High Tide

The tide on Whiteford beach is scary. One minute the water is so far away that I can barely make out the breakers, and the next they spray is covering my glasses with a thin coat of salt. I’ve watched it race towards the shore in a continuous roll, I’ve felt it snap at my heels as I’ve retreated from it and I’ve walked out to the lighthouse when it’s been at its lowest. The prospect of a higher than usual (I’d read it would be the highest for 18 years, which is a lunar cycle) Spring tide this morning eased the decision on where to take Rufus for his weekend walk.

We left the house in the dark and reached the car park near Cwm Ivy before the sun had come up. By the time we’d walked through the woods and onto the beach, a beautiful morning was shaping up. The sea was choppy and the tide was fully in. It was the highest I’ve ever seen there, with the waves undercutting of the dunes in places. We walked along a narrow strip of sand between dune and sea until the waves barred the way, when we climbed up onto the tops of the dunes and made our way across the headland to the opposite side.

Out of the wind it was warm as the sun rose, not like a February morning at all. Walking in sand is tiring but great exercise and we had plenty of that as we made our way to the tip of the headland. Once out of the shelter, the wind picked up again and it was time to don gloves and hat and do up the coat. Rufus, with his permanent fur coat was happy to have a cooling breeze again.

We’d spent less than an hour in the dunes but already the tide had receded significantly. The lighthouse was still surrounded by the sea and on its metal skeleton, cormorants perched, warming in the sun. On the beach, lapwings and sandpipers scurried to and fro with the incoming and outgoing waves. As we walked back along the beach, a huge flock of sandpipers flew low over the sea. There must have been more than 100 of them flying parallel to the shore.

There was a lot of rubbish on the high water mark; most of it seemed to be plastic and I wished I’d brought a bag to put it in. I grabbed a tangle of plastic fishing line, which I brought home to dispose of. I’ve seen first hand what that can do and it’s not pleasant. One of the items washed up was an old football. It seemed to be a decent one, with stitched panels, and there was no sign of damage. It was just a little deflated (well, you would be too if you’d been abandoned on the beach). I kicked it, Rufus chased it and there followed a new form of football; one in which use of the mouth was allowed. I tried explaining to Rufus the rules of the game, but he just ran off and dared me to get the ball off him. He carried the ball for quite a while – unusual for him – and only dropped it when lured by the tempting aroma of some long dead aquatic creature. So I brought it home and it’s now in the back garden.

By now, the tide had all but disappeared and where earlier we were hugging the sand dunes, now we were able to range across the sand. But somehow, we’d done more than 5 miles, so it was time to head back to the car. Wet paws collected much sand as we crossed the dunes again and soon we were on the long uphill drag to the car park. A deep puddle solved the sandy paws issue and we were both grateful to reach the car.

Snoring occurred in the car on the way home, but I would not betray our friendship by saying from whom the snoring came.

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The ones that got away

We had a lie in this morning to allow the bad weather to clear, so it was a relatively late 10am when we left the car to walk through Cwm Ivy woods out towards Landimore. The sky was still grey and there was a threat of rain, as the shower we passed through get here proved. It was humid, too, and probably the most uncomfortable kind of weather to be walking in, too. But we both needed a long walk to stretch legs, bust some stress and breathe some fresh air.

I always have a camera with me and this time it was a small compact that I could hide away if the rain came. But it’s slow to start up and so I’m prone to miss fleeting snapshot opportunities with it. Today, I’d regret that.

First regret was not getting a photo of the grey squirrel that ran over an overhanging branch while Rufus watched, open-jawed. He was aware that there were loads more around, judging by the nose up, stand still attitude he adopted several times. But from my slightly higher viewpoint, I could see them hopping and scurrying around in the vegetation, occasionally darting up a tree.

Then, as I was concentrating on the squirrels, I failed to notice the cow by the side of the path. In my defence, so did Rufus. But I didn’t fail to spot the thick copper ring in his nose. Finally, just before I chose retreat, I noticed the thin metal wire of a fence between us and the bull.

We wandered on, both a little more wary of our surroundings. Although there were a lot of leaves on the ground, there was very little Autumn colour in the trees, which was disappointing. But I was in a black and white mood with the camera, so I didn’t miss too much.

