When I go walking in the hills, I usually borrow my friend’s dog, Rufus. He’s great company and the perfect motivator. If I’m lagging behind a bit, I look up and he’s on some hillock or rock way ahead of me, giving me a look that says ‘keep up, there’s a good boy’. Today was no exception. We headed off to climb Fan Nedd, not far from Ystradfellte.
The morning was grim and grey. In fact, as we set off from the car I was wondering if we’d get a thunder storm, it was that dark and humid. I had to carry Rufus over a cattle grid as a helpful farmer had tied the gate in place. Rufus wasn’t too bothered, he enjoyed the luxury. He then vaulted a stile and we were on the hillside. I’d decided to take the long route up and so we started up the slope. It was hard going at first, as we were walking through a marsh punctuated by islands of grassy clumps. It made it hard to get a rhythm going and poor old Rufus kept disappearing in the grass before hopping back up again. Every so often, my foot would drop into some mud filled hole.
Then we got to firmer ground and I started to enjoy the morning. Ahead, Fan Nedd was shrouded in a cap of mist but a wind had started up that kept the heat at bay. Before long we cane across a marker stone set vertically in the ground. On it’s northern face it had the single letter ‘S’ carved into it. The top was quite pointed, like a finger. We left it behind and continued on. The slope was a little less steep now so it was a chance to get a break from the hard going of the first 20 minutes.
Rufus started ranging far and wide, showing no interest in the sheep all around despite their attempts to deal with the imminent arrival of both of us. Sheep tend to react either by pretending there’s no problem, staring intently at us hoping sheer willpower will divert us from the path or by running. Often they will run in the same direction as we are going only to show extreme surprise that we are still heading towards them.
We reached the first little cairn just as the mist was lifting from the top of Fan Nedd itself. From this point, the going was quite flat and easy going. I strolled along, Rufus ran ahead. He reached the trig point before me and waited, with only a little impatient pacing about. He knew I’d give him water and some treats here and sure enough, I did. We made our way over the ridge of the mountain to the drystone cairn on the summit of Fan Nedd, where we had a magnificent view down the valley of the Afon Senni to Heol Senni and beyond. I love this view and no matter how many times I see it, it’s striking and different. Below, to the right was the standing stone ‘Maen Llia’. On our left was Fan Gyhriych, another favourite destination but one which was not on today’s schedule.
After some more treats and water, we headed back along the ridge to the trig point and back down towards the car. This time, Rufus was off and away and by the time I looked up I could see just a tiny little black speck in the grass. With only a hint of smugness, I passed a couple of walkers heading up to where we’d already been.
Back at the marsh, I couldn’t see Rufus anywhere. He often disappears and I’m not usually worried as he always shows up again, hoping he’ll have another treat if he gets the look of ‘exhausted but loyal hound’ just right. (Invariably, he does). After a while, I spotted his head just rising from the level of the grass, checking that i was still around.
We got back to the stile to see a great congregation of sheep lying at the side of the road. There must have been 70 or 80 altogether. For a moment, I wondered if this was retribution for all the times we’ve disturbed them in the past. But on seeing us, they got up as one and started bleating and milling about, undecided as to which way to run. Two even ran towards the cattle grid and as I watched, they tried to run across. Their legs slipped between the grills but rather than being put off, they carried on slipping and sliding over the grid until they got over to the other side. I was impressed but Rufus ignored them as I carried him over the cattle grid again, and we got back to the car without incident.