2006-7- part 2: Elan Valley in full spate & where's
Borth Beach gone?
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Well it's been a while since I
updated the site, having been very busy with the usual
work plus a major new project, about which I will say an
awful lot more in a couple of months!
It's now early March and apart from about 4 days in early
February when a decent snowfall was had (more about that
very soon), winter has been unexceptional in terms of
"traditional" winter weather. However, in terms
of rough and wet weather it has been quite something:
flooding has been a frequent feature and the severe gales
of January 18th resulted in several fatalities across the
UK, sadly. The gales caused some serious and spectacular
beach erosion at Borth - images further down the page.
By January 19th, the winds had eased off a lot and I
decided to take a valuable day off and head off to the
Elan Valley, having seen some excellent images of the
area taken the day before by a fellow
weather-photographer. Threw the chain-saw into the back
of my jeep in case any roads were still blocked and
As a kid I often enjoyed going to this part of Mid-Wales
- "The Dams" as we called it. Built between
1893 and 1904 to supply Birmingham with fresh drinking
water, 100 people were displaced from their homes, these
being demolished, and only landowners got compensation
payments. Not exactly "best practise", in other
A second valley, Claerwen, was dammed after the Second
World War, but I concentrated on the three Elan dams -
Caban Coch, Pen-y-garreg and Craig Goch. These are
approached via Rhayader; within a mile of Caban Coch the
spray could be seen billowing up.....
A stone bridge croses the river below Caban Coch,
so I set out to its middle and took a series of
shots, drying the UV filter with loo-roll between
each one. The spray was drenching!
Here's a zoom-in of the top......
...and one of the base!
Moving on, I stopped at the Caban Quarry car-park
to get some shots from a different perspective
i.e. looking down instead of up! The noise was
Looking straight down...
Pen-y-garreg's base is reached via a short walk
from a car-park. Unlike Caban Coch, this one has
a central tower....
...here forming the LHS of the image.
Craig Goch is the one you can drive across. This
gives a certain advantage....
...as you can photograph it looking straight down
from the road. Top to bottom here is 36 metres. I
was really pleased with this image!
Heading back over the mountains to Aberystwyth
there were signs of wind-damage in several
places, but only in softwood plantations. Our
hardwood trees are tough!
So to Borth. People familiar with the beautiful
beach will be aware of the "fossil
forest" as it's called. Typically, this
consists of areas in which a number of
tree-stumps are poking up through the sand, as in
this image taken at low water on one of the big
Spring tides in February.
The forest isn't fossilised as such and is
geologically young at only 6500 years before
present. At the time when the forest flourished,
sea levels were a bit lower than those of today
and the storm-beach is estimated to have been a
kilometre further out seawards. The trees are
mainly pines and their stumps and fallen trunks
lie in a bed of peat, overlying a soft grey
estuarine clay with bivalve shells, that
represents a period prior to the forest forming
when sea levels were a little higher. Maybe this
clay was deposited in an intertidal lagoon behind
the shingle bar, a bit like that one behind
In 1929 an Aurochs skeleton was discovered in the
peat, and in more recent years deer antlers have
The storms this winter have transformed the
southernmost section of the beach. Up to 2m of
sand have gone from the part in front of Borth
village, exposing vast areas of peat and clay.
The main area begins where there are buildings on
either side of the high street and runs south to
the lifeboat station.
I was staggered by the amount of erosion, having
never personally seen so much of this exposed. In
places the clay and peat formed great skeers
pointing out to sea. A big new sandbar has been
thrown up about 100m below the normal low-tide
mark, and shorewards of it is a deep gully
running the length of the beach...
Here is one such peat-capped skeer, with eroded
clay below. In the mild airstream, advection-fog
was forming as it came in over the cool shallows.
Borth Head is in the background....
Another shot looking towards land, with the
deeply-gullied eroding clay. It will be
interesting to see what happens to this area. Now
(March) there appears to be some replenishment of
sand although since the longshore drift direction
is northwards and there is a rocky reef to the
south, this may be a slow process.
I'll finish off this page with the only decent
shot I got of Comet McNaught in the second week
of January. This was a twilight comet, visible
for only a short time at dusk before it set into
the west. During the week that it was visible,
there was only one clear evening here and even
then there was fine high cloud in the way:
luckily it shone through this OK! Taking the shot
(at the northern end of Borth beach) involved a
long exposure of several seconds with the camera,
complete with 200mm lens, on its tripod. I was
pleased to get one decent image: gusts of wind
wobbled things enough to blur the others!
This wideangle shot was taken just before the
above image as the comet was coming into view..
There was literally a window of maybe 20 minutes
between it being dark enough for the comet to be
visible and it disappearing below the horizon.
Hoping to get the site right back up-to-date soon
with some images of the early February snow -
just a 15cm dumping in the valley but up on the
tops a full blizzard raged providing no end of
excuses for photography and silliness!
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