Here, there and everywhere

If you’ve been following this blog then you may have picked up that I’m trying to capture an image (or many images) of trees in the mist. The forest I’m counting on to provide the goods is Brynllefrith Plantation, and it has featured in the blog several times. This weekend, the weather conditions seemed to be favourable for a nice early morning mist and as a bonus, we’d had some lovely sunrises too. The temptation to catch both was too good to miss.  We dragged ourselves out of bed and fuelled up with coffee, toast and, for Rufus, a ragout of beef and vegetables (he has better taste than I, and expects a different level of cuisine). Then we were out of the door and off to the woods.

Plans rarely survive first contact with the enemy. Ours didn’t. The sun rose behind a grey wall of cloud and only at the very last minute did a small, pinkish patch of sky appear briefly. The mist that should have been delicately entwining the trees didn’t materialise either. Instead, the grey sky produce a flat lighting that was very uncomplimentary. But it was ideal for macro work, so that’s what I started with.

As we walked into the forest along the rough track, cows called to one another from somewhere ahead. But their calls were strange and very unbovine-like. The still air and the tress made them sound alien and immediately reminded me of Jurassic Park. Who knows what dinosaurs really sounded like, but it was easy to imagine being in a world of giant monsters as the cows continued to call out.

The grey skies cleared and between the trees I could see hints of blue which very quickly became larger patches of blue. There was no chance of mist now, so I decided to move on somewhere else and give Rufus a change of scenery. He’s probably getting tired of Brynllefrith.

We ended up in Ferryside and by now the sun was shining and the day had become a lovely, almost summery one. We walked along the narrow stretch of sand that was all that was left as the tide came in. I tried checking on my phone whether the tide was turning but there was no signal. One look at the way the water was getting closer was all I needed and we had to make a rapid retreat back to the car park or risk getting stuck and having to walk along the railway lines, which follow the curve of the estuary.

On Sunday, I was determined to have another go at the mist and sunrise. So slightly later than Saturday, we set off back to Brynllefrith. This time we were rewarded with the latter stages of a beautiful sunrise over Cwm Clydach. There was a vague hint of mist but not enough for what I wanted. I like to pre-visualise photographs as it helps to concentrate the mind. In the past, photographic expeditions have degenerated into snap-shooting sessions with no direction or purpose. The danger with pre-visualisation, though, is that you can miss other opportunities in the quest for the one image.

With no sign of mist, and no likelihood either, we set off to explore the head of the Upper Lliw reservoir that snuggles up to the edge of the forest. It was mirror smooth in the still air of the early morning and although the colours were muted by the clouds, which had appeared after the sunrise, it was tranquil and beautiful. Rufus and I had fine time trying to find a path to the water’s edge without getting too muddy, or cut to pieces by the thorn bushes. Rufus was able to sneak underneath the bushes. I had to crash through them. We both survived and made it back to the car.

By now, the day was warming up as it had yesterday. So rather than head home, we set off for more adventures in the wilds. After a brief stop on Fairwood Common to get some photos of the mist rising in a small river valley, we headed on to Broadpool for a quick circumnavigation of the pool in the now warm mid morning.

Finally, it was back home for a belated breakfast and a snooze on the sofa.

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Weekend

Both of us have been feeling under the weather this weekend. Rufus woke up on Saturday with a bad belly – I knew there was something wrong when he wouldn’t have any breakfast. Not even a morsel of scone. I felt as if I was coming down with a cold – sore through, headache and a bit of a dodgy tummy too. Being blokes, these were no ordinary, mild illnesses and so we decided to have a poorly lads day in.

All morning, Rufus’ belly rumbled and squeaked and he struggled to find somewhere comfy to settle. Eventually, my bed seemed his favourite spot, so apart from occasionally checking on him, I left him be. I spent the morning channel hooping and doing some housekeeping on the PC.

After lunch, Rufus had picked up a bit – the test is always will he eat a piece of chicken. He did, and after he’d eaten some dog biscuits as well, I decided we should go out for a breath of fresh air. We headed out for a quick wander on Fairwood Common. Neither of us was feeling particularly energetic but we had half an hour of fresh air, during which time we watched two lots of parachutists drop from the sky, whooping and screaming. I was surprised at how quickly they descended once the parachutes were open.

Back in the house, the inevitable consequence of a bad belly started. There’s no delicate way to say that Rufus started farting and didn’t stop all night. By now he was eating  properly but this didn;t help. By the end of the night, I had to be careful not to accidentally create a spark or the whole house would have gone up in a flash of flame and smoke.

