Broadpool

Rufus and I head off to Broadpool a lot. It’s within 20 minutes of the house (on a good day with little traffic) and it’s a beautiful environment. Occasionally we have to give it a miss if there are cows around and I tend not to stop there if there are horses or sheep as they can easily be spooked and end up on the road. But more often than not we can spend up to an hour wandering around the lake and over the common. The variety of wildlife there is surprising. Apart from the farm animals, we’ve spotted rabbits, ducks and a solitary lapwing. I try and avoid the pool when the heron is there as she gets a lot of visitors and is very nervous. There are swifts and swallows, tree pipits, long tailed tits and geese. I’ve watched a barn owl hunting at the end of the day and recently a kestrel has watched over us as we walk.

Last Sunday it was a beautiful morning and we were at the lake before 8.30. The sun was warm and golden, the sky cloudless and the water mirror smooth. In the distance, cows called as milking time approached. We set off from the car and I let Rufus wander. We were testing Rufuscam which you can read about in this post, and he got some nice photos. All the wildlife photos here are from that morning.

I was happy witch my photos too and you can see them below. But how things change. At around 4pm, I saw a thin sea mist coming in over Mumbles and I thought it would make a great photograph to catch it in the sunset light over Broadpool. So Rufus and I jumped in the car and off we went. By the time we reached the pool, the visibility was down to yards and there was no sign of the sun. We went for a short walk in the gloom, which sucked all the colour from the landscape. Although the photos I took were in black and white anyway, had I used colour the only difference would have been a slight blue cast.

For most of the walk the road was invisible and only the sound of traffic betrayed it’s presence. In the distance, the cows still called, along with sheep and horses. The familiar became unfamiliar. It’s what I like about Broadpool; there’s always something different.

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A walk on the common

Bank Holiday Monday. Sunny but with rain coming in around lunchtime. No surprise there, but what should we do? I had a meeting with Rufus, my outdoor pursuits consultant, and he suggested a walk on the common while the good weather lasted. There may have been some bias in his coming to that decision, but I trust his judgement.

I decided to write a lighter blog after yesterday’s and it seemed a good idea to base it on a typical walk in Gower – one of the ones we do all the time and take for granted. So here it is. You have been warned.

Where we go on Fairwood Common is dictated by the location of the livestock there. Farmers get free grazing on this land and in that past we have encountered one several times who believes the land is his own personal possession. As I like to let Rufus off the lead as much as possible, I always look for the cows and sheep and avoid them. Today the cows, along with some horses and foals, were at the top of the common so we had free range. I parked the car off the road and we set off along an old and overgrown access road built for the airport when it was an RAF fighter station. Near here were a dead badger and a dead fox – I’d seen them before so I kept Rufus on the lead until we’d passed. Further along the road was the corpse of a dead cow, but that had been moved since we were last here. It was safe to let Rufus off the lead now and he went trotting ahead as we weaved through bushes and tree branches, all the while the birds singing from the cover of the branches.

At the perimeter fence, we usually see rabbits beyond in the airport. There weren’t any today; maybe we were a bit late. But Rufus picked up their scent and spent a few minutes trying to squeeze himself through the chain links. Giving up, he padded along the fence heading north along the line of the main runway. Two planes were flying, taking turns to land and take off before circling around again.

This part of the common is littered with the remains of WW2 buildings. Most of them are little more than concrete foundations; some are raised above the level of the ground and one or two have several courses of red brick poking above the marsh. Today, Rufus passed all of these and made for the end of the runway. I let him choose the route as he has an uncanny knack of finding trails and paths.

Fairwood Airport was built as a fighter station at the beginning of WW2. Thousands of tons of ballast and slag from the local steel and copper works were deposited in the marshy area known as Pennard Burch. Time was found to excavate two burial mounds in the area before they were covered by the runways. The airfield was open in 1941 and played host to a number of squadrons and aircraft types. It now hosts one of the Wales Air Ambulance helicopters, which was taking off as we walked, as well as the Swansea Skydiving Club and a number of private planes.

At the far end of the runway, we watched the planes coming and going, including the large aircraft used to take skydivers into the air. A smaller aeroplane had to dodge out of the way as the big plane taxied to our end of the runway. Beneath out feet, the marsh land was in evidence and I though that it was amazing how they were able to build on this type of ground. According to the records, damp and drainage were constant problems throughout the war at this base. Rufus disappeared in the long marsh grass but I was able to follow his progress by the splash and squelch noises he made as he explored. He wasn’t worried by the low flying aeroplanes.

