Out I drive, across the flatness of the Cheshire Plain and on towards the Welsh Border; the startling sun shining down, my shades reducing the glare. Up into the low hills I go, the road no less winding but certainly more undulating. The open skies and the warmth inside mask the wind on which a buzzard floats, just above the neighbouring ridge. Onwards I press, wanting an open-topped sportscar not an Autobahn saloon; maybe that’ll be another day!
As I pass Bala and its reservoir, I start to climb up into the mountains and the weather changes. There is a line, a break, between the brightness and a dark, brooding gloom. The hopes of a fine spring day soon fade as I pass under the divide and the cloud encloses the scenery. Above the lake, I take a sharp right turn and forcefully make my way up the hill, cresting the ridge and out onto the open moors, with the slim and twisting quiet road laid out in front. Finally, after turns and straights, and more turns, past sheer plunges, I drop down into the villages and then onto an open, flat plain once more.
I approach a familiar junction and turn, slowing to make the car narrow enough to pass through the gateway. Onto the track I drive, passing between wall and slope to the valley bottom; there are no hints of spring here and the birds remain hushed by the lingering cold and damp. The signs of last autumn remain; leaves still cover the ground and the track is split by a line of fallen twigs and mulch. The bracken, once bright in its closing year rustiness, has withered further and is left almost colourless, like the surrounding landscape, subdued by the monochrome skies. The new season seems a long way off here and it is only the mosses coating the walls and trees that add any pigment to the otherwise washed-out scene.
Surely spring must be here now? I’ve been to the training day for the Glaslyn osprey protection volunteers! As has been the case for the past three years, the season will be dotted with shifts down in the Glaslyn Valley, helping to protect a pair of nesting ospreys, and their precious clutch of eggs, from the backward, childish, and just plain illegal, advances of collectors. Maybe, one day, the actions of a few dimwitted idiots won’t have to be stopped by a group of passionate and proactive people that truly care about the world around them…but that is a slim hope. However, I have to confess (and don’t tell anyone), but I kind of like the Glaslyn Valley, and the attentions of a few egg collectors just gives me an excuse to spend more time there. As long as these idiots continue trying to satisfy their senseless needs, there will be people ready and waiting to stop them.
Yet again, I have been truly impressed by how much a group of volunteers has achieved in such a short space of time. Just over a year ago, the RSPB passed the project to protect the Glaslyn Ospreys to a group of volunteers, who set up a public interest company. Although last year was a big learning experience, the ospreys were successfully protected and fledged three chicks. Even more hard work has been put in since the birds left in the early autumn, which has resulted in big improvements this year with a new visitor centre nearly completed. However, the project can’t be run without a large group of volunteers, either at the protection site or visitor centre, but also without monetary donations. Time given for free only goes so far and the plans in place need financial support. So, if you have a few quid lying down the back of the sofa, or in a jar by the door, perhaps you could give it to a good cause and help to generate a thriving population of Welsh ospreys (by the way, they’re not just Welsh – the offspring of the Glaslyn pair currently breed in both England and Scotland). You can donate via the Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife website.
On the way home, to my surprise, the break in the weather was in exactly the same place. As I approached Bala, the gloom of the middle of the day was left behind and a bright spring day reappeared. Even better, there were some spectacular lenticular clouds to be seen on the way, making concentration on the road ahead a little more difficult than usual.
So a day started in spring, spent in winter, and finished in spring again – perhaps I was a little too hopeful that the season had changed…and summer is definitely a long way off!