Getting Closer to the Edge

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I have been getting to know the stranger who will soon be in our midst — the new arrival to challenge all our preconceptions and established relationships — presently a nudge to my proffered hand, like the mumble of a presence in another room, but soon to be much more.

You see, nothing is ever what it seems — you are not what you seem — not what you were a moment ago — time changes everything.

A first baby, at any time, changes a child into a parent and sends the parent from centre stage to the wings —  maybe a relief after 35 years in a leading role, to emerge in a new role which could be tricky but could be amusing, even liberating.

A baby makes little sisters into big sisters; little brothers become big brothers, mentors and protectors; siblings become aunties, next in line of responsibility in case of disaster — and dogs…  Sorry, Pedro, but dogs become a threat.

We are all looking forward, or are oblivious, to our impending rebirth,  meanwhile we wait.

Gwithian Sands

animal psychology, Ecology

The Cynic and the Bunny


Here’s the Bunny — he’s started hanging around our yard — not very sensible as you know we have killer cats who eat a baby rabbit  a day at this time of year.  This bunny is larger than the ones they usually catch but he would still fit through the cat-flap so he’d better look out.


He sits (he could be a she)  and he watches (can you see that his eyes are arranged like a sheep’s, so that he can see almost all around himself) so he knows I’m there — clomping up behind him in my wellies.  He doesn’t lollop off until the dog bounds up to sniff him.


Off he lollops with his bobtail flashing

Pedro, the dog, can kill rabbits, but all he wants to do with this one is sniff it — perhaps he needs to know exactly what it is as it is behaving in such a peculiar way — this bold bunny.

When Pedro was young he used to bring in live baby rabbits, we called them punk rabbits as he licked their fur into spikes, he would put them down in front of us and cock his head enquiringly, ‘ Can we keep it?’ he seemed to ask.  They were all liberated into the big outdoors and probably eaten by the unsentimental buzzard — ‘This rabbit tastes odd!’

Next time I see the bold bunny, I’m inclined to feed it some sheep nuts; perhaps this is how rabbits were domesticated or, more likely, it’s a sick rabbit — it’s wits dimmed by disease and protected from predation by the instinct of predators not to eat infected meat (unless they really have to).

It doesn’t seem to have any features of myxomatosis, its eyes are clear and not running with pus, it has no obvious tumours, though now I come to think of it, that cheek is rather chubby.  British rabbits are supposed to be getting some degree of resistance to myxomatosis which we haven’t seen since we’ve lived here but I still remember the short-lived delight I had as a child — being able to run up to a furry creature and it not to run away and my mother’s panicky ‘Don’t touch it!’

Perhaps I will offer it some sheep nuts if I see it again — you never know — hope might triumph over cynicism, just occasionally.

Humour, Sheep farming

Mothers and daughters — strong bonds, weak fences

We have weaned our 2015 lambs, and sorted them — with much baaing, a lacerated hand, a butted head, exposure to organophosphates (or similar), marital disharmony, horse-fly attack (despite aforementioned insecticide) and general fouling with mud and excrement — and that was just me..

Now the ewes are in one field and the ram lambs are happily in the boys-field. The ewe lambs are very unhappily in the girls-field. This is bound to lead me to extrapolate extravagantly upon the nature of the mother-daughter bond. The ewe lambs are screaming hysterically and throwing themselves against the double wire fence that separates them from their mums. The mums are lying down taking a well-earned rest and trying not to listen, you can see then clenching their teeth and staring into the middle distance.

Close to the fence but trying not to listen -- the mothers

Close to the fence but trying not to listen — the mothers

As night falls the baaing does not diminish and shortly after 2 a.m. there is a great crescendo and from the house I can hear the lower tones of the adult ewes joining in. I wait, it does not diminish, so I get dressed, grabbing the first garments to come to hand, the torch battery is flat — I stumble out into the starless night (where are all those shooting stars?)

When I get to the source of the din, all the female sheep are gathered around a crisis, all offering an opinion. Two ewe lambs are stuck fast between the two fences that separate lambs from mums; there is an old tree growing there that has pinned them down, resolute in its dimly remembered hedge-duty of separation.

I climb over into the narrow wire cage, ripping my new trousers on the barbed wire and pull the first lamb out backwards by its kicking feet and hug it tight then I carefully hook the lamb’s flailing front limbs over the top wire of the fence avoiding the barbs more successfully than I did with my own bottom (we’re talking 30 wriggling kilograms – the lamb, that is) then I heave. Amazingly it lands like an SAS parachutist, rolling like a pro, regains its feet and in a single movement disappears into the night. The ewes are impressed.

