If I walk for twenty minutes from where I live I can get a good view of the Bannau Sir Gaer, the Carmarthenshire Fans. Another 10 minutes uphill, and the whole range of the Bannau Brycheiniog marks out the horizon. This is a place where the languages, Welsh and English, dance round each other. In English we say beacons, derived from the times when important news was conveyed across country by lighting a chain of fires at beacon sites. We also have the term “banner” for a flag, and the Welsh for flag is baner or faner. Fires, flags, beacons, banners or mountain tops; however I spin the words, I’ve seen more of them this year than usual.
At a time when all movement was restricted I had permission from https://www.cambrianescapes.co.uk/ to climb one of the local footpaths on yet another fine morning in early May. The light was strong but there was still a hint of the early morning clinging to that distinctive profile: a pale golden glow.
I decided that 9am is a wimpish time to be out with the camera in May, so the next climb began at 6. The shadows are long, the valley lost in mist, a long thin cloud drawn out above the peaks echoing the shape of the tree shadows. One tree is a strange shape. Like a banner or a pennant (or a flag or a beacon) it has no branches on the left or eastern side. Follow the line of the trunk down and you will see that its companion tree has been cut down. I can only guess that it had no branches on the right side and that the two were like Siamese twins, making a functioning tree between them. Ignore the wire fences; admire the great oak trees, the sheep beneath, the mountains beyond and you have a timeless pastoral landscape.
Even 6am is practically mid morning in May. To catch the sunrise I must get the walking boots on before 5. Now we can get the feel of the real mid summer sunrise.
At 5:10 the mountains are hard edged. At 5:30 the valley is still in shadow but the beacons are alight. The low sun is still weak but it can already gild the peaks. At 6 the east side of every fold in the hills is lit. I use a long lens to get closer to them and, according to my friend Ade, to catch the hot breath of the Welsh Dragon.
In mid June there is little night to speak of and I really don’t feel like getting up at 3:30, so when I do make the walk up to our friends’ land at Cwmcroiddur it is already ten to seven, but the foxgloves are out and it feels like a good day already. The dragon is still doing his stuff and the horizon line looming above the mist could be his body, long and crouching.
August is a very different month, cool wet and windy, but the dramatic cloud patterns have me climbing up the hill again. This time I am higher and I can just make out the whole line of the beacons, the Brecon end mimicking our end, and patches of bright sunlight making the fields shine like emeralds.