This morning, we were both feeling a lot better so after breakfast, we set off for a walk on Cefn Bryn. It was a lovely morning and everywhere I thought of going, there were sheep, horses of cattle. In many of our usual spots, there were combinations of animals. So we ended up walking out to Arthur’s Stone. The view across the Loughor Estuary was fantastic and still air meant that the sound of the countryside – dogs barking, sheep and cattle and birds – were clear and sharp.

About half way around our routes, I crested a little hill to see a herd of wild horses galloping towards us. They were far enough away to allow us time to get out of the way, but for a few minutes there was some urgency to our walk. It turned out they were being scared by a quad bike that was coming up behind them. At first, I thought it was someone deliberately herding them, but the quad bike turned off after a while and left the horses alone. By now, they were following us although without the influence of the bike, they were no longer galloping. Nevertheless, for the last 20 minutes of our walk, they followed us at our pace, some 50 yards or so behind us.

In the tradition of lads sticking together, it would be wrong of me to mention that one of us tried to steal a bar of chocolate from another one of us, unsuccessfully.

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That and this

Rufus allowed me a lie-in on Saturday morning. Of course, he checked on me several times between 5.30 and 6.30, just to make sure everything was okay but he didn’t insist I got up until just before 7am. After all, there was sunshine to take advantage of and he had to make sure the garden was still there.

After we’d patrolled the grounds and breakfasted, we set off for Broadpool. It was a bit windy for the dragonflies and damselflies I was hoping to take photos of but it’a a nice spot and there’s plenty for Rufus to explore too. Conscious of the last time we visited here, when Rufus managed to find and roll in something too horrible for words, I kept him away from the second pond and we contented ourselves with a stroll around Broadpool itself. In the distance, two riders took their horses across the road and up towards the ridge of Cefn Bryn.

After our circumnavigation of the pool, we crossed over to the other side of the road and I threw sticks for Rufus to chase. He tends to keep them for himself and the only way to retrieve them is to find another one because, as we all know, the best stick is the one just about to be thrown. So we progressed along, stick by stick. I managed to satisfy Rufus’ exacting standards as measured by the lack of barking. Only once was I reminded that stick throwing must be carried out quickly and efficiently.

On the way home, we stopped at the wood on Fairwood common for another little stroll. This one was amongst long grass and ferns and Rufus managed to get the equivalent of a shower just by walking through them. There were hundreds of blackberries and I regretted not bringing a container to put them in.

With Rufus safely home for a rest, I got ready to play in the band in the evening. This was a christening booked by people who had seen us play in a pub. From previous experience, not the best recipe as how we play in a pub is rarely appropriate for parties unless the audience is a pub crowd. We can turn our hand to most things, but we don’t really want to as it’s not what we do best or what we enjoy the most. Nevertheless, the night went well and it was a welcome earlyish finish.

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Nature walk

Following on from yesterday’s workout on Bannau Sir Gaer, we decided to take things a little easier this morning. Rufus was up at 5am but it didn’t take much persuading for him to head back to his bed. We eventually arose to lovely sunshine at about 6.30. After breakfast and the traditional garden stroll we set off to Fairwood Common so that I could take photos of the early morning wildlife, and Rufus could get wet and muddy (as is set out in the terms and conditions I agreed to when he first let me take him for a walk).

We parked up not far from Ilston and, skirting the two tents set up at the side of the road, we made our way through ferns and bog to the little river. This can be a trickle or a proper river and today it was closer to proper river. By the time I’d clambered over fallen tree trunks and through brambles, Rufus was in the water waiting patiently. Stones were thrown. I must have done it well because he didn’t bark. While I set up the tripod, he explored the opposite bank and judging by the noises in the branches above us, he startled some birds.

I managed to get some photos I was happy with and we both started to wander along the river bank. We found a lovely stretch of water and Rufus was straight in, wading and then swimming without me having to throw anything for him. It was cooling and he loves swimming, so it was easy to imagine a smile on his face.

Inevitably, I took too long over taking photos, and the barking started. I understand my place and role and quickly concentrated on stone throwing.

We left the river, crossed the road and headed off towards the airport. The grass and ferns were longer here away from the shelter of the trees, and Rufus disappeared in some of the undergrowth, only to bob up again and he jumped a thorny branch or checked to see if I was following. Ever since I’ve taken him for walks, I have played hide and seek with him with the intention that he will always turn back to look for me if we lose sight of each other. I still play now and again, but I always know that he won’t stray far before turning back to spot me.

Before I knew it, we’d been out for two hours. The sun was warm and it was a bit uncomfortably humid for my liking, so we headed back to the car. Back home we checked the garden again and then one of us fell fast asleep on the sofa, while the other one made coffee and uploaded the morning’s photos onto the computer.

