First Warm and Sunny Weekend of the Year

Visiting Llansteffan

This weekend was the first true weekend of sun and spring vibes of 2017. Lyndsey and I made the most of it. With the sun shining on Friday morning, we tried to figure out where to go for the day. I wanted to see trees, but also felt like the coast would be good. We decided to visit Llansteffan — somewhere I only vaguely remember as an 8 year-old boy, and a first time for Lyndsey — we hoped that being on the estuary, it might be a reasonable mix of both types of scenery.

Despite the sun, a chill wind was prominent on the beach at Llansteffan as we followed the coastline round past the base of the hill on which the castle is situated. Following the coast path up some steps onto the wooded hill and towards a picnic area, we got a gorgeous view of the sands and headland stretching off to the horizon. As often happens, a couple were walking the beach and set my photograph off perfectly — human interest in scenes always adds a sense of scale.

Further along, back down on the beach, the rocks were really interesting — a faint pink to the naked eye, but vibrant pink through my brown-tinted sunglasses. They combined with the yellow gorse on the cliffs and the clear blue sky to create a really pleasing palette. I also really liked the way deciduous trees overhang the beach below the castle — I’m sure they look even better in late spring and summer.

Running short on time, we had to give the castle a miss on the way back to the car — another time hopefully. Although Llansteffan wasn’t busy that morning, with it’s idyllic coastal scenery and long sandy beach, and of course the castle, I can imagine it’s heaving in the summer months.

The light wasn’t the best — there was a spring haze taking some of the intensity away, and also, fine days are great to simply enjoy, but they seldom lead to interesting photography. Llansteffan is definitely a place I would love to photograph again, though I think a ‘dawn raid’ would be a better idea in the summer — avoiding any crowds and hopefully capturing more of a dreamy feel.

Rhigos Viewpoint and Melincourt Falls

On Saturday, the weather was even better. We’d planned to go for a wander round Brechfa, but instead we hit the road with some tunes playing loud. We headed up to the Rhigos viewpoint to check out the view. Being a fine day, we could see for miles across the Beacons, and the peaks of Pen Y Fan and Corn Du were clearly visible. A column of smoke in the valley below alerted us to a fierce grass fire in one of the enclosures. A carelessly tossed cigarette end? A piece of discarded glass? Who knows. The fire service promptly arrived as we wound our way back down the mountain — teams of firemen with beaters seemed to be getting it under control.

On the way back, Angel Falls could have been an option, but being a sunny Saturday, from past experience I suspected there would be crowds there. We like to stay away from the crowds, so I instead showed Lyndsey Melincourt Falls, just past Resolven. There were only a few cars in the small car park opposite. On the short walk up to the falls, we smelled wood-smoke. We chuckled as we saw a family on the banks of the gorge below, attempting to start a fire for cooking, but seeming to only send smoke signals.

Once at the falls, we thought that although Angel falls is wildly popular, Melincourt has a certain magical beauty. It certainly has more scenic interest than Angel Falls, with the large rocks that have sheered off the rock wall over the years. The vegetation is lush and dense, and the enclosed nature of the falls makes it feel more ‘secret’ and mysterious.

Melincourt waterfalls, Resolven, Wales

Melincourt Falls

I’ve tried to photograph Melincourt falls the two times I’ve previously been there, but it’s been tricky. Ideally a wide lens is needed, but I was only carrying my Lumix LX-7 with me. The dynamic range is huge too and if you photograph to expose the falls, generally the sky will be overexposed. I shot four frames with the intent of stitching them together in Photoshop. What I got came out well.

Teifi at Henllan

Finally, Sunday was a more lazy affair. We drove down to Henllan and parked up just beyond the bridge. There were quite a few cars there — people enjoying the balmy spring afternoon by the bridge and the nature trail that winds past it.

We headed in the opposite direction, past the church and the waterworks to go to our newly discovered spot — a place by the river that we found when we headed out exploring about a month ago, in an attempt to quell cabin fever on a rainy day. Having also visited a couple of weeks before, it was clear that Spring was really starting to take hold. The clumps of snowdrops that had carpeted the woodland floor had given way to aconites.

It was a really pleasant afternoon reading, taking photos and snacking on cheese. We didn’t see anyone else while we were there. Sky seemed to be getting a little hot, so we wandered further along the bank to a meander where she could go in for a paddle. The Teifi is still very high and areas of vegetation covered with silt, and clear erosion on the opposite bank suggested it’s been higher still.

Despite travelling about and visiting various places, the afternoon sitting by the river reminded me of the restorative effects of being in nature. Just that simple process of sitting, watching the flow of the water, seeing the reflections of the sun on its surface, and hearing the sound of birds busy in the woodland, seems to be quite profound. It rejuvenates and cleanses the mind, leading to increased creativity and wellbeing.

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