It takes a lot to get me out of bed at 5am on a Saturday morning. Weather wise, the last few weekends have been pretty miserable and my yearning to get myself out of the house and into the hills with my camera meant that the alarm clock was set for 5am for an hour long trip up to Hafod Estate near Devils Bridge for a sunrise shoot.
The weather looked promising and according to the Photographers Ephemeris, sunrise was due to start at 6:45am and red skies where predicted. Having walked a couple of the Hafod Estate walks before, I knew that the lookout point that looked over a S bend in the Ystwyth River would be facing into the sunrise. Following the sunrise shot, I planed to walk the 6 mile Gentlemen’s walk to capture some of the waterfalls found on many of the small tributaries.
I managed to leave the house at 5:30am which left me an hour for the drive and only 15 minutes to walk the mile or so into the estate to the look out point. The roads from Lampeter to Hafod Estate are narrow and windy and the hours drive felt like two. 15 miles to go and the sky started getting lighter, 8 miles to go and sky started to get a feint pink glow to it. Was I going to miss it?
Eventually I arrived. Grabbing my pack, head torch and jacket, I shoved my gaiters into my pocket, there was no time to put them on right now. I started the brisk walk down the hill past the cemetery to the main forest track where I should have turned left and headed down the small footpath to the river, but I was in a hurry and what if I continue with the main road instead? It heads in the right direction and I suspect it will take me straight to the lookout point, cutting off at least 15 minutes walk. Luckily I was right and 10 minutes later I was at my destination and I was just in time. The sunrise was breathtaking and certainly worth the effort of getting out of bed so early. There wasn’t a breath of wind and the only sounds were those of the birds and the river below. Slowly, before my eyes the sky exploded into a ceiling of fire. Unfortunately the sun was behind the mountain leaving the valley in the shadows and it would remain there until much later in the morning, but a return trip towards the end of March should see the sun rise right above the river. I feel another early morning coming but as the days get longer in the UK, I suspect that will be a 4am rise.
Hafod Uchtryd (English: summer mansion of Uchtryd) is a wooded and landscaped estate, located in Ceredigion, west Wales, in the Ystwyth valley. It is near Devil’s Bridge, Cwmystwyth and Pont-rhyd-y-groes off the B4574 road – which is described by the Automobile Association as one of the ten most scenic drives in the world. It was anciently the location of a dwelling on the side of the hill above the river Ystwyth, looking to the east. First used as a hunting lodge for Welsh Chieftains, it became home to landed gentry and nobility, and in the late eighteenth century became a celebrated landscape, under the ownership of Thomas Johnes.
As quickly as sky turned red and orange it turned a pale blue and it was all over. I packed up the camera and crossed the river over the Alpine Bridge and headed into the woods along the Gentlemen’s walk. This walk takes you up steeper ground and offers some wild scenery as you zig zag up the hillside crossing fairytale wooden bridges. The rest of my morning was spent exploring the small tributaries of the Ystwyth to capture the compositions below before heading back home at around 12pm.
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