The Spell of Air

Mt Rainer - Drawn to High Places fade

The Spell of Air


I am the impulse of all whispers

I am the place for a rush of birds

I am the whole intention of the sky

And the place for coining words


I am your life breathing in and out

I set your senses free

I sort the truth from complicated doubt

I am necessity


Elizabeth Jennings


Poem used in this year’s Summer Ceremony on the Tor, and recited beautifully by Badger the Bard ūüôā

Image is by Nikki Frumkin of Drawn to High Places


OBOD Summer Gathering 2018

Hello! Last weekend was the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids Summer Gathering. As usual Ste was busy during the rite taking photos and I’ve posted the best of them below. There’s also a few of the Eisteddfod – I think he got a shot of all the acts apart from Damh, we were too busy dancing then! As usual please feel free to share the images but please credit the photos to Ste and link back to the blog. I’m hoping to get back to posting more regularly from now on!

SG 2018.1SG 2018.2SG 2018.3SG 2018.4SG 2018.5SG 2018.6SG 2018.7SG 2018.9SG 2018.10SG 2018.11SG 2018.12SG 2018.13SG 2018.14SG 2018.15SG 2018.16SG 2018.17SG 2018.18SG 2018.19SG 2018.20SG 2018.22SG 2018.23SG 2018.24SG 2018.25SG 2018.26SG 2018.27SG 2018.28SG 2018.29SG 2018.30SG 2018.31SG 2018.32SG 2018.33SG 2018.34SG 2018.35SG 2018.36SG 2018.37SG 2018.38SG 2018.39SG 2018.40SG 2018.41SG 2018.42SG 2018.43SG 2018.44SG 2018.45SG 2018.46SG 2018.47SG 2018.48SG 2018.49SG 2018.50SG 2018.51SG 2018.52SG 2018.53SG 2018.54SG 2018.55SG 2018.56SG 2018.57SG 2018.58SG 2018.59SG 2018.60SG 2018.61SG 2018.62SG 2018.63SG 2018.64SG 2018.65SG 2018.66SG 2018.67SG 2018.68SG 2018.69SG 2018.70SG 2018.71SG 2018.72SG 2018.73SG 2018.74SG 2018.75SG 2018.76SG 2018.77SG 2018.78

Welcome, Darling of the Spring!

Related image

After posting about hoping for cuckoos, what should I hear when I let the dogs out this morning at 5.30? Yes a cuckoo! Hurrah! Hopefully I’ll catch a glimpse of one in the coming days too. It was a shame that I had no coins in my dressing gown pocket though!


The British Trust for Ornithology have an interesting project which tracks cuckoos on their migration to and from Africa. There are a few birds which have been fitted with trackers and you can follow their extraordinary journey here


To celebrate, a poem by the great Romantic poet William Wordsworth. He has captured exactly that elusive, otherworldly property of the cuckoo has of being heard but not seen.


To the Cuckoo!


O blithe New-comer! I have heard,
I hear thee and rejoice.
O Cuckoo! shall I call thee Bird,
Or but a wandering Voice?


While I am lying on the grass
Thy twofold shout I hear;
From hill to hill it seems to pass,
At once far off, and near.


Though babbling only to the Vale
Of sunshine and of flowers,
Thou bringest unto me a tale
Of visionary hours.


Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring!
Even yet thou art to me
No bird, but an invisible thing,
A voice, a mystery;


The same whom in my school-boy days
I listened to; that Cry
Which made me look a thousand ways
In bush, and tree, and sky.


To seek thee did I often rove
Through woods and on the green;
And thou wert still a hope, a love;
Still longed for, never seen.


And I can listen to thee yet;
Can lie upon the plain
And listen, till I do beget
That golden time again.


O blessèd Bird! the earth we pace
Again appears to be
An unsubstantial, faery place;
That is fit home for Thee!

Back Again!

