Country diary: autumn arrives in the estuary

Aberdyfi, Gwynedd: As the season shifts, oystercatchers gather on the foreshore, and new colours dominate the landscape

Looking across the estuary from the hills above Aberdyfi, the uncertain morning light gave both sea and sky the diffuse grey of long-abandoned pewter. Behind me, the broken slope of the hillside carried an expanse of bracken fronds – colouring now into autumn. Stirred in the sharpening breeze from the east, they fell into patterns echoing the movement of the river surface below me. The tide had just begun to ebb, with streamers of foam starting to build across the mouth of the Afon Dyfi as increasing volumes of water began to sluice energetically seawards.

The Afon Dyfi with Ynyslas beyond
The Afon Dyfi with Ynyslas beyond. Photograph: John Gilbey

Far to the south the notched cliffs of Ceredigion retreated into the coastal murk, while closer at hand the dunes of Ynyslas defined the southern bank of the Dyfi. Caught in a dynamic balance of erosion and deposition, the pattern of dunes is edged to seaward with a ridge of rounded cobbles – visible as a grey band even from here, a mile or so distant. Beyond the sand dunes the great expanse of Cors Fochno, an impressive raised peat bog with its core still virtually wild, brought further diversity of colour and texture to the landscape. A line of silver, oddly straight in this almost fractal scene, marked the engineered course of the Afon Leri across the edge of the mire.

The track across the hillside, edged with gorse flowers and a few late foxgloves, took me down towards the town, finally reached by a half-remembered path dropping between high hedges. The day had begun to warm, burning away the earlier mist and bringing solid colour to the landscape. Inland, the former mere suggestion of high ground resolved into familiar hills, framed by a deepening blue sky and fans of high white cloud.

The track towards Aberdyfi
The track towards Aberdyfi. Photograph: John Gilbey

As I headed eastwards towards Machynlleth, sunlight reflected sharply from the choppy waters of the Dyfi, throwing into silhouette a good-sized flock of oystercatchers strung out along the widening foreshore. I lost count at 50, which was perhaps a quarter of the group, and was glad to note that this throng included a number of paler, slightly scruffy, juvenile birds. A healthy presence, but the gathering of flocks in the estuary is a sign of approaching autumn that can no longer be ignored.

Contributor

John Gilbey

The GuardianTramp

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