“You’d love it at Llangasty”, David had said some while back, “there’s even a bird hide on the lake shore a short walk from the house.”
Yeah right, I thought, it’s probably a pond with a shed at the side.
So when the annual deanery retreat came round last week, I went with a slightly sceptical air… but within an hour of arriving I somehow found myself in the bird hide itself.
Although summer is not a great time for lake birds (as waders like curlews have headed for the hills, and ducks like wigeon and teal have migrated north and east), it is a lovely location, within the Brecon Beacons national park. The hide has been tastefully re-built recently, in a style similar to a re-constructed 9th century crannog on the other side of the lake, and is one of the nicest that I’ve been in.
The retreat was an opportunity for some of the leaders in the west Worcestershire area to get together, so as well as Rob, the vicar from Hallow, we were enriched by being joined by Geraint and Debra, who run the Consuming Fire Ministries in Dine’s Green. One of our lay readers, Pat from Clifton, came as well: lay leadership is becoming increasingly important, so for the health of the Anglican church it is vital that we take every opportunity to encourage and develop this wider team.
The bird hide overlooks a reedbed, and at this time of the year it’s the almost exclusive preserve of reed warblers. They presented a tough photographic challenge as they flitted around quickly through the reeds. I was puzzled not to see other species though – especially sedge warblers – but I was about to find why.
On the middle day of the retreat, I went on a walk round the lake towards the village of Llangorse. A couple of fields beyond the bird hide, I saw my first sedge warbler of the week – and then realised there were several of them scattered across the lower part of the field, but no reed warblers.
It’s all down to vegetation. The sedge warblers were in a somewhat drier habitat than the reedbed, further away from the lake margin, but in an area that still looked like it would flood easily – evidently ideal for them but too dry for the reed warblers.
On the final morning I decided to do a dawn walk. Birding-wise it wasn’t ideal because the warblers preferred a lie-in, waking up just before I went for breakfast, but the views around the lake were stunning.