Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Welsh Stacks, Rocks and Cliffs

Having in my last post shown photos of the rocks on Manorbier beach, I am now introducing some of the neighbouring dramatic, rocky coastlines. During my stay, kind friends took me West to Castlemartin to see the incredible Stack Rocks. Unlike the Manorbier Old Red Sandstone, these two vertical stacks, eroded from the cliffs, are formed of Carboniferous Limestone and covered in exotic orange and yellow lichens- wonderful against the sea when it is blue or green:

As if their structure is not exciting enough, this being Spring, we were immediately aware of great activity and deafening screaming coming from the rocks....

Drawing closer, one realized...

that this- what you might call the icing on the cake- was the noise of literally thousands of Guillemots- together with some Kittiwakes- nesting both on the summits and on every ledge and cranny of the stacks. Unsurprisingly, they are known as the Ellegug Stacks, the Welsh name for Guillemots. Here one of the Guillemots appears to be staking his position of "I'm the king of the castle":

And if you look carefully, you will see more nesting birds camouflaged on the almost vertical slopes:

From another angle, black against the light, you are no longer aware of the stacks' bright lichens:

Close by the two stacks, is an archway connected to the cliffs which is known as the Green Bridge of Wales:

Alongside the bridge, this next stack, which must originally have been connected to it, is also the home of numerous Guillemots:

Not far from here is St Govan's Head. At the foot of a steep cliff, reached by steps, is a tiny chapel. This was built on the site where St Govan, an Irish monk, was miraculously saved from attacking pirates when a fissure in the rocks opened up to give him sanctuary. In gratitude, he lived there as a hermit until his death in 586, the chapel being built in the 13th Century. From the window, you can see yet more dramatic rock formations:

and more still from below the chapel:

These charming white Daisies grow in many cracks in the rocks:

I am now going East of Manorbier, to Lydstep. All along this coast there are coastal paths with wonderful, varied scenery:

These next, final cliffs are at Skrinkle, just a stones throw from Manorbier, with Caldey Island on the horizon. I am ending this visit to Manorbier here, as this was where my holiday began when I was taken there immediately after stepping off the train, on a beautiful, sunny May afternoon....

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

May in Manorbier

Well, it is now nearly the end of June- Midsummer Day as I start writing this- but I spent all May house/dog sitting for artist Philip Sutton and his wife Heather in Manorbier, in South West Wales. I have written of this Paradise previously- their house surrounded by wondrous trees, flowers, birds and even their own delectable meadow; a short walk through the small village, down a lane, past a castle and there is the sea! What more could you want? So I had a blissful time, drawing and painting the trees and meadow and photographing them all as well as the sea...

Having five weeks of rich experiences, I will divide this post into four parts:


Now, as I'm writing about May in Manorbier, it is only right that I should start with May blossom- so here it is, at the top of the meadow, first in the morning and then in the evening, lit with the sun's last "glow":

Here, we see the last of the sunset through a Sycamore tree...

And now we come to some of my very favourite Sycamore trees, that I am totally obsessed with, loving their strange, sculptural qualities:

And lurking under this last magnificent Sycamore, we find Le Maestro- artist Philip Sutton- at work!

This pretty little Apple tree was in blossom in the Allotment- behind it you see the meadow:

These Bay trees were recently pruned to give more light in the house, and now remind me of Italian paintings:


Now to see the wonders of Manorbier's beach :

I spoke of the Sycamores being sculptural, but what could be more sculptural than some of these extraordinary, ancient, folded and eroded Old Red Sandstone rocks, of layers of Devonian mudstone and thin sandstone (Click here for more details) :


Still on the beach, here the freshwater stream approaches the sea:

and then makes patterns in the sand:

And now patterns are formed by the sea water:

The excitement of walking down to the beach every day was that moment of anticipation, not knowing exactly what magical sights you would see. You were very rarely disappointed.


Walking back, away from the sea, there were many charming wild flowers; here are a few of them:

And the odd butterfly- here a Tortoiseshell enjoys a hawksweed flower:

Back in the garden, a Red Admiral rests on the bark of an Elm tree:

The Meadow was just beginning to bloom:

Plantains delighted me:

Leaving the meadow, in the garden are the aromatic flowers of a Myrtle tree:

In the Allotment, the Chard gives one another visual shock:

Poppy's are also always rewarding:

Though this next pink one was actually in a neighbour's garden:

but not this pink rose:

I have already mentioned how important the birds are there- they have an elaborate array of nut-baskets etc which are constantly fully occupied! As with the sea, it is always exciting to watch. While I was there, I was delighted to see this Greater Spotted Woodpecker (apologies for the poor photo- he caught me unawares!) :

This pair of Goldfinches were regularly there, later bringing their fledgelings to a nearby tree (I always love the fact that a flock of these brilliantly coloured birds is called a "charm"- they are undeniably charming! ):

I will end this post with a bird who forever both charms and moves me with his most melodious song- the Blackbird. It is always the Blackbird's song that I miss most when I am in Los Angeles and it was the Blackbird's song that contributed to my bliss as I stood in the Meadow painting the wildflowers and feeling I was in Paradise: