Dicing with death (part 1)


I’ve always said that August is one of my favourite months for landscape photography and nothing I have seen this year will make me change my mind. It’s just a pity the weather in August seems so consistently bad. I feel so sorry for anyone who took their holidays in Wales during the last week! Nevertheless I’ve had a few opportunities to get out into the field recently.

One trip took me down to Pembrokeshire. After a heavy early morning downpour I managed a good session on Newgale beach as the tide went out. An image like the above might be suitable for a postcard at some stage. On the way back home I stopped off near Fishguard. Again, I was thinking postcards and decided to try the view across Fishguard Bay with Lower Cwm in the background. I walked down the coastal slope towards the harbour on a well-surfaced but steep footpath.  To raise myself a little above the surrounding vegetation I put my foot on what I thought was a rock. The following thought process took about two seconds from start to finish –

Oh, that’s not a rock………. wow, that nettle sting hurts!…….oh, there aren’t any nettles ……….oh, that’s a wasp. ………

Pausing (very) briefly to brush wasps off my bare and sandal-clad legs, I ran back up the footpath until my breath gave out. But the damned wasps were following me! I gasped my way further uphill, eventually going flying, and dropping my tripod in the process;  the camera detached itself and hit the ground with a crunch.  The whole thing must have looked hilarious! But somehow my kit escaped virtually unscathed, and two grazed knees, four wasp stings and a bruised ego were the only injuries.

I tried to look cool in case anyone was watching,  taking more photographs from the hill top while my legs stung like ****.  I remembered that my father had been allergic to either wasp or bee stings and wondered if I might suffer the same fate. I mentally stored the locations of the hospitals I would pass on the drive home …. Cardigan …… Aberystwyth……..  just in case the need arose ………  But I’m glad to say that I arrived home safely.

(Part 2 follows)

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A sad day.

Felling the ash tree

August 7th was a sad day. We had been fighting to save our ash tree for more than ten years and on that day we finally lost the battle.

We bought the house in 2006 and it felt like a real honour to be the owner – for the first time – of a tree, situated in the far corner of the garden. It was an ash, probably in the region of a hundred years old, and the tallest and most impressive tree in a windswept and rather bleak locality. At least from the direction of the house it appeared so, because it had high voltage electricity supply cables running through it and was actually v-shaped when looked at from other angles. Whatever, we were proud of the tree and renamed our house after it – “Brynonnen” – or roughly translated “ridge of the ash tree”. Over the last couple of years a red kite had often perched in it, sometimes two.

It wasn’t long before we had our first visit from the Scottish Power tree surveyor. “Oh, that tree will have to be felled. It’s a risk to the power supply and someone could be electrocuted….. blah….blah……” Eventually we got through to someone more senior who was very fair and agreed that nothing would be done to the tree without our permission, other than make safe the power supply cable. We agreed they could trim the tree as required and return every couple of years to cut back the re-growth where it neared the cable. Everything seemed hunky-dory.

Then new neighbours moved in. At first everything was fine; they weren’t too friendly but that was no problem. They renovated the bungalow and then began work on the rather overgrown garden. In 2014 we noticed that weedkiller had been sprayed over the fence to kill brambles that were straying on to their property from ours; but we let it go. No point in being difficult! Later  they let it be known that wanted to “trim the tree back”; we agreed that they had the right to do so but no further than the boundary. They did some minor trimming and then, coming back after a day out, we discovered that they had untidily sawn off two major boughs which overhung the field at the back – roughly one third of what remained of the tree. The resulting timber had been logged and stacked neatly in their own garden! This was completely unnecessary, provocative and probably illegal. Further disgreements and unpleasantness followed – although we did get our logs back.

Years passed and we had further visits from Scottish Power to trim back the regrowth.  The neighbours left us a note saying they wished to discuss the tree with us, an opportunity which we declined. We have always agreed that have the right to trim it back as far as the boundary but they did nothing about it. It was stalemate. Then one Saturday in May I noticed they had strapped a ladder to a low branch. That afternoon I went outside to see the idiot at the top of the ladder armed with a long-handled pruning saw. Branches were falling directly on to our electricity supply cable; I couldn’t believe he would be so stupid. I told them I was thinking of calling the police, and received a barrage of abuse in return. The police came the next day.

Once the police became involved Scottish Power suddenly became more proactive. They said they would either cut back the tree to the boundary on behalf of the neighbours, or to fell the tree completely; in which case they would offer us compensation (or a bribe, as it is otherwise known….). We reluctantly agreed to the latter and were given a date in June for the tree to come down. A couple of days before that they decided that the felling could not take place without the power being disconnected, at considerable expense.  August 7th eventually arrived and the tree came down.

The combined pressure from Scottish Power and the neighbours had become just too relentless to resist.  With hindsight I can see that my calling the police was a mistake. It gave the power company a bit of a kicking and they were obliged to sort out what was otherwise largely a dispute between neighbours. But once the power supply had to be disconnected the financial justification they gave us for their action seem to disappear.  It seemed to me that they were more interested in appeasing our neighbours than anything else.

Late in the afternoon of the felling, when all was tranquil again, a red kite flew at tree-top height above the gap, looking down and from side to side. It called gently, even more plaintively than usual, I thought……..


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