The sea wall path is still closed because of damage following the storms earlier this year. So today, we took a different path across the marsh and heading off towards Landimore. It was very muddy, as I expected, and there were great pools of water from rough trenches cut into the marsh. Of course, Rufus managed to explore most of them.

On the way back, we took more notice of our surroundings. I wanted to try and get photos of the bull, particularly the copper ring, and the squirrels. I was hoping to get a photo of Rufus and a squirrel in the same shot. But the bull had gone and the squirrels were camera shy. But as we neared the little village of Cwm Ivy, I heard a commotion over in the fields on the right and I looked to see a buzzard chasing a heron low across the field, just above the heads of curious cows. I was so surprised that I didn’t even reach for the camera until they had both disappeared behind a tree. There was more commotions but I would be surprised if the buzzard got the better of the heron, as herons are big birds.

Any one of those sights would have made a great photos, one I could be proud of. I missed the lot. Time to give up the camera and pick up the crochet needles.

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The Seaside

Yesterday, Rufus and I went down to the seaside. We haven’t been to Whiteford for a while and the morning was nice and warm without being too hot, so it seemed like an ideal time to reacquaint ourselves. I used Whiteford a lot during the early days of my trek preparation, and I know Rufus loves the area, so it seemed like a good idea.

We walked through Cwm Ivy wood to get to the dune system. Walking through the wood reminded me of the walk through the rain forest at the start of the Kilimanjaro trek. In fact, I remember thinking the same thing during the trek and mentioned it in my journal. The 20 minutes or so we spent in the woods brought back lots of memories; the only thing missing was the sound of  Turacos calling in the tree tops.

Then, suddenly, we were through two gates and out onto the sea wall that marks the boundary between the salt marches of the Loughor Estuary and the pasture of Cwm Ivy. This had been damaged in the storms earlier this year and the path had only just been reopened. A large section of sea wall had been washed away where a stream passes beneath it; a wooden bridge had been built over the breach.

It didn’t take long to get to the dunes and I found that great parts of it had been fenced off (or in, depending on which side of the fence you were on). I think it was to control the sheep as there were fewer around that on our last visit. In the distance, I could hear the sea which meant the tide was coming in. We headed across the dunes to the beach and sure enough, there was the sea.

There followed a long session of throwing sticks and fetching sticks as we slowly made our way along the water’s edge towards Whiteford Point. The beach was ours; there wasn’t a soul around. In the far distance, on a sandbank, a flock of Oystercatchers flapped and fluttered. We got closer to them until Rufus managed to spook them and they took off in one mass, flying low over the sea to another sandbank.

Walking back through the dunes, I heard the sound of aircraft and spotted a group of five planes performing aerobatics over the Loughor Estuary. It looked as if they were practising and as I watched, they looped and spun and dived with a large cumulus cloud as a backdrop. It reminded me of a painting of a Spitfire against billowing clouds.

It was getting hot as we headed back to the car, so the shade of the wood was welcome for both Rufus and me. We got back to the car having walked 5 miles and spent 3 hours in the sunshine. There was much snoring in the house in the afternoon.

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Whiteford

It was lovely out at 6 this morning. I know because my housemate, Rufus, insisted on demonstrating it to me. It was so nice that we decided to have a quick breakfast and head out for a nice walk in the sun.

At 7.30am, we were at Whiteford. The sun was up and shining although clouds partially obscured it. Nevertheless, we set off eager to wander through Cwm Ivy Wood and on to the dunes behind Whiteford beach. Alas, it was not to be. A small sign attached to the gatepost at the edge of the wood announced that the sea wall path was closed as it had been damaged in the storms we had recently. It’s a key part of the route – the difference between a circular walk and a rather short out and back sprint. So instead, we went through the village and on to the beach via Cwm Ivy Tor.

On the beach, the sun was out and busy warming up the morning. Rufus chased sticks into the sea and trotted up and down the beach. We walked without any firm direction up and down along the tide line. We met several dog walkers and a jogger and it seemed that everyone was in a good mood to match the fantastic morning. It was the longest walk we’d done since I got back from Kilimanjaro. I didn’t really want to stop as the day was so lovely. But both of us are getting on a bit now, and there were things to do at home, too. So reluctantly, we both set off back to the car.

