A walk in the park

Yesterday was a washout, both literally (I don’t think it stopped raining all day) and metaphorically (as we had to stay in most of the day). I managed to get lots done on the photobook from our visit to Krakow last year but really both Rufus and I were feeling a little stir crazy.

We woke up this morning to more of the same weather and a forecast that said it would be wet all day. Faced with the prospect of another day stuck in the living room, we took an executive decision to go out regardless of the weather. After a second fortifying coffee, I got ready and got Rufus ready and without knowing what the weather was doing, we left the house.

It was raining, a steady, drab, grey rain accompanied by warm, humid air without a breeze to cool us off. The worst kind of rain in my opinion. We headed off to the local park as I hoped there’d be enough trees to give us some form of shelter for much of the walk. I’d forgotten how difficult the parking was and we circumnavigated the park looking for somewhere to stop. Eventually a space appeared and we dived in.

Usually the park is full of dog walkers and wouldn’t be my first choice of venue but my assumption that the rain would put many off was borne out and we had the park pretty much to ourselves. One or two dedicated walkers passed us with cheery smiles which helped in the grey morning. All the dogs we met were older and slower and like their owners, they were at their retirement age. I liked the idea of having somewhere to go for a gentle walk and it reminded me that Rufus is slowing down a little now, as am I.

The bluebells and snowdrops under the trees were still bright and fresh and some of the purples were strikingly deep and rich. The grass was a bright green too, and like the blades in my garden, were growing fast despite a recent cut. Trees were blossoming and despite my use of the the word grey and drab to describe the day, there was a magnificent range of colours in the park to brighten the day up.

Birds were taking advantage of the lack of activity and singing loudly. Several robins crossed out path, used to human activity and not at all concerned by Rufus’ presence. Crows pecked at the ground to lure worms to the surface and blackbirds darted about the tree branches, taking advantage of the new leaf canopy and the shelter it provided.

I’ve been going to Singleton Park for years. It formed a regular route as part of my daily training for treks and I’d often be seen there with camera and telephoto lens snapping away at the squirrels and other wildlife. I remember watching a man trying to coax a bird of prey out of the trees. When I asked, he explained that he’d made the mistake of feeding it before he’d exercised it and now it was sitting in the branches taking a post luncheon siesta. I’ve played gigs in the park as part of bank holiday events, once drowning out the next door ‘Its a Knockout’ event with our excessive volume. Early band publicity photos were taken at the modern stone circle, erected at the beginning of the 20th Century as part of the Eisteddfod celebrations.

Back home, both of us were soaked through to the skin but only one of us got a reward for allowing the other one to towel dry him. Life is unfair sometimes.

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Play misty

The weather forecast was right. At 7am it was raining a fine, heavy drizzle. I know because Rufus had decided we should be out in it. Shortly afterwards, and somewhat damply, we had breakfast. I was tempted to head out then – spend some time getting thoroughly soaked and then spend the rest of the day drying off. But we decided to wait for a while and sure enough, the thick mist lifted a little until I could see the end of the garden.

The original plan was to head out to Whiteford but as we drove out to Gower, I wasn’t sure how long we’d actually be out. Rather than spend 45 minutes getting there, I thought it would be better to keep the travel time short so we could get a longer walk in. So we diverted to Cefn Bryn, avoiding the cyclists and the yellow jacketed people trying to direct traffic, and halved the time we were in the car.

On the ridge, the visibility was minimal and we headed off in the direction I hoped Arthur’s Stone would be. With no landmarks visible in any direction, it felt odd walking what was a very familiar path. It seemed that in no time we’d reached the burial chamber and we spent a few minutes exploring before turning back for the car. In no time we were back at the car park, and we cautiously crossed the road to head off along the ridge to the water reservoir above Three Cliffs.

Strange shapes loomed out of the mist, where the visibility had increased to about 10 yards. Mostly they were gorse bushes but occasionally they were sheep, horses and cows. Apart from the wind, it was eerily silent on the walk and this added to the spooky feeling of having no familiar landmarks to tell me how far we’d come. Even the small hill leading to the reservoir was indistinguishable without some means of seeing the lie of the land. Before we knew it, we were at the reservoir and the little summit of rocks about 100m further on.

We didn’t stay long – both of us being soaked through – and we made our way back to the car at a fair old pace. Once again we came across sheep, horses, a tiny foal (late in the year?) and more sheep. We also spotted two groups of manhole covers, painted yellow, blue and red, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Very surreal. We could hear the traffic on the road a long time before we saw it and I made sure Rufus was on the lead as I still didn’t know exactly where we were.

Back at the car, two damp boys were glad to be heading home for coffee and a treat for being a good boy and doing everything I asked. I was happy because my leg hadn’t fallen off despite walking at a fast pace for a reasonable distance. It all bodes well for another stab at Kilimanjaro on January.

This is today’s route.

