The Shining Levels


Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Wednesday, 19th September, 2007, North Wales

view from hide

WE’RE SPENDING a few days in a holiday cabin perched on a wooded hill overlooking the estuary of the River Dovey, or, to give it it’s Welsh name, the Afon Dyfi.

In Welsh you pronounce every letter of a word instead of skipping some in a fairly unpredictable manner as you often do in English. A single ‘f’ is pronounced as we’d pronounce ‘v’, while ‘ff’ is pronounced softly, as we'd normally pronounce ‘f’, so, to English ears, 'Afon Dyfi' would sound more like 'Avon Dovey'.

Ynys-hir Birds

woodpeckerAfter a dry four weeks, we’re unlucky to have timed our visit to catch a grey, rainy interval but the RSPB’s Ynys-hir reserve gives us an opportunity to sit in a comfortable hide overlooking the estuary. Although the rain is lashing on the windows facing west and the hide is creaking in the wind like a ship at sea, we can see through the windows at the sheltered north end of the hide. Unfortunately in this weather not much is visible in the mistle thrushway of water birds but we see a great spotted woodpecker and a small flock of mistle thrushes in an area of rough robinpasture dotted with old trees as we walk back to the visitor centre during a dry spell.

As we sit on the veranda with a welcome coffee and flapjack a robin hops towards us, eyeing us with that cute, questioning look they’re so good at. It very nearly hops onto my outstretched hand for a crumb.


We retreat to the town of Machynlleth at the head of the estuary for lunch at the veggie Quarry Café then browse around to shops and pick up a few supplies. I haven’t got the hang of pronouncing Machynlleth but locals often refer to it simply as ‘Mack’, so there's not much chance of getting lost around here.

Machynelleth has a couple of excellent secondhand book shops, one of them specialising in angling, field sports and natural history books. My page title The Shining Levels comes from the book, subtitle The Story of a Man Who Went Back to Nature, by John Wyatt. It's a true story, a kind of thoughtful nature diary, set in the Lake District and I would have bought it if I hadn't brought so much holiday reading with me.

Quarry Cafe
The Quarry Wholefood Café

Dovey estuaryview from Little ChefAberdyfi

There’s just time, before we head back to our cabin, to drive to Aberdyfi (Aberdovey) to have a hot chocolate in the Sunflower Café and sketch the sand dunes of Ynyslas across the mouth of the estuary. Aberdyfi has it’s own, less extensive, dunes immediately to the west of the town’s seafront.

The Gallery Aberdyfi is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year.

Here's a third drawing from a café; the hills of north east Wales seen from near Queensferry (right) were drawn when we stopped yesterday morning on our journey here for an Early Starter Breakfast at a Little Chef.

Somehow a holiday is never complete without a stop at a Little Chef.