If you're like me and spend most of your working week staring at screens for hours on end, you may seek out the complete opposite during your downtime.
That's what these 'Explore Your Backyard' blog posts are all about. They are for people like myself and Dan who don't necessarily have the means, be it financial or time-related, to venture too far from home. For people who want to be outside often, wander off the beaten track, to see something new and feel connected to the wild again. To actually 'see' the world with eyes unclouded.
It doesn't even have to be some grand trip that you have to spend months saving for. I try to encourage anyone to explore their local surroundings once in a while, to take a public footpath you've never been down before or pick a green spot on a map and go there with a packed lunch. It can be as little or as much effort as you choose but I promise you that by simply acting upon your desire for adventure, in whatever capacity, will give you the greatest satisfaction.
I should probably point out that I know the outdoors life, isn't for everyone and that's completely fine too, but it's not who these posts are here for.
Onwards to Wales
We had one day to travel somewhere and spend the little time that we had, so we chose the Brecon Beacons National Park. This is a bit of an adventure 'go-to' for myself and Dan because of its proximity to Bristol and also because it's just so beautiful. There's not many places in the south-west where you can go from a snow-capped mountain to a ninety foot waterfall to a golden sandy beach all in the same afternoon.
It should be said that the weather can be equally diverse. Shifting from sunny skies to thick fog and low hanging clouds in a matter of minutes. I can't count the amount of times it's been a gloriously sunny day in Bristol only to cross the Severn Bridge into what I can only describe as a 'Mordor-like' rain cloud. As a photographer, I love the shifting light and weather patterns as it makes for more dramatic images and would never let weather disrupt my plans, you just need to be agile and adapt accordingly.
We parked up and wandered around the reservoirs, taking photos and getting some fresh air for all of forty minutes before we felt the first drops of rain. Lower Neuadd Reservoir is technically the smallest of the two, surrounded by numerous abandoned outbuildings, tall pines and wild pink rhododendrons. Combine that with the low clouds and it feels like a location from Jurassic Park!
We then headed up the path to Upper Neuadd Reservoir. We had only see it once before and that was in the winter months when it had been completely covered in a layer of thick snow. Sadly, the reservoir was drained a number of years ago to protect the grade two listed dam structure. The dam itself is really quite spectacular. Almost gothic in its appearance, it sits ominously against the white misty mountains, it's dark grey stone piercing through.
There's a gravel track that wraps around the western foot of the dam but it crosses a ford that was too deep for our meagre walking boots. Unfortunately for us, the dam itself is fenced off to prevent people from walking across the top of it.
Behind the dam, the would-be reservoir somewhat resembles a lush grass plain in these summer months, very different to the almost 'mars-like' cloak it wore in the depths of winter. We decided it would be a good idea to cross the plain and circle back to the car as we could clearly see where the path began on the other side. We pushed forwards but it wasn't long before we realised our mistake.
Though the reservoir has been drained almost completely, there are still two small rivers running through its expanse. Dan adopted the 'just go for it' approach to crossing them where as I was a little more hesitant, knowing I was carrying my camera under my coat to shield it from the rain. So, I followed the river along for a while before I found a bridge to cross. When I say bridge, it was two metal girders with concrete slabs spaced evenly between them. You could see, from the gaps between each slab, that it was much higher than the riverbed and they rocked unsteadily when you stepped on them. Still, it was better than crossing the river via precariously placed stepping stones.
By the time I got back to Dan, beaming with pride about the scary bridge I had just conquered., he was less than impressed (there's photo evidence of this above). I don't blame him, he was stood waiting in the open the entire time and completely soaked through!
We made good time in getting back to the car because as soon as we shut the doors, the light rain turned into a torrential downpour. Luckily, I packed a spare pair of socks and shoes for the drive home. I think if I were to offer up on piece of advice to anyone, it would be to pack spare clothes in the car. There's nothing worse than driving home in soggy gear and will often leave you in a negative mind-set about the whole experience.
This is just one of the many beautiful attractions of the Brecon Beacons and I strongly urge anyone to spend a little weekend exploration time there. Just remember to leave 'no trace' of yourself there so we can keep these places in their best condition for everyone to enjoy.