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Dodging the rain

Dave:  A day off! Wake up late. Well, wake up at the usual time because it’s become a habit. Then doze and have strange dreams about being lost in the car park of a fictional out of town shopping centre. Then get up late. Breakfast. Grab a camera and head off to call for Rufus so we can explore the river before the rain comes. The weather forecast said we had until about 12.30.

Rufus: I am told Dave is coming over this morning. I’m trying to remain cool but it’s hard to concentrate on things like breakfast when I know I will have the responsibility of making sure he doesn’t fall in the water or make a fool of himself some other way.

Dave: The traffic isn’t as bad as I expected until I hit the lane, when it becomes like a London street. Nevertheless, I make it on time to avoid disappointing Rufus.

Rufus: Dave is all excited when he arrives, and to make him feel at home, I make a fuss of him. Then he starts gossiping with my house mate, and fussing over the cat. I start to push him towards the door. He’s quite heavy since he’s stopped taking me for long walks, so it’s hard work. Eventually, I get him to the door. We leave. He’s parked the car miles from the house and it’s raining, so we get wet. I don’t care, I plan to get soaked before the morning is out. 

Dave: The rain is quite heavy as we drive to the river, although the forecast says it will stop soon. In the distance, I can see the clouds getting brighter, which means they are thinning. There is hope. We park up by the side of the road and, with Rufus’ sighs reminding me I’m too slow in getting out of the car, I unleash him on the river.

Rufus: As Dave gets older, he gets slower. It’s sad but a fact of life. We were wasting precious paddling time while he tried to remember where he was and what he was doing. I tried politely to remind him.  

Dave: Rufus was in the water before I could close the door. As I walked along the riverbank, he waded along the middle of the river. After a few minutes the rain stopped and the sun came out. There was even a bit of blue sky peeping through the cloud cover. Although I wasn’t there to take photos, I couldn’t help but snap a few shots. I crossed the river and made my way up the other side to the stone circle. Rufus had a sniff around and made sure he featured in a few of my snaps.

Rufus: I had to stifle a laugh as I watched Dave try to cross the river. He tip-toed, wobbled, slipped and finally scrambled across. But he kept throwing stones for me so I did make an effort not to tease him. On the hill there were a lot of little stones arranged in a circle and they all needed investigating but Dave seemed to a little frustrated and didn’t want to take my portrait.

Dave: We made our way up the hill a little before joining a sheep trail and walking above the river. Sheep parted as we progressed and Rufus was well behaved; they didn’t distract him from his mission to find more water. It may have been because they were sprayed various bright colours. I’d seen this before on the mountain. Red (although it faded to pink) green and blue sheep all mixed up and spread across the slopes. Today we only saw pink sheep.

Rufus: The sheep were all different psychedelic colours, man. I wonder what was in the treats Dave gave me? I tried to ignore them but they were everywhere. In the end I pretended I hadn’t seen them and concentrated on finding the river.

Dave: Rufus weaved and wandered as we made our way along the path., But then he spotted a dip in the ground, quite far ahead. He immediately recognised it as the course of the river. although no water was visible. Without hesitating, he ran off towards it. It took me five minutes to walk to the river, during which time he’d popped his head up to make sure I was following.

Rufus: I’ve been studying geography recently and can now spot the signs of rivers and streams quite easily. I led the way so Dave knew where we needed to go to find stones, but as usual he was slow so I checked up on him to see that he wasn’t lost. 

Dave: We walked on a little, following the river up to a couple of pools where I knew Rufus would be able to swim. Sure enough, with a little encouragement, he paddled, bobbed and was swimming around.

Rufus: The river was a welcome sight as I needed to cool my paws. And then I got to have a dip and a swim. Nothing beats wild swimming on a warm Autumn afternoon.

Dave: We made our way back to the car by following the river all the way. Rufus only left the water to deposit stones on the riverbank before immediately heading back into the river. I threw some little stones for Rufus to catch, which he is getting good at now. But the ones he liked best were the ones he could find and bring back out of the water. We found another long stretch of deep water and he spent a few minutes swimming lengths for the sheer joy – no stones were involved.

Rufus: I like the challenge of finding a route through water. I like to give Dave something to occupy him so I make a big fuss of catching stones he throws, even if some of them go a little off target. But then we found a big pool and I had a swim back and forth to get the cobwebs out of the muscles. And t was a nice way to wash off the dirt of the walk.

Dave: In the car, Rufus cleaned himself then settled back for a snooze.

Rufus: You never know who you’re going to meet so I think it pays to look good at all times. When Dave drives, it’s boring unless he has to stop suddenly, so I tend to doze.

Dave: Rufus is staying over this evening so when we got home, we had brunch and settled down to dry off and watch a movie on the TV.

Rufus: Dave’s lap is an efficient means to dry my fur.

Dave: I think there’ll be another early morning tomorrow.

Rufus: You think? I know!

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