where it had landed after being felled because it was unsafe. Good to have the winter's firewood stash well and truly in (just in case)!

Here's an attempt at photographing holly berries through flame and smoke. It was a bumper crop this year by any standard..... very seasonal!

Continuing on the seasonal theme, a colder pattern started to develop towards Christmas. This rather innocent-looking shot of the Machynlleth-Llanidloes mountain road in fact shows fairly lethal conditions. Before the rain had turned to snow (giving a thin coating), it froze onto the road surface, which carried several millimetres of water-ice as a consequence. This section was almost impossible to stand on in places, let alone drive on!

Very seasonally indeed, this was followed up by a decent Northerly outbreak which set in on Christmas Eve into Christmas Day. Well, a cold Northwesterly really, but in any case on Christmas morning we gathered in the Red Lion and watched the flakes falling out in the street. Snow didn't settle in Machynlleth, but on the hills it was a different matter and clearing skies overnight into Boxing Day as the wind veered northerly inspired me to have a tramp in the hills. This is looking NE from near the top of the Machynlleth-Llanidloes mountain road....

....and this is looking southwest from the top of the pass towards the wilds of Plynlimon. Snow depth varied a lot with 15cm in some places but less than 10 in others - because the snow fell from a scattering of convective showers, giving localised variations in precipitation.

A lot of other people had the same idea as me judging from the footprints! My plan was to follow the track towards Glaslyn and then strike off northwards to the top of Moel Fadian and down its northern flank to the mountain road...., halfway up Moel Fadian, the view to the SW shows the upper reaches of the ravine of Esgairfochnant...

...while on cresting the ridge I found a paraglider out enjoying the warm sunshine!


Here is a telephoto shot from the top of Moel Fadian, looking towards Glaslyn with Plynlimon in the background. Plynlimon is often dismissed as an unattractive mountain but its northerly aspect is beautiful at any time of the year. This wilderness offers some of the best walking hereabouts - recommended!


Coming down from Moel Fadian late afternoon shadows picked out minature drifts around tussocks of grass. Shoot these with a wide-angle lens (28mm here) for maximum effect!

And so it was off back to town.... a fantastic few hours spent among these beautiful hills. Such a peaceful scene compared to the unfolding disaster on the other side of the world. There was a piece on tsunamis (among many across the media) on BBC Radio 4's excellent "From Our Own Correspondant" recently. It ended with the rather chilling quote:

"'Man lives on earth subject to geological consent, which may be withdrawn at any time."

Something we would all do well to remember.



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