Millican Weekends are a series of stories that celebrate the people making big adventures out of small pockets of time.
"Travel for me is all about getting outdoors, enjoying it no matter the weather and just switching off from the world around me. It has taught me to let go and to think less, especially when it comes to photography. It is too easy to get overwhelmed trying to capture something. It's about enjoying the outdoors for what it is and forget about other pressures."
Words & Photography by Matt Holland | @mihollandphoto
During the summer I explored an area that I've visited for work but never felt I had the time to fully appreciate the landscapes - The Brecon Beacons. Every visit here has brought new locations and different conditions, making each visit all that more special and unique. A wild camp on Pen y Fan under a full moon, followed by a day’s trek across the Fans in the west or a wander around Brecon and Llangorse Lake all whilst enjoying the sunshine or atmospheric clouds rolling in over the mountain tops. This weekend’s challenge was to capture the Perseid meteor shower amidst the heavy rain forecasted, a challenge that a few of us gladly accepted to make the most of this narrow window of time.
The original plan was to camp on Fan Gyhirych Friday night, followed by a day in the valleys exploring the waterfalls and woodland and finish off on Sunday with a visit to coast at Rhossili Bay. But, our plans changed as the weekend got closer and the weather slowly deteriorated. To get the most of this narrow window, our new destination was Pen y Fan and to stay on Cribyn, with a view of Pen y Fan as our foreground hoping the display would be a good one before a weekend washout.
The drive over to Wales was a lot harder than wished for and when I arrived at Pen y Fan the light had pretty much gone so the chance of catching the sunset had gone. With Miles the Duffle Bag holding all my gear for the adventure ahead, I now had to run up the mountain, find the others, pitch up and find a suitable spot to perch in for the night for the big show. That night was bitterly cold and we were all wrapped up in several layers and huddled in ditches with the camera set up over us trying to keep out the cold and wind. It was a long night, but a fun one, whether we captured the meteor shower or not, it was well worth the long journey - even just to spend it in good company.
After a few mere hours sleep, I was the only one to wake for the 6am sunrise. It was a nice surprise. It had remained cold, but the air was very still, but I feared this wouldn't stay for long so I quickly climbed up Cribyn to make the most of it. The mountain tops erupted in bright pink, and our little camp looked impressive under the shadow of Pen Y Fan. The scene was delightful but fleeting, as quick as the sun came up the cloud rolled in behind and the view of Pen y Fan and the valley below became a curtain of white. It would only be a matter of time before the rain. Tents came down fast and it was a very slow trudge back down Cribyn and up Pen y Fan - I was very thankful for Miles the Duffle Bag, providing comfort under the weight.
We continued onto the Four Waterfalls at Ystradfellte - for me, something different from the usual climbing across mountains. This was a chance to get into the valleys and woodlands and see a different side to the Brecon Beacons. Exploring the high routes further from the river was the best decision, getting off the main track meant it was quiet and you had to be mad to scrambling along this top valley walk with the wet - at numerous points, I was on all fours climbing up rocks and roots drabbed down.
It was time to head out and find some respite from the rain and mud. The walk out of the valley gradually got wetter and wetter but I was determined not to let the weather put a dampener on weekend or final location I wished to visit - Rhossili Bay, not in the Brecon Beacons but down on the coast near Swansea. The wind and rain battering down on the side of the window was off-putting, to say the least. In my head the same question kept going around - why are you doing this? But I wasn't going to let a bit of rain stop me. I climbed out of the car, grabbed my jacket and camera and began walking down to Worm's Head.
Despite the weather, the beach was alive. Out of the mist, you could see people in brightly coloured wetsuits and boards appear on the shoreline braving the sea. I guess if you're going to get wet you might as well make the most of it. I walked along the causeway down to Worm's Head, you could just about see the old coastguard station and island appearing out of the mist. I stood still for a brief moment, trying to keep upright against the wind and see the gulls struggling to stay in the air. Rhossili Bay was the final stop, with everything soaked to the bone, and feeling washed out and exhausted it was time to admit defeat and return home.
It was a great 36 hours, with every weather condition crammed into this narrow window. Whether I captured the Perseid meteor shower or not, the weekend was a success and it was good to get out and do something different - despite the weather. It certainly hasn't put me off visiting again.