Country diary: a pale view of Welsh hills

John Gilbey

Across the valley, the hills have slowly adopted the dusty colours and frayed textures of full summer. Widening patches of pale green meadow stood out across the landscape as the silage was cut, wilted and gathered in the welcome sunshine.

The lack of significant rainfall over the past month has reduced the flow of the stream to a meagre trickle, altering the soundscape of the lane and bringing the background patterns of wind and birdsong into sharper focus. The last of the bluebells, nearly hidden by tall grasses, topped the bank, while the seed heads of dandelions, perfectly mature, waited for a liberating gust of wind. At the top of the track, beyond a field of rushes tall enough to conceal a fox, I took the path across the hill towards the quarry. As I paused to look beyond a gap in the hedge, one of the grazing horses wandered over to check my pockets for potential snacks, leaning its head over my shoulder as if to share the view of the Cambrian mountains.

The tunnel of branches over the track brought cool dappled shade, but just down the hillside the canopy was more open than last year. The savage gales of February had partly toppled two of the shallow-rooted oaks, which now rested uncertainly on their neighbours. In the open arena of the disused quarry, the turf overlying the thin soil was crisp and yellow from drought. The emerging flower spikes of the foxgloves that dot the ground had matured over the few days since my last visit, and wild bees swerved urgently between the newly opened blooms.

At the end of the old coach road, a right turn would have taken me down to the coast. The temptation was strong, but it has been many weeks since I could justify a walk on the narrow cliff path, and I had to settle for the sea glint on the horizon. With regret I turned left and, clambering over the stile, took the footpath across the top field towards home. By the final gateway, the valley opened out below me under a newly leaden sky. As I dropped into the steep-banked road, the cooling afternoon drew the scent of the first honeysuckle flowers down from the hedgerows.