A True Christmas Story

Today I had an experience I’ll never forget. It is Christmas eve, 2010 and I spent the morning in town, shopping for the last bits and bobs and exchanging well wishes with friends and acquaintances. The roads were clear enough to drive and in the lull of the late afternoon, I decided to take my camera and venture out-of-town to the beautiful reservoirs of the Elan Valley. I got as close as I could in the old jalopy, which was as far as the turn off for the visitor centre. Abandoning said vehicle by the roadside, I hiked the next mile up to the first reservoir, Caban Coch.

Approaching Caban Coch

The hike up to the Caban Coch reservoir

On the walk I thought about the beauty of the surroundings and the man-made influence the area has bourne. As I passed the old pump houses down at the foot of the dam wall, I imagined the past inhabitants of Elan village, celebrating Christmas with what little they had. I approached a modern pump house and documented my progress with this picture:

The Flying Artist

Ice Station Zebra. Miles from anywhere…

Finally reaching the top of the dam wall at Caban Coch, I stopped to take stock of the view and took some more shots of the surroundings:

Caban Coch in Snow

The snow-covered dam wall at the Caban Coch reservoir

Caban Coch Resevoir

The icy waters of Caban Coch

I then walked on along the path that skirts the water’s edge, photographing trees that caught my eye and feeling absolutely alive in the wilderness. The running of water, the wheezy-breeze, the swish of the trees, the sun dying over the mountain, beyond the horizon. Christmas is approaching.

Christmas tree Caban Coch

The Christmas tree overlooking the reservoir

The next tree I photographed had a visitor arrive in its branches as I stood there. A Robin red breast of the most gregarious variety, flew across the water, landed in the tree and began to sing at the top of its lungs! In the next picture, you can see this little tenor arriving:

Robin Flight

The Robin arrives at the tree, to sing and be festive!

Well I must admit, this little bird put me in the most festive of moods! I applauded his efforts and wished him a Merry Christmas and continued on my journey along the reservoir. At the next tree, the Robin was already there. This precocious little chap had flown on ahead and then alerted me to his presence as I walked past, by singing the same jolly song. I applauded again and bowed to this fantastic Christmas spirit. I took his picture again as he skipped amongst the branches in the tree:

Robin Tree; Caban Coch

The songbird singing in the leafless tree.The Robin sings and ushers in Christmas

This felt like a gift from the universe. I felt a connection with this little bird, out in the middle of a national park, all on its own and searching for the spirit of Christmas. I walked on further towards Nant Gwyllt church and was smiling at the thought of the little Robin. As I approached the road bridge that leads to the chapel, I ventured over to the tower at the side of the bridge. I thought I’d get some shots of the reservoir and the tower but knew that the light was fading and soon I should turn back to the car before it got too dark and I’d gone too far. As I stood there framing the tower I heard a rapid flutter glance past my head. I turned to see the Robin on the fence beside me, his voice chirping loudly at me as if he was trying to get my attention. Perhaps he wanted feeding, perhaps he just wanted to say Merry Christmas, perhaps he was a she! I don’t know the details because the interaction with this tiny creature was like being in a dream. It fluttered right in front of the camera like a humming-bird and chirped constantly, dancing around me like a firefly. I got the best shots that the light conditions would allow, every time the flash went off, the Robin jumped and tweeted as if shocked, in a fun and excited way. Truly amazing. Here’s what I managed to snap: 

Robin Red Breast

A few feet away, Robin greets me again

Rockin Robin

The flash makes the bird jump

Robin take off

Wings unfurled, the Robin takes flight

Robin Elan Valley

At arms length

Robin in Rhayader

A few feet away in a few feet of snow

Robin Caban Coch

The bird with no fear of man

Resevoir Robin

An attempt at a close up of the main star

Robin approach

Heading towards me to hover in front of the camera. If only Id waited for just a few seconds!

After spending twenty minutes or so in the company of my new pal, the light was all gone and the temperature was dropping rapidly. I decided to head back and I bid my feathered friend goodnight and wished the bird well. I took one more shot of the little Robin and hit the road:

Robin on the fence

The kindly Robin sings goodbye for the final time

The walk back seemed to take forever, but I didn’t mind at all. I had been enriched by the life and soul of a tiny creature, communicating with me in its own fearless way. A truly spiritual experience. I thought of Christmas and all that would ensue, the merriment, the warmth of family and friends, the time for reflection and peace.

The Flying Artist by night

The long walk home in the dark of Christmas eve by Caban Coch

“A robin redbreast in a cage, puts all of heaven in a rage” ~ William BlakeMerry Christmas to you all!The Flying Artist

About Roulette Revolver

Currently a first year undergraduate in Film & Media Studies.
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2 Responses to A True Christmas Story

  1. C & R says:

    Definitely my favourite story this Christmas!

    Only ever been around that way in the summertime. Looks amazing at this time of the year by the looks of your photos!

    Really cool.


  2. Some very nice shots there Greg, the place looks amazing to walk around.
    Will have to venture out that way myself sometime soon.

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