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Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Day I Froze Silly at Rhossili

Last Friday's trip to Rhossili was a spur of the moment thing. I had intended taking my cat, Leo to the PDSA on Friday afternoon, as I'd noticed a swelling on his leg the previous night. At Friday lunchtime, I spotted him pursuing a magpie across the roof, so I guessed he was okay and cancelled the appointment. The sun was shining, so I headed to Rhossili with the new camera.

I didn't get there until around 15.15. I was utterly horrified at how cold it was when I got off the bus. I was well-dressed for cold weather, but the biting wind seemed to rip straight through my clothes. I had two fleeces on, as well as a really thick jumper, thick, fleece-lined jogging pants, two pairs of thermal socks, a thermal hat and thermal gloves. But it was like Siberia or Mongolia there. My greatest challenge was trying to hold the camera steady. It's a tiny, flimsy thing, and even when I gripped it tightly with both hands, the wind still tossed it around.

One of the first shots I took was an experiment with the zoom function. Alas, Blogger crunches all images a low resolution, so most of the pics here look quite blurry. You can see the original version I uploaded, by clicking on the image. This first shot, I've entitled "Rec and Wreck", as it depicts the Old Rectory at Rhossili, with the wreck of the Helvetia in the foreground.

The jackdaws were crazed that day, diving and shrieking overhead. I think they were enjoying riding the powerful air currents caused by the icy gale.

One thing I like about the new camera, is that it seems to add extra depth or dimension to my photos - not that you'd tell, they've been crunched so much by Blogger. They seem less flat somehow, compared to the other camera's images.

The sea was so rough that day. Rougher than I've ever seen it. I didn't envy the one hardy soul I saw windsurfing over at Llangennith. When I first tried zooming in on the waves, the images were pretty poor, just a series of white splurges of foam, with no clear definition. However, I tried the "sport" setting of the camera, which captures clear images of moving objects, and found I was successfully able to zoom in on them, even using the digital zoom to boost the optical zoom.

The moles have obviously been busy at Rhossili. A section of the cliffs was utterly covered in molehills. Oh well, better there, I guess, than in someone's garden, where they'll be a nuisance and end up dead at the hands of an exterminator.

As usual, the cliffs and adjacent fields were heavily populated by sheep. Despite their reputation for being stupid, boring creatures, I find them really amusing. They have a deranged passion for scratching their behinds on any solid object they can find - a good a reason as any never to stay still too long on Rhossili cliffs. Sheep also tend to have really expressive faces and voices, and their body language says a lot. When I said "hello" to this first sheep, she eyed me with utter contempt and then showed me what she thought of me by showing me her bum.

This next one got really excited when she first saw me, running towards me bleating. As I tucked my hiking stick under my arm to steady the camera, her face fell to this rather woeful expression and she turned away. I think she saw me with a stick, thought it was a shepherd's staff, and mistook me for the farmer, coming to visit with a few tasty treats.

Next, I met this creature, with eyes like something from Stephen King's novel, "The Tommyknockers". Maybe she had cataracts or some other eye condition, because her eyes really did glow that strangely in the sunlight - it's not a camera flare. When she glared at me with those eyes, I felt rather scared, and then rather foolish, for being spooked by a sheep.

Then, I came across a meeting of the sheep equivalent of AA - but in their case, it's A**e-Scratchers Anonymous. Note the looks of relieved delight on their faces as they scratch themselves. Like I said earlier, don't stand still on Rhossili cliffs for too long, in case the AA sheep decide you look like a good scratching-post.

Here's another sheep, which at first came running towards me, all pleased to see me. When she realised she didn't know me, she trotted off, scowling, as if to say "me? talk to you? I don't bloody think so".

I tried to get closer to this sheep, to get a better shot of her and the Worm. For some bizarre reason, I forgot about the zoom function.

I decided I was far too cold to go any further. As the Worm's Head Hotel was closed for refurbishment, I headed for the art gallery in the village. It's a nice enough little gallery, and it would be warmer than the cliffs. Then, when I took what was to be my final glance towards the Worm, I spotted the beginnings of a glorious sunset. I've always been a sunset fanatic, and I got as excited as a kid at Christmas, at the prospect of being able to zoom in on the sunset, and even shoot video footage of it. I forgot about the cold for a while, not even noticing it when I took off my gloves to change the camera batteries.

I finally stopped taking pics when the sunset glow started to dim. I realised I was all alone on Rhossili cliffs at dusk, and thought it best to head back to wait for my bus. Assuming it was around 16.15, I started towards the bus stop, hoping the bus wasn't late. The prospect of a twenty five minute wait in an icy, draughty bus stop, was not very appealing. When I checked my watch, I discovered it was 16.47, and I'd in fact missed the bus by about seven minutes, and had almost an hour to wait for the next. Istarted to get quite nervous, as night was falling, I was alone and couldn't see anyone else around. About two or three years ago, at around this time of year, and a similar time of day, I was waiting alone at the bus stop in Rhossili, when a strange man stopped in his a van, and trying to persuade me to get in. Luckily, a young man emerged from the lane beside the church, and joined me at the bus stop, and the creepy man drove off at top speed.

So, with this experience in mind, I decided not to wait alone at the exposed bus stop at Rhossili, and sped along the main road towards Middleton. I knew Middleton had a stone bus shelter, with a nice, long bench in it, where you can retreat right into the corner, where you can't be seen from the road. So that's where I headed, pausing only to take a final shot or two looking towards Fall Bay, as I walked down.

It took me a little while to cover the distance, so that cut down on the waiting time. I was nicely ensconced in the bus shelter, feeling quite safe and well hidden from any prowling, creepy van drivers, when a great, shaggy head appeared in the doorway. I'd been discovered by a farmer's sheep dog. Luckily, all it did was wag its tail and trot off again. About twenty minutes after I reached the bus shelter at Middleton, a Rhossili-bound bus arrived, dropping off passengers across the road. Rather than wait for it to go to Rhossili and come back, I crossed the road and hopped on there and then. As much as I love Rhossili, I was so glad to be heading back home again. I don't normally feel the cold too much, but that day, I well and truly froze silly at Rhossili.


The Pig's Lip said...

love the scratching pics

Jeremy said...

The Rhossili waves must be the best I`ve seen. Nicely captured.

Siani said...

Chris - I don't know what it is with sheep and bum-scratching, but whenever they spot a solid object like a wall, bench or fence, they're at it.

Thanks for the comments re: the waves, Jeremy - the new camera has a "sport" setting for capturing moving objects without too much blurring, so I used it for the waves. When I tried shooting them on zoom without the sport setting, it was a disaster. BTW, forgot to say, I checked out your pics on and loved them, especially the deer pics.

Christeenagerard said...

hey...that's BEAUTIFUL!!