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In The Carneddau

The author lived sporadically (“the 1300 foot contour line ran through the kitchen!”) in the Carneddau between 1965 and 1974 before he was “driven out” by low flying military aircraft and vandalism—vandalism to the property in Cwm Eigiau caused by a handful of individuals during his absence.

At work in the front room, Hafod y rhiw, circa 1968.
(Craig Eigiau “filling” the window.)

Craig Eigiau with Llyn Eigiau in "low ebb". Seen from Hafod y rhiw, circa 1968. (The craig rises to some 1200 ft. above the lake.)

In the Carneddau is based on diaries kept throughout the period. Topics covered include: the intricacies of the landscape and the weather, the use of the mountains by sheep farmers and the leisure and sporting fraternity.

“I do not find it easy to write about the land which is my home at the time when it is my home. The severance from Wales I have borne with a sadness impossible to define. I miss the landscape and the people. But the landscape has always been at the mercy of the pillagers; and now I am fearful of returning knowing I should be affronted by what I see as exploitation and degradation caused by the so-called wind farms, to say nothing of the continuing abuse by the military.”       [From the Preface.] 

Carnedd Llewelyn from the east (Craig yr Isfa left)

The Carneddau form the most sustained level of high, mountainous terrain in Wales. The area takes its name from the two principle summits, Carnedd Llewleyn and Carnedd Dafyd, 1,064 m (3,491 ft) and 1,044 m (3,425 ft) metres O.D. respectively. There are several other summits in the massif above the old 3.000-foot contour. All these lie to the north of the Nant Francon Valley whose southern flank includes the spectacular Glyder Range and the world-famous pyramidal summit, Tryfan.

The Carneddau are a diverse habitat ranging from the long summit of Tal y fan—610 m (2,001 ft)—in the north to the imposing Pen yr Ole wen—978 m (3,209 ft)—in the south. There are many lakes at differencing heights above sea level including one of the deepest lakes in Wales, Llyn Cowlyd. Hafod y rhiw is situated in the Eigiau Valley, closed at its southern end by the Bwlch Tremarchog. (The pass of the three horsemen would make a rough translation from the Welsh). Seen in the dip of the bwlch from certain vantage points is Tryfan with its towering, three sentinels of rock.

In Cwm Eigiau: The late Millicent Vetterlein below Craig yr Isfa, showing the Great Gully on Carnedd Llewelyn (Photo: F C Vetterlein, August 1967).



Llyn Eigiau viewed from the northern flanks of Pen Llithrig y Wrach (2622 ft.). The long summit in the left, distance is Tal y fan. (2001 ft.). F C Vetterlein looking north photographed by Millicent Vetterlein August 1967.

Portrait of an Island in Black & White


This is a book of photographs. I have chosen to represent my work in black and white rather than in colour for personal reasons. My father was a fine photographer. I grew up in a house of music and cameras. My visits to the darkroom before I was five years of age to watch my father at work with the “bromides” still has a mystical feel for me some sixty years on. This was a time in photography—before the commencement of the Second World War—when colour was in its infancy and digital lurking in the undreamed future.

All the photographs have been taken on the island of Rousay which has been my permanent home now for close on two decades and which I came to know many years earlier. That I am resident on this island is a miracle for me; I never dared to hope I would be in a position to sustain myself here. The island is changing rapidly, like everywhere else; I deplore this fact. There will be no place left soon free of the mad tear-about world that we have fahioned for ourselves.

The many ruins on Rousay are a photographer's paradise. Fortunately a good friend of mine, Tommy Gibson of Brinola, Rousay, and I photographed all the houses and ruins in a project covering the summer of 1996. Since then many of the ruins have been demolished or have deteriorated still further in the harsh winter gales. Our record is a priceless one, I feel.

John C Vetterlein


 BRINGS - Rousay


The images presented here are from the region on the island of Rousay running from Scabra Head to Sacquoy Head, a distance of around 4 miles; it embraces some of the most dramatic cliff scenery in Rousay. The highest point nearby is the Brae of Moan (401 ft). The Brings itself occupies a spit of land in the extreme north-west corner of the island. The soil is poor and supports numerous small colonies of Primula scotica.
Between Scabra and Bring Head, the land falls away into a broad valley, a region known as Quendal. This was once a settlement and includes the oldest known two-storey dwelling in Orkney - Tafts (now a ruin).
The coast from Bring Head to Sacquoy Head in the north, a distance of around one-and-a-half miles, is of great interest ornithologically. The cliffs themselves scarcely reach 200 feet (60 metres) in vertical height but the variety of forms - arches, geos and the stack of The Lobust - provide habitats for large numbers of sea birds. Here the Arctic Tern and Puffin find nesting places, indeed the Brings can be a dangerous place to roam from May to late June when the Terns strive to keep humans at bay.
The sequence of images runs roughly south to north ending in the small lochan of the Loch of Sacquoy. In dry summers the lochan may dry up completely.
Extracted from: Black & White: Portrait of an Island (in preparation).
John Vetterlein,

This is the sixth year in which the Rousay Calendar has been produced in colour.
In 2009, the International Year of Astronomy, we have featured skies predominantly.
John Vetterlein
December 2009 



This booklet contains mostly picturesphotographs, or as we say in the digital age, images.


