Photographers guide to finding and photographing Eriophorum ( cotton grass )

Here’s a great blog about the beauty of the cotton grass in the Brecon Beacons and where best to photograph it by local photographers  Black Mountains Photography:  Matt Botwood and Grant Hyatt

The bluebells have now all but gone over as spring gives way to summer but fear not we have one mass emergence of flowers still left to satisfy our botanical addiction. If you followed my diary we accompanied spring emerging deep in the valleys and erupting up the side of the Skirrid Mountain. Our next member of the spring orchestra occupies the highest, covers the largest and most wild places of our hills.

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With very little competition from other species especially bracken, cotton grass thrives in what otherwise looks like a barren savannah. However if you can time your visit for the first two weeks at the beginning of June the plains are elevated to an ethereal sight they become the birthplace of clouds, especially at dawn when the song of the Golden Plover and Skylark accompany the breeze.cotton grass,breconbeacons,brecon beacons,photography,locations

Eriophorum or cotton grass to us new romantics is in fact from the Cyperaceae ( sedge) family and not actually part of the Poaceae (grass ) family. This important nerdy fact gives us our most important clue in the search for cotton grass, sedges thrive in damp boggy and in the case of cotton grass acidic peat rich soil. These set of condition need to be relativity flat for water to collect and at an altitude where other plants especially bracken,nettles,balsam can not thrive.

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Cotton grass like the red grouse is holding onto what used to be Arctic tundra and its long term future under changing climatic conditions is uncertain but whilst its here its is definitely worth a visit, as with some dry warm weather to bouffant the seed heads the photographer is given a hypnotic subject to photograph. With the sun being low to the horizon at dusk and providing a sensuous back lighting, couple that with a long shutter speed and you will be lost in a wet sate of euphoria.

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So enjoy a round up of our favourite places across the Brecon Beacons to to see this fabulous flower in all its floaty fluffy glory

The Black Mountains ( Waun Fach )

I have put together a free downloadable smartphone map of my favourite walk in the Black Mountains to visit the cotton fields. It starts at Grwyne Fawr and leads up on to the moorland of Waun Fach. Being a lover of technology I have also put together a photosphere tour of the area just to prepare you for the journey

click to download map

The cotton grass is not just found in the Black Mountains is can be discoverd right across the Brecon Beacons. I have asked the renowned Brecon Beacons photographers to contribute a few of their favourite locations for cotton grass with an eye to photographing this fab little plant.

 Central Beacons Ystradfellte

     Matt Botwood

IMG_0588-2

click image for Google map location

 Matt writes
                       ”  The wild area of marshy grasslands at the source of the Afon Llia is the perfect environment for cotton grass. The area is also home to one of the most impressive standing stones in the Brecon Beacons, The 3.7m high Maen Llia. This provides an interesting focal point when photographing the flowers and some of the best patches of cotton grass are very close to the stone. My preference for the time of day to visit is morning – anything before 11am really. This allows a composition including the stone with one of the largest areas of grass in the foreground and optimum lighting conditions. Morning light from this angle illuminates the flower heads from the side or behind but leaves the stone dark making it stand out more in the landscape.The location is easily accessible from the road (just a hop over a stile) but is still surprisingly quiet during weekdays, and is also a great starting point for a stroll up to the summit of Fan Nedd. “
  Matt is currently engaged in a year long photographic essay of Maen Llia which can be foundhere

Western Beacons

Grant Hyatt 

In Grants words

         LLYN Y FAN FAWR

Cotton-grass-Llyn-y-fan-fawr

click image for Google map location

” Llyn y Fan Fawr is without a doubt my favourite place in the Brecon Beacons, not because of the lakes beauty or of the summit of Fan Brycheiniog that towers above it – because of how remote this place feels and of how isolated and alone (but never lonely) you feel up here. The lake sits at a little over 600m above sea level, with the River Tawe emerging from hillside beneath. The walk up is a boggy with only a faintly trampled grassy path on which to follow and come up without Gaiters on and you are almost certainly going to end up with wet feet! Truth be told this is always a place I struggle to photograph and I have spent many hours here at all times of the day and well in to the night. I think the wintry early morning light is the most complimentary of conditions to spend photographing the lake and the surrounding hills. The suns first light reflecting off the snow covered slopes of Fan Hir and Fan Brycheiniog is pretty special indeed! ”

CARREG CENNEN CASTLE

copyright Grant Hyatt Photography 2015

” Carreg Cennen Castle doesn’t need much of an introduction. Arguably one of Wales’ most dramatically placed castles and the scene for a considerable amount of Marriage Proposals I am told! There are 2 way-marked routes that take you around the base of the castle and to some of the lower neighbouring hills. Both are easily navigable and take you through farmers fields where sheep/cows graze, across streams and over small rocky outcrops. In my opinion some of the nicer walking and best views are offered up by a trail that takes you over some Bronze Age Burial Cairns called Tair Cairn Uchaf and Tair Cairn Isaf. On good days from this walk you can see right out west into the Towy Valley and is a great place to watch the effect that dawn’s light has on the Castle, the jagged cliffs below and the patchwork of farmers fields surrounding it. ”

GARREG LLWYD

Garreg Las

click image to view google map location

” This area is a great area to do a little easy walking and escape the crowds. Steep inclines you will not find here, nor will you find much that  resembles a path. But the going is easy and has great views over the Upper Swansea / Amman Valleys and on a clear day you can just about make out the Meridian Tower on Swansea’s Marina.  Garreg Llwyd (also known as Moel Garnach) is a peak in the Black Mountain Range on the Western Edges of the park. This area is best known for it’s industrial history, with Herberts Quarry on it’s Northern Slopes. The old Lime Kilns and deep quarried scars are visible for quite some distance and offer up a lower level walk with information points along the way giving you an insight in to how busy a workplace this once was. “

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