Swansea Bay is great in any weather but there can be no question that a dry sunshiny day is good for a sense of wellbeing. Certainly it encouraged people to come on the health and wellbeing walk along the cycle/walking path from Mumbles to Swansea.
My walk this week took place at the end of September which this year means it was still a Summer walk as the temperatures were so unusually high. But we are now in the full sway of Autumn and I would be unlikely to see this red admiral butterfly or any of the other natural details of this walk in quite the same way, if at all, were I to return to Port Eynon now at the end of October.
Leaving one woodland and entering the next on my walk this week, I noted something of the variety of trees and their Autumnal growth. From red hawthorn berries to acorns, apples and brambles (blackberries). The brambles appeared early this year but it wasn’t too late to enjoy some of those I found on my walk in the woods at Stainton in north east England – the best were beautifully sweet and juicy!
This visual evidence of the prevailing wind on the South Gower coast with its effect on the hawthorn trees produces wonderful natural sculptures typical of Britain’s coastline. There are probably not many trees like the hawthorn or blackthorn with their ability to survive and thrive in the rugged conditions that come with the Autumn and Winter seasons here.
That’s not say that we have particularly harsh winters, but they still have to cope with the strong winds and sea salty air and I know plenty of other species of tree that do not welcome this sort of situation at all. I love these trees and I also love the equally hardy whin or gorse and, in this case, their silhouette against the dark grey horizon line of sea and sky.
Sometimes I listen to “Ramblings” on BBC Radio 4. Clare Balding presents the in programme which she meets and converses with various people as part of a countryside walk. She does a good job of describing the scenery they walk through and the talk is always interesting. There is just one failing for me as a radio programme – there are never enough pauses to listen to the environmental sounds of the walk. They are there in the background but constantly over-layered with talk.
I like to listen to all of the sounds I encounter on a walk or in the case of a quiet walk, I like to listen to the lack of sound, the stillness.
The series of sound clips below last about 15 minutes and follow my walk this week. Starting in a Welsh country lane with autumn leaves all around, continuing up a local hill (Cefn Drum) to the cairn at the top and then back down again to the leafy lane. It was a very still and peaceful walk but there are plenty of sounds to listen to along the way.
I like to listen to other field recordists’ soundscapes as well – one I enjoy regularly is set in Paris (Sound Landscapes) but the sounds of the city are as fascinating to me as those of a natural landscape.
Click the play button below and listen to the soundscape of my walk this week while browsing through the sequence of images. It’s not a StillWalks video but I hope you can relax and enjoy it in the same way.
As I walked up the footpath I was surrounded by a sea of red Autumn bracken. Click the panorama shots to view them larger and get a slightly better sense of my surroundings as I near the top of my walk. Photographs can never replace the real thing but perhaps today’s sound clip will help to give you a better sense of place.
Cefn Drum 3
The fact that every year we see similar sights in Autumn (or any other season) to the ones we saw the previous year does not make them any less enjoyable. In fact we look forward to the sights that different seasons bring with them – colours, textures and patterns. The fact that we can feel continually in awe of the same things happening again and again is perhaps an essential survival mechanism.
The changes we see, feel and benefit from repeatedly as the seasons go by, are most noticeable in the natural world. This suggests how important it is to have that world an integral part of our urban landscape and planning and to have footpath access to open countryside.
Whether it be in a city park, a country lane, open hills or simply a tree lined street, walking with awareness of the natural elements of the local environment is something I could not do without.
Having crossed the local park, the salt marshes and farmland by the river Loughor, my walking route took me up the Castell Ddu road alongside a woodland stream. The woodland is private but I still got to enjoy the sights and sounds of the stream and the birds as I followed the stream back up to the main road. You can listen to these below (along with the distant aircraft and motorway!).
My walk this week is another one I take quite frequently – I know it well but there is always something new to look at or listen to. The start of the walk goes through our local park and as can be seen, the rain has finally arrived with the colours of Autumn.
You must not let a little rain put you off walking in this country (or a lot of rain for that matter). Indeed, it is the damp weather we so often seem to have that provides us with so many wonderful mosses and lichens.
It seems the sweet chestnut is one of the trees that sheds its leaves earliest in Autumn. This one is on its way but the stage I like these leaves best, after they have fallen, is probably into the Spring when they have been lying on the ground for months and have gone thin and papery. Their structure breaks down and their colour becomes pale, almost bleached. I have photographed them like this in the past and you can see the results in one of my previous posts here.