Thursday, May 14, 2009

A walk planned for Rhinog Horseshoe fell race marshals to learn the race route, we leave a car at the centre of the Horseshoe and run back over a mountain shoulder to the village and race start. Up a boggy mountainside, over a grassy ridge with views of Tremadog Bay and the Llyn Peninsula and a long downhill spur of rough pasture dividing two valleys before oak woods and dancing River Artro.

Walking back with the party at a gentler pace, Wood Warblers’ shimmering cascade is heard in oak wood canopy; Pied Flycatcher’ halting phrases from bud-burst Ash; Skylarks’ non-stop serenade high over the ridge. Two bright Wheatears swoop along a wall ahead, two shaggy wild goats on the other side. Through the last gate, rough pasture and rushy bog turn to a narrow path of peat and stone through dense bilberry; badger prints in muddy puddles, dun Meadow Pipits flit and call.

Rocky stairs take us to a barren peak and summit cairns, steely skies reflected in many mountain lakes scattered across the landscape below.

On a precarious descent, whirr of wings and harsh grating call gives Red Grouse disappearing around the rocky mountainside above. Wren song rings clear from rocks; Meadow Pipits call and sing in parachuting descent; Cuckoo calls from barren moorland below.

Down to a stepping-stone drover’s track, Wren song echoes about the ravine; a Redstart’s halting rattle from drystone sheepfold; harsh Redpoll calls overhead. Pale Violets hide under rush clumps with creeping golden Tomentil.

Stepping-stones through boggy streams with dull-pink, semi-parasitic Lousewort; reddish discs of sticky Sundew set in green moss, open for unwary gnats; Butterwort leaves like sickly yellow starfish, curled at the margins, awaiting gnats and flies, African Violet-like flowers nodding overhead; different strategies for obtaining nutrients difficult to absorb from waterlogged ground.

Wildlife Wales Short Breaks: Autumn, Winter & Early Summer
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