Springfield, where I live, is situated on the east side of the island of Rousay, Orkney. The holding comprises about 18 acres, most of which is rough grazing and heather-clad. The land is above the road about 500 metres from the sea and at an average elevation of 50 metres.


The small house is surrounded by low trees and shrubs, predominately willow and fuchsia. Nesting birds include blackbird, occasionally song thrush, wrens, sparrows and starlings. Crows sometimes attempt to nest on the electricity poles and have been known to use the garden poplar and willows.


Out on the coarse ground oyster catcher, snipe and curlew nest regularly. This year we were honoured by the presence of the short-eared owl. The species is frequently to be seen hunting on this side of the island (see inside front cover). This is the first time in thirty-five years that I have known the bird to nest at Springfield.



From the text:


I had no real expectation that the birds would return on subsequent evenings. However, I made preparations to have all cameras at the ready in case this should happen. To my great surprise and delight, one of the birds returned on three consecutive evenings. It perched on an old willow close to the back of the house and within four or five feet of the window. The bird was quite aware of my presence but showed no alarm: it was almost as if he (or she) were posing for these photographs! On the evening of 16 July this bird (for which I have yet to settle on a name) turned up at 8 20 pm UT. It stayed around for a little over twenty minutes, during which time I secured over one-hundred images. It has not been seen since except in flight at the height of the day.



 John Vetterlein, July 2004




The Brightling Observatory: ISBN 1-902582-40-3

 I first became involved with the Brightling Observatory in the autumn of 1964 when working at R N Irving & Son, Teddington Road, near Hampton Wick, Middlesex.

The owner of the observatory, Hugh Malleson, had written to Ronald Irving concerning the dome which, as may be seen from the photographs, was mounted on the highest part of the building. The observatory had been used as a dwelling only in comparatively recent times (see historical background). Commander Malleson (Royal Navy retired) wished to use the observatory for its original purpose but found that the lead-clad dome had become to all intents and purposes a fixed structure. Ron invited me to look into the matter and so I made a visit to the observatory that year to assess the position.

The observatory was close to the highest piece of ground (620 feet OD, marked by an obelisk) for many miles and was ideally suited (or was in the days of its inception, Eastbourne now posing a light pollution hazard) for astronomical work.

I found the dome (approximately 8 feet in diameter) had been surmounted by a Negretti and Zambra cup anemometer, the control panel being read in the main room of the house on the ground floor. The narrow shutters were hinged but immovable, as was the dome itself, the large iron wheels on which it stood having seized. The construction of the dome was from wood sections covered with lead.

We undertook to remove the shutters and to replace them with a single lateral sliding stainless steel shutter. In addition we agreed to free the wheels and to conduct experiments to see if it might be possible to attach a motor drive for rotating the dome.
Freeing the dome for rotation was not such a great problem but, owing to the nature of the wheels and the track, rotation by hand proved a strenuous exercise. This was partly solved by fitting a low geared 1/3 h.p. electric motor acting by pressure and friction on the inner rim of the base of the dome. The speed of rotation was necessarily slow.

Up to this time Malleson possessed only a small Japanese refractor. We had often discussed the possibility of installing a larger instrument and so we eventually undertook to supply a Cassegrain type telescope of 8.5 inches aperture. This posed a problem at once since the aperture of the old dome was too narrow for a telescope of this aperture to function effectively.

Thus, a year or so later, Hugh Malleson (who had by now become a personal friend along with his wife, Vera and daughter Sophy) asked me if it might be possible to replace the entire dome with a lighter structure of modern design. As a result, I designed and made at R N Irving & Son the dome which is featured in the second series of photographs. This comprised a mild steel frame clad with stove enamelled duralumin sheeting. (It is to be noted that the anemometer was retained. This necessarily obstructed access to the zenith as well as posing some problems for the shutters.)

The dome rotated by means of ballraced wheels mounted on a circular track and driven by a small electric motor. The dome could be locked against rotation from the wind. There was also provision to prevent the dome from lifting.

The Dall-Cassegrain telescope was completed towards the end of 1966. On 1967 January 21, I was at Brightling carrying out final adjustments to the telescope and its mounting. The notes I made for the optical adjustment are too copious to be included in their entirety here.
Suffice to say the instrument was something of a prototype (the forerunner to the now familiar Schmidt-Cassegrain). Dall was a highly competent optical draftsman and the system, once adjusted, gave good results.

I was fortunate in that Jupiter was close to opposition (20 January). I noted that powers of 180x gave excellent image quality, but that there was considerable vibration from the observatory floor. This was especially so whenever anybody mounted the stairs. This weakness proved the limiting factor where the telescope was concerned. Long exposure photography was difficult since one had scarcely to move one’s body throughout the exposure! I had to conclude from this that the dome itself would have had limited use in Fuller’s time, presumably more as a “lookout” housing a small refractor, possibly. The larger instruments would have been used at ground level. I was unable to find any information as to the specification for the transit instrument.

The equatorial telescope mounting was by Ron Irving. There were some problems with the manual slow motion drives but the electric drive, once it had been fitted with a frequency stabilizer, proved satisfactory for most work. Hugh Malleson used the telescope mostly for interest. His photographs of the Moon were of a high standard.

[The observatory was featured in the “Observer” newspaper supplement, 1969, January 12.
A less informative piece appeared in the “Mail on Sunday”, 1996, May 12, by which time the building was under different ownership.]

John (C) Vetterlein 2001




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