The drive from London on the M4 was easy but negotiating the icy, snow covered Welsh hills at night was a challenge. Sixteen cavers were making their way to Croydon Caving Cottage in Ystradfellte, a little Welsh village surrounded by mountains. Three were stuck half way up a steep hill. As I climbed up the hill and approached Caroline’s car it started to slide backwards down the hill towards me, with no one in it and the hand-brake on. I leapt up the steep bank and out of its way. One of the cavers, a girl who was planning to do her first caving trip this weekend, was standing on the far side of the car and pushed it into the bank as it passed her, where it stuck. Steve, another caver, arrived at the bottom of the hill. We attached a caving rope to the front of the stricken car and six cavers slowly lowered it back down the hill, hanging onto the rope to slow its decent.
Approaching mid-night, our three cars continued the last four miles as a convoy. We took turns to drive down each hill and up the next. Neil took his car first, then walked back to drive Caroline’s car. The cars were driven slowly down each hill, accelerating towards the bottom and up the next in a low gear, while trying to keep the wheels on fresh crunchy snow, rather than the hard icy stuff. Knowing that if we stopped our cars would slide uncontrollably backwards. We arrived in the early hours to a warm welcome.
Ystradfellte, in the Brecon Beacons is a wonderful base for caving, walking, wild swimming (not this weekend though), mountain biking and of course photography. Sunday the light was gorgeous, so instead of heading down the caves, Neil and I headed up the Ysgubor-Wen mountain towards the old kiln mines, careful not to step on the snow covered frozen ponds, lest they break. The rest of the country was thawing out and loosing its white blanket, but not here. Many of the old field boundaries that have been here since people first started farming animals are lost beneath the snow. With no grass to munch on, sheep and cattle stand silently waiting to be fed.
I love the stark contrast between isolated trees and the whiteness of the snow. We pass shake holes, which are steep-sided holes in the ground. They are often found in limestone areas and usually indicate the presence of caves; they are formed when the ground literally falls into an underground hole.
These images are available to purchase as Giclee, C-Type and canvas prints. Visit the H2o Photography Shop.