Why we walk the hills

By Dave and Rufus.

There is no sound other than the birds high up in the sky and the gentle breeze making its way through the grass. The early morning sun is shining with a yellow glow, the air is crisp and clear and the remains of last night’s frost crunches under foot. In puddles, ice has formed random and surreal patterns that few will see. It’s warm despite the early hour. The noise of traffic is not invited here.

From the top of Moel Feity, our venue for today, there is a panoramic view of mountains and countryside. in the distance to the north a line of clouds have formed, as if waiting to enter into our arena. But they’re not allowed to spoil the morning. To the west, Fan Brecheiniog looks grey with it’s thin coating of frost yet to be touched by the sun. A small cloud pops over the top and spills down towards Llyn y Fan Fawr like a slow motion waterfall. The twin table tops of Corn Du and Pen y Fan are silhouetted off to the east. Even at this early hour they are probably busy with those keen to be the highest people south of Snowdonia.

We have this hill to ourselves. We can go where ever we want. There are little paths and tracks that the sheep have worn over the years but the sheep are all gathered together further down the valley this morning. We choose to follow the paths or not as the whim takes us.

He’s going to start going on about how time has no meaning next. I know, and I apologise on behalf of my human. Allow him his indulgence.

There is no sign of the passage of time other than the distant clouds and the mist on Fan Brecheiniog. Even the sun is lazy this morning.

There. See. 

We come across the little memorial to the crew of Liberator 38753 and a little later, a small pile of aluminium, some melted, which has been gathered from the crash site. I stop to tidy them both up as I always do when we come here, and we spend a moment or two having a think before moving on.

We walk the hills because of all these things and the things we will see next time. Sometimes its for the challenge, sometimes it’s to get away from the crap and sometimes its to get to the top.

Before he gets too carried away with the artistic dribble, lets talk about the real reason we walk the hills. Dave has this need to prove himself and I have to tag along just to make sure he doesn’t overdo things. I don’t mind; he’s good to me so I return the favour. When I wasn’t well, he stayed with me so he’s a bit out of shape right now. In the past he’s done it to get fit to climb hills in other countries – without me! But I don’t care really because I enjoy walking the hills with Dave.

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Toys 2

Last week I wrote about the abortive attempts to try out my new neutral density filter. Not in any way put off, we set off this morning for the River Tawe again. And once again the clouds, absent from the sky when we started, built up as we travelled north. By the time I was parking the car, there were ominous black clouds over Moel Feity and a descending mist over Fan Brecheiniog. Last time I saw these kinds of conditions, it was 12 months ago and you can read about the experience here.   Nervously, I started off towards the river. Rufus was completely oblivious and, of course, his was the right attitude. After a short drizzly rain shower, the blue skies appeared and the sun grew quite hot.

The first part of our walk was pure exercise. We walked and splashed our way along the river and up towards a drystone walled sheep fold, long out of use. It’s photogenic in most conditions – my preference is for grey misty light but in the low winter sun it made a nice subject.

We wandered back to the car and after a little drink, we set off down the river to find the bigger waterfalls. This time, the sun was out and warming my back but a cold wind was blowing along the valley. It didn’t stop us having fun and around the water. Because the new filter required much longer exposure times, I was able to throw stones for Rufus as I waited for the exposure to end.

I was pleased with the results of the photographs with the filter. There is a slight blue colour cast which can be easily corrected on the PC and I dare say I could create a custom white balance for it. I was hoping for some clouds in the sky so that their movement would show up on the final image but there was nothing in the direction I was looking. Of course, in the opposite direction there were plenty of clouds, but that was facing the sun and away from the waterfalls. I’ll have to seek some new locations for this filter and I already have some ideas and places in mind.

Looking at the track of our wanderings it seems that we walked north and south of the car and must have covered around a mile just taking snaps and throwing stones.

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It’s all relative, really.

In between the showers today, we managed to get out to Broadpool for an hour’s walk but the whole time we were there, I was watching the dark clouds massing over Cefn Bryn, waiting to drench us. No sooner had we got back to the car than the heavens opened again; we were fortunate to miss getting soaked.

The rain continued steadily for the next few hours but a few minutes ago, I noticed the sun shining through the curtains and sure enough, there was blue sky above and the sun was quite warm. So out into the garden we went, eager to take advantage of any break in the rain. Rufus explored the garden, checking for intruders, and I grabbed my camera and went in search of things in the tiny world.

