Butterflies as canaries

I was lucky to get a photo of this female Wall Brown butterfly Lasiommata megera in our garden last year. This species is in sharp decline in the UK. However, butterflies are here the best, most comprehensively monitored group of insects anywhere in the world. Butterflies fulfil a very important role as an indicator for thousands of other species and the general state of our environment. Butterfly Conservation’s report ‘The State of the UK’s Butterflies 2022’ is gloomy reading.


The ancient yew tree at Cyffylliog

Moving from the city to rural Wales and exploring its ancient landscape has taught us how temporary our stay is. 

Here is my photograph of one of the oldest living things I am ever likely to see. Cymru-Wales has the largest number of ancient yews in the world. This one in the equally ancient burial ground at Cyffylliog is thought to be over two thousand years old, so was there before the Roman legions passed through building their roads & forts. I am awed by it. 

I wonder what tongues have been spoken there in its history? When it was but a sapling, Iron Age locals’ Brittonic dialect could be heard, perhaps even the occupying Roman army’s Latin & other languages. 

By the ninth century C.E. the locals burying their dead around the ancient yew would speak a form of Old, then Middle Welsh, not forgetting (many Welsh people today do not forget!) the Norman French and Early English of invaders from across the border.

Since the fifteenth century, there are ever fewer modern Welsh speakers and more speaking modern English. (Today maybe 40% speak cymraeg in the surrounding area of Denbighshire.) 

New Light

One of my favourite photos of 2022, taken at this very time of year, before the start of Spring. It felt a dead place, the graveyard & redundant welsh church in the Dee Valley. I was reflecting on the death of my own once lively christian faith, which for long years controlled the way I saw the world. I found a new way of seeing, new Light, as it were. The dark winter days are passing. Everything passes.