We turned back and went onto firmer ground slightly above the level of the airfield. From here, it’s clear that the airfield is built in a dip in the ground. Not an ideal location, but it is the flattest part of the common and the only suitable place to site the runway. We were walking through the remains of the buildings now and Rufus climbed on to every foundation raft to make sure it was clear of local critters. We made our way further from the perimeter fence to a point that would have had a clear view of the whole airfield. Trees now block the way, but they are recent additions. Years ago, I found the half buried entrance to what I thought was the Battle HQ for RAF Fairwood Common. A recent check of a site map proved me correct. Nearby are the filled in remains of two infantry trenches, and between them is the holdfast for a small gun, possible an anti aircraft weapon.

It was all downhill from here and the car was visible from this part of the common. It’s at this stage that Rufus normally slows down. Not because he’s tired but because he doesn’t want to go home. Today, he was too caught up in the smells of the countryside and he ranged either side of me until I eventually had to put him on the lead when we got close to the road. There was a lot of traffic as people took advantage of the sun to get out into Gower.

Then we were back at the car and our walk was over. We’d done just over two miles in about 80 minutes. No records were in danger of being broken today, but that’s not the point of our walks. It’s all about enjoying and having fun. And that we did.

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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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4 hours

A day off these days means a day of hard work. This fortnight, I have to get in at least three 4 hour walks but I intend do fit in as many as I can. So, with Rufus comfortable on the back seat, we set off for Llyn y Fan Fach. It’s a long drive and we were bored by the time we reached the lanes leading to the car park. I hate driving along the single track roads but fortunately, we encountered nothing more than a couple of bold finches before we finally bounced and splashed our way down the track to the car park.

It didn’t take long to get set and head off and we weren’t bothered by the sheep, who scattered out of our way long before we reached them. One hid below the path but Rufus found her. She ran and in a display of self control Rufus just trotted back onto the path and ignored her.

By the time we reached the lake, the visibility had dropped and we were walking in the clouds. After a brief stop for stones and paddling, we set off along what looked like the right path up the side of the mountain. Although I was carrying 13kg today, it didn’t feel too bad. I guess the gym and other training I’m doing is paying off. As we climbed, the visibility dropped, but so did the temperature so the humidity we’d started in disappeared and it felt comfortable. There was a strong wind blowing over the lip of the drop down to the lake.

The climb was fairly constant – ideal for training – and continued until we reached the cairn at Picws Du. We stopped there for snacks and a rest before heading back down. Rufus was happy – we were heading back tot he lake and more paddling opportunities. On the way we passed a lone walker who remarked that we were fools to be on a mountain in these conditions and we both laughed. Later, we passed a group of Duke of Edinburgh award candidates, loaded down with all the gear and up for any challenge.

As we dropped down the clouds lifted and there was a hint of blue sky. At the lake, it was warm and clear and we spent 10 minutes or so splashing about. Then, with a promise to Rufus of a visit to the river, we walked down the track and back to the car.

After dropping the pack off, I took Rufus back up to the river and while he paddled and swam after the stones I threw him, I took some photos of the waterfalls. Tired, we called it a day and drove back down the track. At the end, where it becomes a road again, I was stopped by a farmer who asked if I would wait while her sheep were brought down the lane. To have gone on would have meant getting blocked and disturbing the sheep. So I waited, and we chatted. They were moving their sheep from pastures several miles away to the farm near the lake and this flock were new ewes and lambs, so they didn’t know where they were going. Once the sheep had passed, she thanked me and I drove on. Not 10 minutes later, I was stopped by another farmer, this time herding cows across the road. Again we waited a few minutes and then were able to carry on.

We were glad to get home, to eat and to finally be able to put our feet up. Rufus was flat out asleep on my lap as soon as I’d finished dinner and stayed there for a couple of hours, snoring, dreaming and then squirming to make himself more comfy.

Today we did 11km and climbed more than 600m in around 4 hours.

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It’s only rain…

Training for the trek is stepping up now. I have to take advantage of every opportunity to get the hours in. The training plan calls for 3-4hr hikes at the moment. I’m happy, having done several 4-5hrs walks with Rufus on our lads week but I have to make sure that I keep up the pace and don’t become over confident. So the prospect of rain this morning wasn’t going to put me off getting out.

