It was the end of the afternoon before I went out for a walk on Sunday. I had waved the family off, leaving after a late lunch, been sidetracked by having a chat with neighbours taking advantage of sunshine to be out in their gardens, done the washing-up and tidying ….. and I needed to get up the mountain.
I set out about 15.30 as the sun was disappearing behind the ridge and climbed to the top as quickly as my wonky knee would allow. I was heading for the Folly Tower, not the highest point on the ridge but at 425 metres, 1,400 feet in old money, easily qualifying for the title ‘mountain’. That’s according to the 1995 film ‘The Englishman who went up a hill and came down a mountain’ which is based on the premise that a hill only becomes a mountain if it exceeds 1,000 feet.
The storyline starts from the unshakeable conviction that, in Wales at least, the distinction matters. As the Welsh Grandfather explains to the English cartographer who is denigrating the village’s local mountain: “Is it a hill, is it a mountain? Perhaps it wouldn’t matter anywhere else, but this is Wales. The Egyptians built pyramids, the Greeks built temples, but we did none of that, because we had mountains. Yes, the Welsh were created by mountains: where the mountain starts, there starts Wales”.
The Folly Tower sits on the eastern-most mountain ridge in Wales, the southernmost edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, looking east and south towards England, north and west into Wales. The views extend for miles in all directions. And it’s only 30 minutes stiff walk from the house, worth racing up there to blow away the cobwebs even at the end of a late autumn afternoon.
By the time I reached the top the sun had settled behind the bank of cloud approaching from the southwest, as it so often does. The mountains were now in the shade but the sky was dramatic. I had only taken my small Canon S100 rather than the SLR but I just kept clicking away as the sky changed by the second, clouds moving, sun sinking, colours mixing from pastel to vivid back to pastel.
As so many times before, I had to force myself to leave and by the time I got back to earth the lights were on and it was dark.
What a great place, a great way, to finish a weekend. I’m glad I don’t live in a city anymore.