The second lamb is huge and heavy, I apply the same technique and deliver it as a breech from the womb of the old tree but, despite all the huffing and puffing, my strength then fails me. I do not let go; I shout for my assistant… No reply, not even from the dog. The louder I shout, the louder the sheep join in, and the denser is the silence emanating from the sleeping house.

Nothing is more motivating than having no other options, after a little rest, I hook its feet over the top wire and with all my might I heave and the second lamb disappears into the night.

Next morning at first light a morning chorus of ovine distress startles me from slumber but strangely not my spouse. Exploration, slowly as I am strangely stiff, reveals another lamb grabbed by the panicky old hedge. As I approach, the lamb butts at the base of an old fence post which, having rotted in the ground, slides to one side creating a hole and the lamb escapes.

Ewe-lamb trapped between two fences and (bottom right) escape route

Ewe-lamb trapped between two fences and (bottom right) escape route

In the light of day the problem is clear: the newer of the two fences is fine but the old one which it replaced is, though upright, not up to the sudden and unaccustomed onslaught of the mother-daughter bond. Hurling themselves randomly against it the girls have found all the weak spots. It will have to be removed as soon as possible.

Twelve hours later the last roll of liberated fencing wire is rolled towards the barn.

Recycling fence wire - the old will last longer than the new!

Recycling fence wire – the old will last longer than the new!

Remember Gladys ( our ‘should have been left for dead’ lamb — the one with economy ears but huge determination to survive)?  Well, on our final trip to the barn she passes us,  heading after the others, away from the scene and up the hill, far away from the mother’s field, tossing her head as if to say, ‘We’re grown up now — we’re off up the top!’

Gladys -- all weaned and grown-up

Gladys — all weaned and grown-up

My husband turned to me, ‘Did you notice anything odd about those ewe-lambs.’


‘One of them seemed to have testicles…’

Humour, Trecking

Cadair Idris

Kahlil Gibran wrote that you may appreciate that which you love most in a friend more in his absence — ‘as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.’

Before we climbed Cadair Idris this week-end we, who are related by divorce, stopped to look at it more clearly from the Wynford Vaughan Thomas monument on the edge of the Cambrian ridge of mountains where we live, which faces Snowdonia across the Dyfi valley.

The Three Peaks of Cadair Idris on the Left

The Three Peaks of Cadair Idris on the Left

The car park at Minfforth is guarded by machines that must be placated with money, large sums in small denominations; all around there are people turning out their pockets and emptying  their ruck-sacks onto the still dewy grass, women grovel under car seats and crying children are parted from their pocket money.  The gods or maybe the giant Idris himself takes pity on us and sends down two messengers, wise men who have run to and from the summit before breakfast (2 hours for £2.50), evangelists of physical fitness who press a pound coin into my hand which we add to the other sticky, dog-hairy coins that we have gathered and feed them into the machine.  I anoint my nearly-nephew with midge repellent.

The path is initially steep with stone steps which climb up through Cwm Amarch.


The stream is swollen with recent rain and there are spectacular waterfalls in the wooded cwm and dappled shade.

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After 300m or so the Cwm opens into a wider basin and we climb on up to Llyn Cau where we resist the temptation of a glacial dip and the greater temptation to fill up our water bottles (there was some discussion here about exactly whose fault it was that one of the water bottles was missing and  which of us would die of dehydration first and would you actually kill for water…)  50m further up the path the third water bottle was found, presumably rummaged into obscurity during the search for money.

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The path goes up to the left from where the above picture was taken and thence skirts around the top of the rock wall around the lake, the peak in the centre is Craig Cwm Amarch (791m) Mount Ham Sandwich in our nomenclature.. From here you can see the whole of the northern half of Cardigan Bay, all the way to Anglesey.


The intrepid can peek over the edge at the lake below.  The summit is called Pen y gadair, which means the top of the chair, that’s Idris, the giant’s chair — Cadair Idris  (don’t start me on the Welsh language — it likes to change the first letter of words to make it difficult to find them in dictionaries. My chair would be fe nghadair…  I think )

In order to reach the summit we need a pep talk and some motivational  counselling to fortify the nearly auntie as we have to go down and up again and over lots of wobbly scree and boulders with the ancient wobbly knees.

At this point the nearly nephew changes into a mountain goat and disappears.  It becomes eerily quiet.

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Above is the summit.

Here we are at the pinnacle of our achievement –.WP_20150808_059

me and the mountain goat.

Now it’s a gentle walk along the ridge to the third peak Mynydd Moel (863m) and then down the long, steep scree below Scotch Egg Crag and the total annihilation of the goat’s father’s sister’s first husband’s third wife’s knees.

It was six miles, graded hard (by somebody) over 3000 ft up and, I’m sure, at least 10,000 ft down!

The Photographs today are courtesy of T.Q.Beckett (all rights reserved)  I forgot to replace my battery.