Leaving Bath for the last half of our three-day train trip, it was under the Severn, out of the sun and into the rain of the Vale of Glamorgan.
Llantwit Major, close to the south coast, has a beach with cliffs, a view over the Bristol Channel to Exmoor, and is a place where the vegetation is sculpted by salt-laden sea-spray:
This close to the warmth of the sea, pushed inland by incessant south-westerlies, the landscape also features a suite of plants we are less used to seeing in winter-chilled and droughted Essex, at least in such bounty. Chusan Palms are scattered around, including in the churchyard, while every stone wall is festooned with Ivy-leaved Toadflax:
In field corners and gardens, Monbretia is naturalized in golden swathes …
and the hedgerows are largely of Fuchsia, now in full bloom.
Notwithstanding the Fuchsia originate from South America, they seem to be much used by local bees, including Common Carders, Honeybees and Buff-tailed Bumbles. In abundance – between the showers every bush was a-buzzing:
St Illtyd’s church is a fascinating place. Looking every bit a ‘standard’ parish church, it is the site of one of the earliest seats of Christian learning in the country, and its internal features reflect that, with remarkable mediaeval wall paintings:
But most impressive of all are the Celtic stones, covered in symbols and inscriptions that hark back to a pagan past. Corralled together inside the restored chapel they are to my mind a little out of context – cut off from the spirits of the outdoors, from which they derive their symbolic power …
… but at least they are protected from the elements, which showed their force as we sheltered inside!
And Nature is never too far away. The stonework at the restored end of the building features an ammonite fossil …
… and the churchyard itself is far from being an over-tidied, pesticide-poisoned waste, the fate of all too many even in these relatively ecologically enlightened times.
It may have been only a short break, but we covered a lot of ground at leisure, and were able to immerse ourselves in landscapes and weather we are most unused to at home!