From: "Andy Mayhew" To: xx@xx
Subject: Strange sounds in the hills
Date: Sat, 12 Apr 2003 12:52:54 +0100 (GMT Daylight Time)

Hi Dougie,

Heard of your website & experiences via The Angry Corrie.
I was over in the Fforest Fawr (Brecon Beacons, S Wales) for a couple of days this week and experienced something which hopefully helps throw further light on some of the 'mysterious noises' reported on your website.
Although not especially warm, the day (Tues 8th April) was cloud free and there was just a slight easterly breeze. I was descending westwards off Cefn Perfedd when I became aware of a strange sound, a little way upslope of me, that initially seemed to be a gurgling stream (impossible as there were no streams nearby, and in any case the ground was extremely dry). As it grew louder I thought it more closely resembled the extreme rustling of dry vegetation. Yet it was virtually calm. Then for about 5 seconds the wind increased and the sound was all around me, before both died away.
My impression was that I'd experienced a whirlwind travelling down the slope - although there was no swirling vegetation in the air to give it form - and the sound was caused by the way it agitated the dry grass. As it was otherwise calm, and quiet, this sound seemed louder and more distinct than it would on a normal windy day when such noise, being continuous, would hardly be noticed. Significantly, had I been a few yards further away, and not actually felt the wind increase, I would have been aware only of a sound moving down the slope, and seemingly coming from the ground.
In the reports of similar experiences (Meall Horn, Beinn Dronaig & Saileag) I notice that it was also fairly calm and sunny. Surely no coincidence.
I'm quite certain therefore that at least some of these events are caused by such whirlwinds - of varying size and intensity - which do indeed form in such weather conditions. Whilst similar 'dust devils' are commonly seen on lower ground, in the hills there may not always be sufficent loose vegetation or soil to be lifted into the air to give them form - hence they are heard but not seen.
One other thought - the experience also reminded me of folk tales of the Sluaigh - in earlier times it would be quite easy to attribute the sound to a large number of fairy folk moving invisibly down the hillside.....