Bored with photography, Rufus left me to it and headed back to the sofa. I found two spiders remaking their webs, and started snapping away. It got me thinking though. My thoughts when I saw the rain this morning were around avoiding the inconvenience and discomfort of getting wet. The big garden spider I watched remaking it’s web was more concerned about getting it’s source of food set up again after it had been destroyed by the wind and rain.

The last photo I took was just after the spider got fed up of me snapping away and retreated under a leaf. I decided to leave it alone after that, to give it a chance to complete it’s housework before the next shower.

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Rufus and Dave’s Fortnight of Fun part 8: Chill out

After yesterday’s marathon peak bagging session, we both needed a quieter day. So while Rufus dozed, I went back to the local museum to see their 1914-18 exhibition. It was interesting to see the local aspect of how the Great War had affected lives at home. Panels detailed a number of individual’s experiences of the war, and of course, many of them didn’t survive the conflict. There were also a number of personal exhibits that emphasised the role of the individual rather than the anonymous numbers that appear in the history books. Letters home, written in pencil, sounded hopeful (in the sense that you always try and make light of a bad situation, plus you don’t want to scare your loved ones). But alongside the letter was another from the commanding officer to the parents expressing his sympathy at the loss of their son.

I shared the exhibition with a bunch of schoolkids. I hope they were able to pick up on the reality of what they were seeing. These are the people who need to remember and understand what war is really like so that the likelihood of it happening again is lessened.

When i got home, Rufus persuaded me that a short trip out was required and we ended up at the Tawe. It was a gorgeous evening with deep blue skies and fluffy white clouds. Rufus splashed about tin the river and I managed to get some photos of the sky. At one point, a strange wispy cloud passed over head. We got home a little chilly; Rufus’ paws were cold and so were his ears! I’ve never seen that with him before, so I spent some time warming up his feet before making tea.

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Heavy rain with a chance of getting soaked

The weather forecast said rain and that’s my excuse for having a lie- in. I say lie-in, of course I was up at 5.30am at the request of the boss for a quick sprint out into the drizzle before we both went back for another hour or so of kip.

The plan for today was to get some shopping done and then some chores around the house while the weather was bad. But as is the way with Welsh climate, when I got up for breakfast, the sun was shining. Breakfast and shopping over, there was no sign of rain so we had a brief discussion and Rufus decided we’d better head off to the hills to take advantage of the sun. Of course, as we left the house, it started to rain again but it’s only water so we hopped in the car and set off.

We went back to the river. We were there on Wednesday evening and as we wandered along the river bank, we were buzzed by an RAF Typhoon. This afternoon, there was no activity as we walked along the riverbank up towards Fan Brecheiniog. I had no firm plans for where to go and I thought we’d just wander and see where our noses took us.

Rufus’ nose took him into a deep pool and at first he was happy swimming about. But there was a strong current under the surface and I could see he was being swept off course. There was no real risk of him being swept away as the water left the pool in quite a narrow and shallow waterfall. But he wasn’t happy so I called him over to the bank. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make it to the shallow bit as the current was strong, so he tried to climb a steep part of the bank. Between us, we managed to get him out of the water; I dragged him up and on to me and he kicked out with his back legs. I was drenched! Rufus was happy.

We carried on and with the sun shining and a breeze keeping the temperature comfortable, we headed up the hill towards Llyn y Fan Fawr. After the last day’s rain, the going was extremely soggy but we finally made it to the shore. We haven’t been there for a while and it was nice to see it in the sunlight. We walked around the shore and while I threw stones for Rufus to chase and catch, he splashed about in the shallow water. The level of the lake was much lower than usual even with the heavy rain we had yesterday; I don’t think I’ve seen it that low.

By the time we’d made a complete circuit of the lake, the cloud was heading back over the mountain. As we set off to the car, the rain started; light at first but getting heavier as we went. The only good thing was that I had my back tot he direction of the wind, which was gusting quite strongly. I was resigned to getting a soaking. Rufus was already wet from his dips in the river and the lake so he’d didn’t see the problem. About half way down the hill, the rain stopped and the sun came out again.

Back home, we both sat back on the sofa and there was much snoring!

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Slick

Poor old Rufus. Yesterday, with the prospect of thunder and lightning and with the knowledge that I’d be home early, I left him indoors. If he’d been out and there had been a storm, I don’t know where he would have ended up and that would have worried me all morning. So he had the run of the house. He was also booked in for a hair cut in the afternoon, so I’d have to race home lunchtime and get him, drop him off at the stylist and pick him up again several hours later.

