Having the hills and mountains of Wales as a backdrop helps make Green Man the most beautiful of British music festivals, a visual winning card that was matched this year by a gorgeous programme of folk-influenced performers, surely the largest array of decent ales and ciders outside of a beer festival, and the ritual of burning the eponymous green man, taking with it to the skies hand-written messages of the festival-goers hopes and dreams.
This afternoon we were captivated by a little Wren, busying itself in the undergrowth of a hedge that lines the bridleway from the Welsh Venison Centre (we prefer to think of it as The Deer Sanctuary) to Tal-y-bryn. We had stopped to listen to a Robin singing his heart out / fiercely claiming his territory, but the noisy harrumphing of the Wren drew our attention away. These tiny birds are barely the size of a child’s hand but make a real racket. Indeed, my twitcher app tells me in a Top Trumps sort of way that “weight for weight the Wren’s song is ten times louder than a crowing cockerel”.
Yesterday morning I was out with the dawn in order to catch the sun rising over the snow covered hills that surround our new Welsh home. At the peak of Mynnd Langorse a couple of hours later I met a man called Steve, who had fulfilled a thirty-year ambition to move here after first becoming enchanted with these Welsh hills after spending time in the valleys in 1984 as part of Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners (an uplifting experience that was so brilliantly portrayed in the film ‘Pride’).
Earlier this week I awoke to see a field of lost clouds, a huge bank of them, gently swirling in the valley beyond our front window, separated from their brethren who were floating in their rightful places in the sky above the Welsh hills.
Over 300 million years have passed since coal seams were laid down in the valleys from where I write this blog, when Wales sat astride the Earth’s equator and plants ruled the planet. The Big Pit National Coal Museum’s focuses on the last two hundred of those years and the ferocious drive of homo sapiens to dig out and burn this bounty of the Carboniferous. It is a tale of exploitation and degradation, but also of pride and ingenuity.
Standing tall and bereft on an escarpment near Llangattock, the Lonely Shepherd has endured many centuries of regret. Below his spike of limestone, fields fed by Welsh rain sparkle in the post-thunderstorm sunshine, their emerald splendour liberally flecked with pure white Hawthorn blossom. It’s not a bad place to face an eternity of penance, nor indeed to pause midway on a May bank-holiday walk.