I went to see if Rufus wanted to come out and, surprise surprise, he did! We set off for Whiteford again. As we drove, the rain started. It wasn’t heavy but it was constant. It wasn’t cold either which would make the rain easier to cope with. We parked up and I got all my waterproofs on. Rufus waited impatiently, hurrying me up with little yaps and whines. Then we were off.

Last week, we explored a new route and I decided to try a slight detour along another new route. Not knowing where it would lead, we set off along a sunken lane signposted ‘Betty Church. There was no Betty and no church, but we soon got to a flat clearing in the woods. There was no obvious path but when I looked over the edge of the clearing, I saw that we were about 20 feet above the Cwm Ivy wood path that we used last week. There seemed to be an easy bit leading down so we went for it. Rufus charged off and I followed. But as soon as we got down the level of the path, we saw the thing wire fence topped with barbed wire. Rufus was all for jumping it but I stopped him. Instead, we went looking for a gap, or a part of the fence that was down.

Rufus was bounding up and down along the fence, while I was slipping and sliding as the ground was sloping and muddy. Inevitably, I went flying after stepping on a slippery tree root. As I lay on my side, Rufus bounded up and I swear that if he had been able to laugh, he would have been hysterical. Instead, he poked his nose in my face, backed off and as soon as I got up, he wagged his tail and jumped up to give my face a lick. Then we went looking for the gap in the fence again and he was bouncing around. Eventually, I found part of the fence flattened where a tree had fallen on it. I called Rufus and looked up, to see him vaulting the fence a little further off. We finally made it to the path.

From there, we followed a familiar route along the boundary wall by the estuary. Rufus desperately wanted to paddle in the water but it was thick with mud and he was good enough to listen to me and not wander off. We negotiated a solitary cow near the path (the others were behind a fence) and we made our way out onto the dune system and along to Whiteford Point. Today the tide was further in but on its way out. Fortunately for me, the big pool Rufus played in last week was still there, so I spent some time throwing stones for Rufus to retrieve.

By now the rain was getting a little heavier and it was quite miserable out, so we turned for home. I decided to walk along the beach on the way back – something we hadn;t down for a while. There was a wind blowing in from the sea and the rain continued to dampen our clothes, but not our spirits. The receding tide left lots of scents and aromas for Rufus to investigate. I just stuck my head down and trudged.

At the exit tot he beach, I put Rufus on the lead as there was a sign warning dog owners of ground nesting birds. Most of Whiteford is a nature reserve and we’ve seen lots of Lapwings and Sandmartins. Today, we also spotted several Common Shelduck on the marshland of the estuary. There were also some horses that appeared to be fighting – they might have been playing as there were foals around of various ages.

Walking back up towards Cwm Ivy, both of us could hear cows and they sounded perturbed. After our encounter with cows at Pembrey, I was a bit wary of what we’d see when we came over the hill. Sure enough, near the junction with the coastal path there were a lot of cows milling about and calling. A farmer was herding them out of the field to take them up through the village and who knows where. We backed off; the presence of Rufus may have made it harder for them to control the herd. The sounds uf mildly annoyed bovines slowly faded as they made their way along the path that we would shortly be following.

I gave them five minutes, then we set off. They stayed ahead of us but they left behind them the most awful stench and almost constant stream of dung; it took concentration to avoid every drop! But we did it and finally made the car.

Our route today.

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Rufus and Dave’s lads week day 7 – The Bovine Dimension (By Rufus)

I popped in to see Dave early this morning. Awww, he was sleeping and looked so relaxed. So I didn’t shove my nose in his face to wake him up. I went back to bed and waited until 5.30. Too long in bed isn’t good for him. To be fair, he got up and we went out to make sure the garden was still there (I understand there is a fox around and I wouldn’t want her to steal Dave’s garden).

We went back to bed for a lie-in. Yesterday’s adventures took their toll on Dave so I let him rest. We got up around 8am and I let him make breakfast as he likes to feel useful when I’m around. We watched tv for a bit and then we had a chat about what we were going to do today. Dave suggested Pembrey and I thought that would be a good place to go – plenty of places toe xplore and things for Dave to photograph. It’s also flat, which means he wouldn’t be pushing himself too much after yesterday.

