Ne’re cast a ‘clout’ ’till the May is out.

May blossom

The May is out. A sure sign that Spring is moving into Summer. Its stay is but short, the bouquet is startling, the flower of the Haw, without a spray like this we will be short of haw berries in the Autumn - no food for the birds and no heart stengthening syrup for us.

May is my favourite month, its the time of flowers and blossoms.  Its passing into ‘flaming June’ whilst exciting, saddens me,  partly because in less than a month the ‘Longest day’ will be past.  How quickly the New Year arrives at this juncture.  Each year I am stunned to find May has arrived and flown. 

I’m already therefore half way through the Dry Stone Walling year, but, alas, not half way through my workload.  Although the Roman road wall is coming to completion, another week should see me end there.  I will be half glad and three-quarters sad.  Partly I will miss the drive through the Eppynt and the Great Forest of  Brecknock.  Partly I will miss the site, peaceful, historic, and still greatly unknown to me.  I won’t return to work at Ton y Fildre, all the walling (undertaken as part of the Tir Gofal agri-environment plan for the farm) is done.  I will miss the sights of the mountain route.

This Standing stone is probably 5000 years in situ.

The Saeth Maen stone setting alongside the river Tawe on the Abercraf - Trecastle coach road.

The prehistory of my route I have mentioned in an earlier post (the Long and Winding Road).  Man’s influence on this landscape is rarely, however, benign.  The long sunny, dry spell has left the water levels alarmingly low.  The scenery of this valley, the draw of water – especially where it falls and sits in deep pools – the soft grass and the open-access (to say nothing of the unfortunate proximity to industrial urbanity) makes this a magnetic place for ‘lovers of the countryside.

Well, one would imagine that to make the effort to get to the site – rather than the city attractions of nearby Swansea or the draw of the beaches of Gower – implies some affinity with nature, even a Wordsworthian spiritual connection, perhaps nothing more than a preference for landscape, peace and tranquility, somehow encapsulated in the beauty of this wild area.  One might be forgiven for such an interpretation, yes ?

The lovely upper Tawe valley, how can we deal with this type of anti-social behaviour ?

After the last weekend which was very hot and sunny, the banks, the water course and the roadsides bore the evidence of enjoyment….  So, how come, how is it, what needs to be replaced in the cretins who do this ?  I get outraged by littering – is this the ‘grumpy old man’ syndrone – I would like to do terrible things to the people who act against the best interest of the rest of the herd.  In nature, they would be excluded from the pack wouldn’t they.  Do they deserve to be allowed to stay in the tribe ? 

How can we begin to tackle global degradation if we can’t even persuade Welsh people to stop ruining their own pristine wilderness.  The days of psycho-babble must surely be over, we need to stand up to this criminality against our countryside, against us.

Lets make a deep pool so we can swim... oh yes, and then lets foul it to stop anyone else using it - bugger the fish and the other wildlife.

Oh, my mistake, they didn't throw it in the water, it was the wind's fault, they just left it on the bank - perfectly ok there surely !

       I get very uptight about such issues I’m afraid.  Its a microcosm of the affliction which is leading the world in the direction of irreversible degradation, of  inevitable doom.  Do we ignore the lessons of history, the end of great civilisations has occurred before, the Mayans supposedly told us that we can look out in 2012.  All the indications are they could just be right.  Is the catastrophe of the Gulf of Mexico different from the ash cloud, is the hot dry spell not associated with both ?  A year ago I flew over the North Atlantic at 38000 ft, it was June, all we could see was icebergs !!  Fubar indeed; litter on the banks of the river Tawe is no different.

That apart, difficult as it is to drive past it everyday (so much so that I have now cleared it up – no civil accolades required) generally May is a happy time for me.  I have had a variety of experiences this week.  I have seen some lovely views and sunsets (see below).  I have met some interesting people and heard them intellectualise some issues of conservation. Dr David Bellamy graced a conference I attended at the Royal Welsh Showground.  Organised by FWAG Wales (Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group), one of the few bodies actually trying to help farmers help wildlife through practical advise, the agenda was structured to address a number of topical issues.  A good mixture of attendees, farmers, scientists, consultants, advisers, and ‘ordinary’ people heard some good deliveries (and some not so good it must be said).  I was particularly taken with the Rural Affairs Minister (Elin Jones), she was believable in her sincerety, or so I judged anyway – who would have the bottle to come to a meeting of a farming wildlife group having just ordered the death of hundreds of badgers in north Pembrokeshire – good on yer Elin – diawn (not about Brock tho’).

It was a nice change, sit and listen, meet and greet, think and learn.  As always old aquaintances were renewed, new ones made.  And, as always small world syndrone was present, one of the speakers knew me, he had been Best Man at Tom and Angharad’s wedding (10 or more years ago !! God did I look that old then …) and it was a day of physical rest and I needed that.  Friday saw me transiting through the lovely Rhondda valley to attend my second ‘learning’ experience of the week.  For four weeks now – oneleft – I have returned to the classroom to ‘upskill’ and become a better, more enlightened (i.e. politically correct and reinvigorised by new theories of how adults learn) and hence, more employable, teacher / trainer.  The course is called PTLLS – preparing to teach in the life long learning sector, say no more – and is delivered by a dear long standing friend and her team at Simply the Best Training (see which deals with training all manner of persons in all manner of countryside skills and management, oh yes, and running a farm.

I’ve enjoyed going back to the classroom, and if it means I’m better at my alter-ego activity – teacher/trainer – all the better;  as age creeps upon me and the physical demands of building walls leaves me needing more and more sleep, it would be nice to get more of my income for what I know than for what I do….. and I do know a lot !!

But this blog is supposed to be a Waller’s blog, so next time I must get back to the day job and describe some of the techniques, history and geology of the walls in my part of Wales.

Let me finish May with a few more photos of why this month is my favourite…..

Trees are a crop, I just like the clash of colours through the green conifer.

A May sky can be spooky.

Even in sunny May the Welsh sky can hit you, This is 8.0 pm on Wednesday 26th May. As I crossed the north end of Eppynt this sky confronted me, though it changed a thousand times in ten minutes.

This blue hue is a bank of bluebells in the early morning sun near Garth. Their presence confirms that this, now bare bank, was once an ancient native woodland, cleared for livestock.

The common, yet stunning en-mass, Hyacinthoides non-scripta.

So, goodbye the merry merry month of May, Ploughman ‘cast your clout’ for the May flower is now definitely out, sow your spring corn, vegetable growers get planting.  For me “Flaming June” looks busy, but then every month seems to be.  I’m sure there used to be four plus weeks in a month years ago, and definitely seven days in a week, what happened ?                              The ‘Age of the Quickening’……


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