Linocut by Angela Harding

No not me …. well maybe ….. it’s the swallows! Yesterday I caught sight of my first swallow of the year flying high above the cottage. This year I’m even more excited about their arrival than usual, as we have a pair that nest under the eaves at the back of the house. Ours haven’t arrived yet but it can’t be long now!

The other summer visitor we’re hoping will arrive around here are cuckoos. My friend Caryl along the valley has them around her house every year and so we’re hoping that they’re also about here too.

As is traditional, I include a ‘swallow’ poem … well this one mentions swallows. It’s by¬†Sara Teasdale:

There will Come Soft Rains.

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pool singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

We’re Frozen

Frozen Stream

Yesterday we were hoping to be travelling down to Dorset. It’s the weekend of the annual Druid Gorsedd, which this year was to be held at the Othona Community near Bridport. The plan was to travel down in the Camper, Ste and the dogs were to fend for themselves for a couple of days while I attended the Gorsedd, then we’d join up and explore the Jurassic coast for the rest of the week. It’s one place that’s been on our ‘to visit’ list for ages and we were really looking forward to going.

Unfortunately this has all been scuppered by the weather! We’d been watching the forecast for a few days and were hoping that maybe it wouldn’t turn out to be as bad as they thought. However on Thursday morning, with a severe weather warning for almost our entire route down through South Wales, Somerset and Devon we reluctantly decided to stay at home. Cue a mad dash out to the shops to stock up on food, as the cupboards had been run down as usual pre holiday. It was already bitterly cold, with a strong wind and the existing snow had been whipped up into deep drifts in places along the lane which was rather alarming, given that Ste had only just made it up the last time we had a snowfall. I had visions of walking back to the house.

Once safely home we battened down the hatches as the wind picked up. The threatened snow didn’t arrive here, but the winds reached over 50mph and came in from the North East, this meant that it hit our windows and doors side on and wormed its way through the gaps in the frames. With the wind chill, the ‘feels like’ temperature was minus 13.

About teatime we were informed that the Gorsedd had been cancelled by the organiser because the weather in the South West was so severe. Pretty disappointing for everyone.

The high winds kept up here for over twelve hours, and left twigs and debris all over the garden. The gate lost part of it’s locking mechanism, but the worst damage was to the wooden arch…

Storm Damage

To be honest this had leaning precariously for a while and we’d been talking about taking it down and not replacing it. It does open the view up a little!

Mar 2nd

The landscape has had that faded, sepia look for a few weeks and it’s even worse now. All the green growth has shrivelled and flattened, the daffodils and bulbs in the beds included, which I’m a bit disappointed about as they were looking quite promising at the end of last week, when we were moving the log store in the warm sunshine dressed in T shirts and jeans!

Snow Day

Feb 27th

When I opened the door to let Tilly out at 4.30 this morning the sky was clear and so was the ground. When we woke up again at eight there had been a fall of snow, it’s still here as the sun is setting, although it did manage to melt the snow on the paths at the front of the house. This is the third fall this winter, last time it took Ste over an hour to get from the foot of the hill to the house because it was so slippy, maybe we should have bought a 4×4!

I noticed on Sunday that there were newborn lambs in the fields over towards Caryls. I was glad the weather was dry for them, it was a beautiful sunny day but with a bitter east wind – a few of us from the Grove had a lovely walk around Llyn Dinas and a bite to eat in Beddgelert after – but it’s turned a lot harsher now. The small wiry mountain sheep by us have no lambs yet and I’m not actually sure they’re pregnant since they don’t look any bigger than usual, although I suppose anything could be happening under those fleeces. They’re wild and flighty sheep and will bulldoze through anything. They were in the field right by us for a couple of¬† weeks and managed to work out how to get out under the fence whilst the more docile, heavier sheep we had up until the autumn never really bothered to escape. It has to be said that there’s a lot more of these little sheep and the grass is very poor now, so they probably had more of an incentive! Because they’ve been looking everywhere for a good mouthful some of them are modelling all sorts of accessories in their fleeces, including long lengths of brambles and branches.

