We have had a lovely time away exploring the Wye Valley, the Brecon Beacons and the picturesque town of Hay-on-Wye, with its amazing array of bookshops that you can get lost in for hours.
Our home for a few days was a little annexe located in Hendre, a tiny village west of Monmouth. Our bedroom had the most fantastic views from three aspects and I spent a lot of time just watching the Swallows soaring above the fields opposite the house. Swooping down to collect their food, with occasional breaks to perch on the wires.
I had always wanted to go to Hay-on-Wye after hearing about the annual literary festival held there. I wasn't disappointed and apart from the tempting bookshops there were some inspirational galleries - I especially liked the Bowie Gallery http://www.hayclay.co.uk/ and the HayMakers http://www.haymakers.co.uk/home.html , and we also had a relaxing time mooching round an antiques shop with numerous little rooms that often brought back childhood memories when we spied an item that our parents or grandparents had also owned.
As we were walking through the town back to the car we both looked up and watched the Swifts for a while, delighting in their screeching calls, a sound that we hadn't heard for a long time.
For us both the highlight of our travels that week was seeing the view from Symonds Yat Rock. It really did take your breath away and it felt as though you were looking down on the world from on high ! It made me think of my Grandad's trip to that part of the world when he was a young man and him showing me the black and white photographs (or more like sepia !) of the same view. An added bonus was having the chance to see the Peregrines that were nesting on a nearby cliff-face.
With a few days in Devon added onto the end of our trip, our holiday was nearly complete. Whilst on our friend's farm I was treated to a viewing of their beehives. This was unexpected and I must admit I am now hooked and looking forward to seeing how the hives are doing when we visit in September.
As the hives are new ones for this year, it was important to check to see how many Queens were in each hive, as there should only be one per hive. I am not experienced enough to explain all of the technicalities of bee-keeping and the ecology of Honey Bees but here are a few images that will hopefully help you to understand how a bee hive works.
Each section of the hive is called a 'super'. Here we are lifting off the top super which is where the honey will be collected from.
The boards in the top super.
Here you can see one of the boards lifted out. The capped honey cells are clearly seen - those covered in a creamy white waxy substance.
The lower super is where the brood is kept. This metal grid is a queen excluder to stop the Queen from coming through to the upper super.
The drones are larger bees than the workers. Here you can see some capped honey too, which is reserves for the brood itself. The darker cells are where larvae are.
In this image some of the larval cells have been capped. Those with a more bulbous cap contain larvae of the drone bees and the cells with the flatter cap contain larvae of worker bees.
Here in the lower part of the picture you an see a Queen just about to emerge.
I have been attempting to do some painting too, but with the weather having been so hot the paint just dries so quickly.
Whilst in Devon I was able to dabble with my acrylics and completed two small paintings, both 10x10 cms in size on natural linen canvas.
Further painting projects are underway, with new paintings ready for exhibitions next year - watch this space !