I’m drawn back time and time again to three Gower churches, Penrice, Ilston and Cheriton, and my favourite is always the one I’m visiting. They have many things in common, old, sturdy and beautiful, and each has a strong feeling of history, but it’s their atmosphere that really attracts me. They have similar birds too, and there always seems to be a coal tit somewhere in the churchyard. These lovely little creatures like conifers, but only Ilston has a great yew tree, which some say dates back to the building of the church in the 12th century.
In September, Ilston is quiet. There are no tourists with maps in hand looking for the path down to the sea through the churchyard. Beyond the lower gate, overnight rain has made the track wet, and it will stay this way from now until spring. I’ll need better footwear to walk down the valley over the next months. I retreat to the quiet of a bench with my back to the stream. I’m alone, there’s just the gentle sound of water behind me, and the distinctive rustle of hardening autumn leaves. Only a robin sings.
With the nights drawing in, and the sun getting lower in the sky, there’s much less warmth in the middle part of the day. The slight breeze is a little chilly, but not too cool to prevent a red admiral butterfly taking to the air. In the sunshine, golden lichen-covered gravestones are warm to the touch. On one, a female common darter sits motionless and beautifully camouflaged against the lichen, she doesn’t move, even when I get very close.
The swallows are gone from the stables across the road, I haven’t seen a migrant all morning, and it will soon be the time of year when we start looking for winter visitors. How quickly the seasons change.