Run to the Hills

After some shorter walks of late, it was time for Rufus and I to head off to the hills. Neither of us had done much recently; I’ve been choosing woods and commons for our strolls so I can get some photos of the local wildlife, so the bigger hills were out. Instead, I decided to head off the Lly y Fan Fawr, a favourite of Rufus’ and sufficiently challenging to make a nice return to proper walking. As Rufus is getting on a little (don’t tell him I said so), I keep an eye on him to make sure he’s not overdoing things but he’s always been an active and fit hound, and he enjoys the outdoors.

I was disheartened to find sheep everywhere when we parked up. Rufus isn’t interested n sheep unless they run. Sheep are only interested in running when they see us. As a result, I always have Rufus on the lead when we’re near enough that he might chase them. For the first half hour, he was on and off the lead as we encountered sheep hiding in dips, skulking by the river and popping up from behind boulders. But in between, we were able to get some quality stone catching and dredging done. I am clearly improving in my stone throwing skills as Rufus didn’t have to bark once.

As we followed the river up the hill, the sheep disappeared and I was able to let Rufus roam. This is where I wanted to check to see if he was okay and not getting tired. I needn’t have worried. While he isn’t as fast as he used to be, he still has the energy to range across the hillside, occasionally stopping to make sure I’m ok. In fact, I found myself running out of puff and Rufus was coming back to urge me on.

On the way up, I saw a pair of bright purple flowers on their own and standing out against the green of the moorland. Not being a flower expert, I couldn’t identify them but they looked vaguely orchid-like to me. I snapped away until Rufus came to hurry me along.

It was boggy underfoot. No surprise there after our recent rainfall, so I was very quickly soaked. Rufus isn’t bothered by the water so I decided not to be either. After several close shaves, where I nearly disappeared into the bog (well, maybe not quite) the lake appeared ahead and Rufus was off. Fan Brecheiniog was capped by a blanket of cloud, as was the far end of the lake.

We didn’t stay long as a cool breeze was blowing, and without the sun to warm us up it was getting a little cold. Rufus shot off and I let him choose the path going back down. We meandered down the hill, always heading towards the river. Such are Rufus’ priorities. I got even more soaked than I was already but we quickly reached the upper streams that feed into the Tawe. Then we followed the water down, past sheep and waterfalls, towards the car.

On the way back, I spotted an odd looking flower and leaf on the rocks by a waterfall. The leaves looked like little troughs with curled edges and the flower was tiny, blue and four petalled.  I took a few photos and once again, Rufus came along to see what the delay was.

After some more stone catching, I had to put Rufus on the lead to pass another small flock of sheep. These all had pink heads (no drugs, just dye to identify the owners) and it reminded me of a walk here a few years ago where I came across lines of sheep with pink, green or blue dye. They all stayed together in their respective colours, but moved in one long line, following a path across the hill.

Above us, a red kit circled and swooped, probably watching the lambs. In the distance across the road, I could see three more. We reached the car without incident, having walked three miles in just under two hours.

Back home, I managed to identify the two flowers. The purple one was an Irish Marsh Orchid and the little purple one was a Common Butterwort. The Butterwort is carnivorous and traps insects in the curled leaves with a stick coating.

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Mind altering substances

Back to the late 60’s today – experimenting with new drugs! But wait, you say, Dave is an innocent. He wouldn’t do that! Read on…

The plan to day was to walk for between 5 and 6 hours on the hills, including as much ascent as I could fit in. But I’m also recovering from Housemid’s Knee so it wasn’t as clear cut as it first seemed. And to add to the adventure, I’d got my anti-malaria tablets and the stuff I’ll be taking to try and prevent altitude sickness (diamox). What better opportunity to try them out for side effects? (I should add that both were prescribed by my GP, who is an expedition medic with two Kilimanjaro summits to his credit, and they were both private prescriptions so the NHS didn’t pay).

So I popped the pills (as they would have said back in the day) and waited half an hour to see if the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything popped into my head in swirls of prurple haze. It didn’t, so I set off for Fan Llia instead.

I was trying to get my pace down to around 3km/h, which is the upper end of the pace we’ll be expected to keep on the trek itself. The route in my head was one I’d done before but at a faster pace. I left the car just before 8am and was climbing steadily towards the cairn that marks the top of Fan Llia. The weather was almost perfect; some sun, a breeze to keep me cool and clear views all around. In the distance to the north I could see dark ran clouds but they were passing by with no risk of soaking me.

From the top of Fan Llia I made my way northwards along the ridge over Fan Dringarth and across Cefn Perfedd. From there, I headed back south with the intention of climbing Fan Fawr. I’ve done this one a couple of times with Rufus from the east, where the climb is short but steep. Today’s route was longer but the slope was more gentle. At the cairn on Fan Fawr, a large group of walkers were gathered. I don’t like huge groups of people – part of the enjoyment of hill walking for me is being alone or with one or two good friends who will share the personal experience. So I avoided the group and let then leave first.

The plan was to head down to Ystradfellte reservoir, which I’d seen so many times from Fan Llia but which I’d never visited. it was a long stretch of open moorland with a moderate downward slope and I used the waking pole to take the strain off my knee. The walking group drew further ahead and as I dropped closer to the water, I saw them start up the other side. It looked steep and they strung out very quickly into a snaking line of colourful walking jackets. My plan was to skirt the reservoir and use the access road as an easy final km or so to the car. But seeing the walkers climbing Fan Llia, I thought I’d give it a go. I was feeling pretty good.

The climb was steep and I set a slow pace to try and do it in one go without taking a break. In fact, I did it with one short stop to take photos. At the top by the cairn, the group were having a rest and for the 30 minutes or so that I was plodding up the hill, I felt they were watching me. I avoided them again, missing the cairn and turning south to head along and then down the ridge back to the car park.

I got back to the car some 6 hours after I’d left – on target for me. Various bits of me were aching, some more than others. But nothing had fallen off. More importantly, I hadn’t disappeared into a puff of purple clouds as a result of my experimentation with my new medication. The only side effect of the diamox was the extra pee stops. It’s meant to do this as part of it’s action against altitude sickness.

This is today’s route.

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