Dave drove. He likes that kind of thing. I prefer to contemplate the world from the back seat. I know my rightful place. We left the car and made our way along the estuary to the north of Pembrey airfield. Today, as we walked along, there were swans, lots of geese flying low overhead (they nearly bumped into Dave) and several herds of cows. The cows were all in the distance though, so there was no need to dodge them like we did last time. We walked past the pillboxes (for some reason, Dave likes these) and through the outer perimeter of Pembrey airfield. Apparently, according to Mr Interesting, it used to be a WW2 airfield and most of the derelict buildings date from then.

We entered the forest on a track that ultimately leads to the bombing and gunnery range. Last time I was here with Dave they had just finished landing Hercules aircraft on Cefn Sidan and when we got there, we had to dodge out of the way as several large fire engines made their way from the beach. There was nothing going on today so we had the run of the track. There were plenty of puddle for me to paddle in (my paws get hot with all the walking) and Dave seemed happy enough with his camera. Before long, we got to the beach. I haven’t been to the beach for a while so it was great to be able to run off in the soft sand.

Dave threw sticks and I made sure I gathered them up; you can’t be too careful leaving sticks just anywhere on the beach. The tide was going out but I managed to get some more paddling in. We had some snacks and I made sure Dave had a drink; he gets thirsty but sometimes he won’t drink. Then it was time to head back to the car. We took the same route back. By the time we reached the airfield again, one of the herds of cows had moved and some of them were very close to the path. We both decided to take it easy walking past them. I ignored them and carried on past. When I turned around to look, two cows were running straight towards Dave.

I had to stifle a laugh. He does some daft things but turning to face them, waving his arms in the air and talking to them like he talks to me was rather funny. They stopped and he turned to go and they started towards him again. I think they were after me, as they were staring at me. Dave turned to face them again and started shouting at them. I think they got the message because they stopped. They only came after us again after we’d gone through the gate and reached the path by the estuary. I enjoy a little bit of adventure on our walks.

Just before we reached the car, we saw a grey heron that had been in the pool with the swans.

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More Holiday

As part of his holiday (but I’m not sure what his holiday is from), Rufus has been staying with me so that we can get out and about early. Over the last few days, we’ve been on mountains, on beaches and for long walks in between.

Fan Nedd is a favourite and has featured here before. It’s a short hill, less than a mile from car to top, but it has a number of extensions we can add, including a long one to Fan Gyhirych. This time we were content with walking along the ridge and past the trig point until the ground started to drop away again on the far side. In all, we managed about 2.7 miles. Compare that with the 42 miles a walker we met was doing for charity and it pales into insignificance but it was enough for us.

Cefn Bryn needs no introduction, and on Friday, we walked the whole length of the ridge until we were overlooking Three Cliffs and Penmaen on the coast. It was windy but not cold and the views from the top down to the sea were beautiful. It reminded me that I hadn’t been to Three Cliffs for ages. When I was in college, a bunch of friends and I would meet up during the summer holidays and head off to Penmaen and Tor Bay, just to to the right of Three Cliffs. We’d spend the day on the beach and every so often, one person would have to walk back up to the car park where a little shop sold ice cream and cold drinks. It was a hard slog up dunes before a long walk along a hot path to the shop. It’s still a¬† great memory, though.

On Saturday, we went down to Three Cliffs and Penmaen very early in the morning. Still we didn’t have it to ourselves. A sea fisherman was casting into the incoming tide. I couldn’t see if he was catching anything. Joggers passed us by and one or two local dog walkers shared the beach. Beneath Pennard Castle, we saw cows making their way down the dunes to the river. It was a warm morning and pleasant walking along the beach. But eventually, we had to make our way back up the dunes and that was hard going. At the top, I made a detour to visit the remains of an Iron Age fort on the headland overlooking the cliffs. All that remains now are earth banks with a gap between them, but they are still quite impressive and give an idea of what it must have looked like in the past. Much of the interior has eroded way so its not clear how big it would have been.

Beyond the fort is a chambered burial tomb that would have been there long before the walls and ditched of the defensive structure were built. But it might have influenced it’s placement; the area was clearly important to the early inhabitants of Gower. Now all that it left of the tomb is a massive collapsed capstone and the uprights that would have supported it. Two stones set at right angles to the line of the monument form an entrance portal and there are two more stones that seem to form a short passage outside the tomb.

Then it was back to the car and home for second breakfast.

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