Archives for the month of: September, 2012

I only know a few, but there are hundreds of mosses in Wales. Victorian velvet carpet moss cushions the ground. Sphagnum absorbs up to twenty five times its’ own weight in water – sometimes in the hills we see secret moss collectors stuffing bags for garden centres. I’m almost sure about shaggy electrified cat’s tail moss. But I don’t know the name of the one strewn across the valleys like a galaxy of stars.

Mossy logBehind the caravan is a woodland in a steep sided gorge, with a waterfall at the end. Walking in from the open field is like stepping into an empty wine bottle. Every trunk is mossy,  succulent plants squelch under foot, and the light is bottle glass green. At the waterfall, the air becomes clean and startling and scrubs your eyes.

Across it is a mossy trunk, outlined by the crashing white water. It’s a microclimate of moss, epiphytes, and ferns. It’s a tiny kingdom of palaces and jungles.

I once knew a moss expert when I worked in Sussex. A stroll down a path with Patrick was a journey into a different world. He had roped off a square metre in his garden – every day he observed and recorded the wildlife within, and passed many a hunch contented hour.


The salt marsh sheep seem happy on their high tide islands, and cormorants wait on a rock. It takes three hours of train and bus to get back to where I stopped walking and I watch the coast go by – that’s where I cooked breakfast in the dunes, and those are the car park crimson berries. Here’s Port Meirion where we spent last weekend at the festival and poets read from pocket crumpled paper. The male voice choir sang with old gold light on their kind faces, and the red marquee pulsed like a wild heart.

It’s sandwich bright and newspaper busy in the carriage, and patient dogs are shuffled under feet. Outside Welsh Blacks share fields with seagulls by tumble stone walls, and quiet rivers slip into crashing soup waves. There are wet rocks and bramble thickets threaded with berries and ghost bags, and whitebeams flicker silver leaves in a clean wind. Cashmere clouds gentle the hills.

I’m watching the seasons change through the window – while the seaside hydrangeas turn blowsy brown, teasels scrub the wind and rosehips rock the coast.

The weather witches of Wales were up to their mischief. When the children went back to school they brewed up ten days of sunshine. They watched us preparing for guests from the far east, and waited just long enough for them to settle in with a cup of tea before sending down the knives and forks.

Our guests usually sleep in a brick house. Caravan rain kept them awake but they marvelled at it’s strangeness. It’s a new kind of rain that comes in drubbing squalls then vanishes. It’s different to rain in Scunthorpe.

We took them to see the green hills and lakes, and they looked at the clouds steam-drifting up from the valleys. We watched the rain moving in from the coast, a dazzling silent white shimmer. We sheltered under overhangs from the old women and sticks, and gentle cloud wisps made dew on gorsey cobwebs.

Sometimes we’d come out of shops after poking around old oil lamps and books, and the road was gleaming pewter from another shower just missed.

The plan was to spend a few months walking around the edge of Wales – except for weeks like now when I come back for visitors or the like. Rob was to join me at weekends for romantic trysts at temples of public transport. But after just 120 miles I miss him enough to contemplate abandoning the quest.

Yet it was a raw beautiful week in the mad sun. I left home with my rucksack, up the fireweed forest track to the coast – a silver glimpse of the river, and hot descent to the beach. I slept in the dunes, the lilac night was cold and moony.

Rob met me at Llwyngwril and we followed a belly barrelled cow over the cloud hills. In a salt white mist we boiled eggs on Harlech sands, and walked a beat blue afternoon round the salt marsh with all Snowdonia spread out in pastel.

Early Monday morning, he had to go. I crossed the toll rusty bridge where the pylons march up the valley and an old broken road has become a nature reserve. Four days more round the rabbit thump Lleyn, buffeted by a bright wind which bounced the heather and gorse. Red admirals danced on the headlands and turnstones and curlews scrimble the shore.

There’s lichen black rocks in strong light, purple hills and white sand. I cook noodles on my will-o-the-wisp stove among the seaweed, with aching feet and a little hiraeth in my heart.