We had a visit from one of the male pheasants this morning, there are three of them locally, at least that’s the most I’ve seen together at one time. In the good weather last week they were getting territorial and there were a few standoffs. Ste managed to get a few good pictures of him through the kitchen door despite the glass.

Male Pheasant

They’re beautiful birds and their plumage is fantastic. When I was a small child, for a few years my father was given a brace from a client every Christmas. One of my Great Aunts used to pluck and dress the birds and she would keep the hen and we’d have the cock. I can’t remember what it tasted like, but I do recall that they seemed rather small and scrawny compared to chicken, and that you had to watch out for the lead shot!

Pheasant Feathers

At the end of last week I went to fetch the post from our box and saw smoke over on the flanks of Craig Goch. They were burning the old woody heather. In the Peak they often do this on the moors to encourage new heather shoots for the grouse to eat, but I think it’s more likely done here for better pasture. I was glad the wind was blowing towards Caernarvon!

Burning the heather


Frog Spawn

The dogs and I walked along the lane towards Clynnog this afternoon and whilst stepping off the lane to let a tractor pass, I happened to notice that there was frogspawn in the water in the ditch. The stuff in the photo a few days old, but further along there were newer, smaller and tighter clumps. I only found one frog in the garden last year so it’s good to know there are a few about. I’ll miss seeing the annual mating frenzy which we used to have in the ponds at the old house. There is always water along this section as it drains off the hill the other side of the road and emerges to start a small stream heading down towards Afon Dwyfach.

We’re lucky enough to have a stream at one end of our garden, which emerges from a spring on the hillside about two hundred yards above us. It’s culverted under the lane too, but because the hill is a lot steeper here it comes down at quite a rate. After a lot of rain or snowmelt it becomes a bit of a torrent and shifts a huge amount of stones and gravel down the slope. Four or five times this winter the culvert has been blocked and the water has sped both down along the lane (fortunately the slope runs away from the house!) and across into the field next to us.

Stream Gate

A lot of the gravel and stone also makes its way through the culvert and gets deposited along our bit of the stream, so every so often we have to go out and hoik it off the bank and out of the pipe. We’re thinking about what we can do to improve this end of the garden. The stream is lovely and with the addition of a few larger stones has really started to sing.

When the houses were built in the early 1800s this was their water supply, apparently the stream failed in 1905 and this is why the houses fell into disuse. We found it hard to imagine the stream disappearing completely, although I suppose even a couple of months without water would be a deal breaker, but when I looked into the weather records (an article written by¬† experts from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology found¬†here)¬†it turns out that there was a ‘long drought’ from 1890 to 1910 which had a succession of very dry winters. In 1893 there was the lowest annual rainfall for 123 years and other bad winters highlighted were 1898, 1902 and 1905. Maybe the previous occupants were worn down by the long period of low rainfall and the resultant drop in the water table which would have caused the stream to fail.

Stream 1

At the top of the stream, by the culvert, the previous owners attempted to create a pond. In the summer it was a mess of long grass, brambles and iris and Tilly used to go and hide in it when she was a bit stressed out. It’s under a beautiful willow and close by other ash and willow trees so it wasn’t the best place for a pond – they complained it kept filling up with leaves. In the recent spring sunshine I decided to start stripping it down so that I could see what we had to work with.

Pond Clearing

There is a pile of debris to the front. You can’t tell from this photo but there is quite a slope up to the ‘pond’ and then a drop down into it. Ste would like to reinstate the pond – maybe divert the stream into and out of it but I’d like access to the stream bank to form a sort of ‘spring head’ where I can perform ritual. I’m wondering if forming a path through a bog garden – using the large stones at the bottom as a border and the gravel debris as a path – would be a better option. I can’t plant it out with normal plants as it’s submerged during the floods, as it’s always muddy anyway it seems like a good compromise. We’ll see!