Well, there was no storm and when I got home, I was late. Rufus didn’t really know what was going on as I tried to explain to him while letting him have a run in the garden and making a fuss of him at the same time. Within 30 minutes, I’d got him in the car and dropped him off. Poor old Rufus.

But when I picked him up again, he was looking good. And he knew it! With his fur shaved back to a smooth and short length, he was no longer panting in the sunshine. We headed home, paused long enough to change out of my work clothes and into something more appropriate and we were off again to Broadpool, where Rufus enjoyed a run, jump, paddle, bound, run again and (of course) a dip in a muddy pool.

This morning we headed off to Mynydd Betws for a longer walk. I’ve been reluctant to take him on longer walks recently because of the heat but now his fur was shorter, and the day was cooler, off we went. I was interested in the clouds that were around this morning. I’ve started a project to take infra red photos of clouds and looking out of the window before we left, there were great billowing cumulus clouds everywhere. I was a little nervous, as thunder was forecast for the day but the walks I had in mind would be okay, with plenty of advanced warning of an approaching storm. And it would give me a chance to snap more clouds.

There is a wind farm on Mynydd Betws and I’ve mentioned the location before. It’s a great walk, though, and we started off in the woods to the north of the Upper Lliw reservoir. Only the sound of birds could be heard in the woods and it was very tranquil and not too hot. We walked amongst the trees for a while and then off to the side, where there is a convenient gasp in the fence that allows us to reach a small stream. Rufus was in it before I’d managed to duck under the fence. I stopped to take some photos and Rufus let me!

Next, we went back to the car through the woods once more. I turned to check on Rufus only to find him sporting a cool new wool scarf. I think he must have caught his collar on it, and it stuck but he showed no interest in removing it. Not knowing where it had been, I took it off. A few minutes later, I turned to find he had now managed to get more wool on his nose.

We drove off to the wind farm on top of Mynydd Betws and walked out to one of the turbines. The skies were magnificent and I used the Infra red camera to capture a lot of the cloud forms, which were changing and developing minute by minute. While I was looking around I noticed a trig point shining in the sun on the next hill over. With no firm plans to follow, I decided to walk over to it and Rufus was more than happy to follow. Of course, he got there before me and was waiting patiently as I arrived.

Looking back to the car, which seemed a long way off all of a sudden, I noticed a big black cloud making its way slowly towards us. At the very least we would be soaked if that decided to unleash its contents on it. A big sign near one of the turbines had casually warned not to approach the tower if there was lightning about. We decided to make our way back to the car. The cloud was moving quite slowly and I was still tempted to stop and take photos so it took a little while to reach the car. As we did so, I felt several large blobs of rain on my face.

Driving home,. we passed under and beyond the cloud, which spent a few minutes trying to soak us. But on the other side there was sunshine and no sign of the expected storms.

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Wednesday

The predicted gorgeous summer’s day showed up on cue this morning and so a surprised Rufus found me getting out of bed as soon as he came to wake me up.

(Yeah, because normally it takes several attempts before you wake up and we’ve usually missed half the day by then.)

Breakfast was a formality.

(It may well have been for you, but breakfast is important to a pedigree hound.)

We set off for the Llia valley. No hills today, just a nice long stroll along the river. It was too hot for either of us to climb a mountain.

(Speak for yourself. I could have sprinted up and down before the sun had a chance to warm me up.)

I parked up next to the river, balancing the car on the edge of a drop down to the water.

(I could have done with a parachute when I jumped out of the car.)

There followed an hour of splashing, jumping, paddling, swimming, barking and catching stones.

(And endless photograph taking.)

And then we jumped back in the car for a short spring down to the forestry car park, where I thought we’d be able to walk through the woods by the river, taking advantage of the shade. But only a few yards away from the car park, several trees had come down and blocked the path. There was no way around so after some more paddling…

(…and barking…)

…and barking, we crossed the river and took a short walk up along the forestry road until, about 150 yards beyond the bridge, more trees blocked the route. They all seem to have toppled as a result of landslip followed by high winds, as all the trees affected were on slopes and the earth around them had also moved.

I stood for a moment looking back down the forestry track and listening to the sounds. The birds were singing but it was a different sound to the dawn chorus, more upbeat and sharp. Very faintly, I could hear sheep. There was no wind in the tree tops today and everything was still.

It was getting hot without a cooling breeze so we turned back for the car, home and second breakfast.

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