Rufus attracted spotted a large group of walkers and he waded into a deep puddle and stood up to his belly in the cooling water as everyone walked past. Of course, people were remarking on it, and Rufus loved the attention. We strolled back tot he car and drove home.

Of course, all that sand and muddy water meant that Rufus was in need of a shower and it was the first thing we did when we got home. Despite silent protests, (he’s not keen on the idea of a shower although he’s very good while it’s happening) Rufus deposited what seemed like most of the beach into my shower and then careered around the house drying himself off on anything that would absorb water. It’s his way of getting revenge for the indignity of the ordeal of being cleaned!

We sat out in the garden for Rufus to dry off and for me to enjoy a cup of coffee. I could live like this all the time!

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Weekend Training

As you may have noticed by the theme of the last few posts, I’ve stepped up my training for the trek. I have to increase the time I’m out and I have to walk with weights to prepare for carrying the back pack. Based on experience, I think my trekking back pack will weigh 5-6kg so I’m trying to regularly train with at least twice that weight, often more if I can. I feel that the heavier the load I can manage regularly, the better it will be on the day. In the hot weather we have at the moment, it’s easy to make that weight up with water.

Yesterday, Rufus and I went out to Whiteford for a stroll. As we were walking through Cwm Ivy, I spotted a signpost for a footpath we had never tried before. I thought it would be something different, and it offered us the opportunity to walk through woods for a large part of the distance which would mean cooler conditions. Even at 8.30 am the temperature was climbing and neither of us like the heat of midday.

The path through Cwm Ivy wood was undulating but shaded by trees to give a gentle, green light. It twisted and turned until it was hard to judge which direction we were heading, but every now and then I caught glimpses of the dunes and pine woods of Whiteford burrows. Eventually, we left the canopy of trees and emerged at the edge of the salt marshes where we turned left to walk along the sea wall towards the dunes. I decided to stick with the trees as much as possible, so we left the main path and headed inot the woods. There was a nice breeze between the trees and we ambled along enjoying the morning.

We popped out onto the beach at Whiteford Point. I was hoping the tide would be in for Rufus to have a paddle but it was a distant line. However, there was a large pool of seawater close in and almost as soon as I had registered it, Rufus was in it up to his knees. There followed a 30 minute splash and chase session which Rufus enjoyed so much that he even ignored a passing dog in favour of the next stone. I turned to leave; an act that was met with a frantic series of barks which reminded me that Rufus actually runs our walks and I just participate. His barks echoed off the trees but in doing so, they lost some of their bass frequencies so although a large Cocker Spaniel barked, a tiny Terrier answered back.

Eventually, I persuaded Rufus that we had to leave and he reluctantly agreed. We headed back into the woods and weaved our way between paths, tracks and dunes. We went back through Cwm Ivy wood but even here the heat was growing and the tress that sheltered us from the sun also blocked any cooling breeze. In the car, the air conditioning was on full and we both enjoyed the fridge-like temperatures on the way home.

Today, I was up a little later after a late finishing gig last night. Rufus was home and so I decided to take a stroll down to the beach and as far as I felt like going. I was still sleepy when I left the house the the mile down to the sea front was enough to wake me up. I walked along the beach as the tide went out. There was a cooling breeze coming in from the sea which made the walking more pleasant. I managed to reach Oystermouth before deciding to turn back. By the time I got closer to Swansea again, the beach was full of people.

Swansea beach is a lovely stretch of sand that is hindered only by the unpredictable weather and a line of mud just below the high tide mark. I have great memories from my childhood of going to ‘the sands’ as I called them. Whenever I visited my grandparents (which was every 2-3 years as we stayed with them while my dad was posted from RAF station to station and was arranging accommodation), we would always go to ‘the sands’. I remember going there one day and seeing JCBs filling trucks full of the sand. I was distraught as being only 6 I thought the beach would disappear. Later I found out the sand was transported to Blackpool, of all places.

A good weekend of training, but I have to up the walking time over the next few weeks.

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