The belt of Venus a sunrise and a snow moon


The Belt of Venus seen from the Whispering Tree.

The spring equinox is March 20th this year in the Northern Hemisphere so there is some time to wait until its officially spring. However over the last week we have had a nice break in the spell of bad weather and a lovely clear blue has instead graced our skies. Friday was particularly nice and I think there was a real sense of "spring" in the air. I could not wait until the weekend.

My friend Paul Coombes and I had planned to chance walking up the Folly for a sunrise. The forecast however was showing a cloudy start which had us both doubting whether it was a good idea but in the end we decided to roll the dice and leave it all to lady luck.

Sunrise is now getting earlier and earlier. That is the downside of spring months getting up at stupid o'clock to walk to a good location becomes a lot more challenging as its always going to mean a very early start.

As we headed off to the Folly at 5.30 am on Saturday morning Paul and I had a cloudless sky above us. The "Snow" moon , which is the last full moon before the spring equinox was shining brightly in a star filled sky. Speeding across the night sky was a very bright object which we discovered was the  International Space Station. What a great start to the walk.

My friend Paul looking very intrepid as he ascends the Grotto Slopes with a full moon in the distance

Walking up the steep slopes that lead to the Shell Grotto is always a challenge even in the day time. The moonlight was pretty good but Paul wanted to use his head torch so he didn't trip up. It looks pretty cool in the photograph I think. The moon in the distance was so bright it looked almost like the sun.

Nightscape. The view from the Grotto hill.

The night sky was ever changing as we progressed up the mountain. The colours on the horizon were producing all kinds of different hues of blue, red, orange and purple. It was like the dimmer switch was very so slightly being turned off.

The panoramic view across Pontypool, Cwmbran and even Newport was amazing. We practiced some night photography and I think I have got some of best pictures yet of the towns boroughs nightscape.

The Snow Moon in the Belt of Venus over the British.

Eventually we made it to the Whispering Tree ( that's what I call it and shown in my first picture of the blog).

I stopped for a breather and looked to the West and noticed that sky had turned a purple colour and the setting moon above the British looked amazing set against this colour.

The “Belt of Venus” is apparently an atmospheric phenomenon that creates a pink band in the sky at sunrise and sunset.( Ref 1) ( and thanks Paul for telling me about this as I love to learn these fascinating facts.)

Fencing everywhere

Finally we made it to the Folly and we were in for quite a shock. There was now a muddy lane, that was bordered all the way to the Folly Lane by rows of fencing. In order to access the "Folly" you had to use some access gates. There are now signs up warning people to keep their dogs on a lead and notices stating that it is private land etc but access is allowed around the Folly.

Its not pretty on the eye and in my opinion has ruined some of the view points especially under the tree near the stone wall. So the pictures I have taken in recent weeks before all this construction are now quite unique.

The question I had at the forefront of my mind was "Why"? I can only speculate but I suspect its to stop trespassing, protect livestock as I think dogs running off the lead have been an issue as the field often has some big but docile black coloured cattle.

That being said and done however I have heard the fencing work is so a a hedge can be planted. It will be interesting to see how all this works out and hopefully it will not be so impacting on the view.

A new view that may be an "Offence to some peoples eyes" as it spoils the landscape somewhat.

I walked to my favourite spot and I could not help but feel a little upset that I could no longer stand under the tree. The view had now changed forever. I guess the fencing makes good leading lines for a photograph but I much preferred how it used to look.

The snow moon, the old tree and stone wall.

I made my way back to the Folly and looked back towards the moon it was starting to set and was now getting very low and looked very large in the sky.


Down the Moon went like a giant Deathstar off Star Wars over the British.

We began our decent from the Folly and looked out over New Inn. There was incredible blanket of mist that had spread from the far horizon - the Severn Estuary and was now starting to cover Newport and beyond. The rising sun caused it all to glow an amazing shade of orange.

The mist on the horizon and New Inn

Lady luck had graced us with some fantastic weather, A vista to behold just a about a mile away from our doorsteps.

What a great place to live. ( Hopefully I will get over the fencing eventually!)

Ref 1-


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