Sunday afternoon, 23 March and the sun was shining. The sun has only put in the occasional appearance recently. Heavy showers in the morning had cleared and blue sky beckoned. One of the great benefits of living at the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park is that there is good walking from the house, no need to drive to a mountain, there’s one out the back.
I followed a favourite route, an amble along the Abergavenny and Brecon Canal and then a steep pull up to the ridge, distracted by potential photo opportunities on the way. I sat in the sun at the Folly Tower, but didn’t stay long, there was a cold North-easterly wind and the ridge top is pretty exposed. Looking out of the window at home I had been tempted to walk in shorts and T-shirt but was very glad I didn’t. The sun may be shining but after a few days of spring warmth the temperature has dropped again with overnight frosts if the sky clears. Budburst seems to be on hold again.
As I walked down the ridge path to complete the circuit back to the house I mused about the vagaries of the weather, how different this route can be.
I remembered many years ago walking the path in the opposite direction and turning back before I reached the Folly Tower, beaten by 5 foot snow drifts and inadequate clothing. The path drops down into Pontypool Park, home of Pontypool RFC which, in the days before the game went professional, was one of the best clubs in Britain with a world famous front row. I had gone to watch a Saturday afternoon home game. It snowed heavily overnight and all morning. As the covers on the pitch were laboriously pulled back by an army of eager spectators the green of the grass, framed by white, was dazzling. But not for long. The falling snow became heavier. Within 15 minutes the pitch too was white, the stands on the opposite side invisible and the ball lost as soon as it was kicked. The referee abandoned the game and I set out to walk to the Folly to salvage something from the afternoon. I remember the occasion vividly because it was only the second time I had turned back on a walk, even today one of less than a handful of such occasions.
Last Sunday the farmers had already turned their cattle and sheep out into the topmost fields on the ridge, obviously having decided that a return to winter was unlikely.
But it was very different last year, winter continuing well into the ‘spring’ months. Back home I checked and on 23 March 2013, a year to the day, I walked the same route in deep winter conditions, walls, trees, fences snow-blasted and frozen. No sign of animals until well into April.
With only two weeks left before I head for Greece I wondered what the weather will be like there. We had been on Hydra in the Saronics in April 2003 and know that the weather is likely to be by no means settled dry and sunny like it is in Summer. Some days warm sunshine, others grey and cold. On a return visit to the island in March 2004 we had to shelter a couple of times under the canopies of beachside tavernas as it snowed. But what more than made up for the indifferent weather was the spectacular flora which carpeted the island.
I don’t know how Symi and the neighbouring Dodecanese islands will compare with Hydra in spring colour but I’m looking forward to finding out. I’m taking warm clothes.