Friday, 19 June 2009

Brecon Beacons, day 6

Our last proper day on holiday. Rather than drive to a far-off hike, we picked a close one that we've driven passed a number of times this trip. Well, that was the plan anyway. When we arrived at Talybont Reservoir, it turned out that the builders were in (waterworks?) and our hike's carpark was off limits. Undeterred, we drove a "bit" further to the next carpark and began our hike from there instead. It only added 2 km to the hike ...


DSC01457 Although this hike used yet another reservoir as a start point, the first, and longest, part of the route actually ran away from the reservoir up an adjacent valley. This took in farm roads so the route was very easy to follow, and with only one and a half small farms operating in the valley, it was also deathly quiet. The upward leg took us mostly passed fields or through deciduous forest, while the downward leg spent some time in dense coniferous forest [*]. Though we didn't meet (m)any other people, we did bump into a lot of sheep. We managed, at one point, to get into a maternal stand-off with one ewe and her lamb by accidentally getting between them. This turned into an epic as we tried to reach part of the route wide enough for the ewe that was following us to actually get around us. For ostensibly domesticated animals, the sheep were rather untrusting and wary of us - then again, given their ultimate fate, perhaps they were just one step ahead of us.

DSC01479 After completing the downward part of the valley on our route, we eventually crossed the River Usk to reach an abandoned railway. Or, rather, we were supposed to reach an abandoned quarry's tramline some way beyond the railway, but faced with another upward hike to reach it we stopped at the railway. As it turns out, we shouldn't have, since it was now a private road (complete with barbed wire and a sign), but we only found this out at the very end. Oh well. From here we finished up by walking back along the reservoir's dam. In an interesting development, local inhabitants have gotten a generator up and running at the dam, so it now generates about a quarter of Talybont's electricity (if I remember correctly).

We finished up the day's exertions with a late lunch at Talybont's White Hart pub, and a canal-side pint. Then it was back to our holiday home for some tidying up (and some time-lapse experiments with birds).

[*] I was struck again the different in density between these forests. While the deciduous forest intercepted much of the available sunlight, the coniferous forest intercepted just about all of it. Its floor was bordering on dusk levels of light, largely down to the spacing of the trees. Its floor was also conspicuously lacking in biodiversity, and piled high with fallen needle leaves. The latter point got me wondering about recycling in coniferous forests. With biomass accumulating and recycling low, presumably coniferous forests might exhaust or greatly diminish free soil nutrients. Which, again presumably, must eventually limit their growth. I've never read up on it, so this is just idle speculation, but perhaps coniferous forests expand and retreat in waves? They grow until they deplete an area, at which point they decline, letting other species in and kick-starting recycling, but ultimately recreating the conditions that allow the conifers to return and begin the cycle again. Then again, perhaps the coniferous forests that we saw are (anthropogenically) stocked at abnormally high densities?

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