I have no idea how far we walked today but it wasn’t much more than a mile. You could measure the ascent in centimetres. But fun was had by all.

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Dave and Rufus’ lads week day 8 – Fairwood and the shower

It’s the last day of our lads week today. I’m off to pick up Rufus’ owner from the airport in a few hours. So for this morning’s walk, we decided just to have a short leisurely stroll around Fairwood Common. We’ve done a lot this week (just under 60km, 1873m of ascent over just under 18 hours of walking) so we deserve a break. Of course, we’ve had lost of breaks in the house too – I’m not a slave driver.

So we wandered around Fairwood Common, taking in the flat, easy walking. I love exploring around the airfield as there is a lot of evidence of the WW2 fighter station which occupied a much bigger area than the airport does today. I would like to get permission to explore inside the fence too. I guess that will have to wait.

There’s also a lot of mud around. I’ve mentioned before that the airfield was built during WW2 on a bog and the land surrounding the airport retains it’s boggyness. There’s been lots of mud everywhere we’ve been over the last week. I’ve probably got two loads of washing to do once I get around to it. And that means Rufus is muddy to. He likes to finish a walk with a paddle whenever he can, so a lot of the mud is washed off. But there’s still enough to make a shower inevitable. And this morning, after our walk, shower time arrived.

Rufus knows about showers. He knows he has to have one and he knows it’s going to happen, But there is still a game to be played. It’s the slow chase game. I explained to him that he was going to have a shower and that he needed to go upstairs.

Rufus in my house

Reluctantly, he did so.

 

Rufus in my house

Then, instead of going in to the bathroom, he went onto his bed.

Rufus in my house

Finally, in the bathroom there was some reluctance to go into the shower.

Rufus in my house

But eventually he did.

Rufus in my house

He was quite dirty.

Dirt in the shower

Once the indignity of being washed is over, Rufus takes on the challenge of drying himself by transferring the water to me and everything else.

Rufus in my house

Then there’s the treat for being a good boy.

Rufus in my house Rufus in my house

Which is devoured in seconds.

Rufus in my house

 

And the game is over.

 

Rufus and Dave’s lads week (by Rufus) day 5 – rain

Hi, Rufus here. It’s my turn to write the blog as Dave is taking photos of the rain in the garden.

After yesterday’s marathon walking session, in which I had to repeatedly slow down to allow Dave to catch up, (he’s so unfit), I found myself a little fatigued this morning. Nevertheless, I made the effort to check on Dave to see that he was sleeping well. He wasn’t but I didn’t make a fuss. I got him up at 6am so that he could work the locks on the doors to allow me to patrol the garden. I spotted a cat in there the other day and chased it off. But it’s important to make sure the darn thing doesn’t come back because it will scare the birds away and might even catch one.

Dave was so tired he went straight back to bed so I did the same – just to make him feel better. But I made sure he didn’t lounge in bed all day and got him up at 7.30am. Yesterday, he’d muttered something about rain coming in today but it wasn’t so bad this morning. The sun came out a couple of times and it was warm. So we spent some time in the garden. I checked out the gaps in the hedges; Dave kept digging little holes in the patch of earth he calls ‘the spud patch’ (as in ‘mind the spuds, Rufus’). Of course I don’t mind them.

There was no sign of rain so I persuaded him to get out of the house. We ended up at a place called Fairwood Common – we’ve been there a lot. We walked over the common, across the road and right up to the fence of the airfield. When they’re flying from there, he’s always taking photos of the planes and the people who jump out of them. There were no planes today, so we explored the ruins of old buildings scattered around the common. We even walked up to a large white post he called a ‘trig point’. It was quite boring but he does tend to walk up to a lot of them and he always gives them a pat. It’s not as if they’re done anything to deserve a pat, though.

It was good to see that he wasn’t too tired to walk after yesterday and we spent ages just tramping around.

When we got home, it was time for lunch. Dave is always considerate and makes sure I get my food first. But his food always smells better than mine so I always wait for him to finish, just in case I get a couple of bites from him. He’s nothing if not generous.

Then it was time for my afternoon siesta. Dave makes a good pillow and since he was watching some film on TV, I was able to get really comfy and have a good long snooze.

Tonight, I think I shall dine on fish.

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Luck or skill?

Rufus and I went for a stroll this afternoon on Fairwood common, near Swansea airport. We like the area as there are lots of signs of the old wartime airfield (for me) and plenty of mud and water (for Rufus).

Today, as we walked in the warm sun, sky divers and parachutists were leaping from perfectly good planes to glide and float gently down. The air was still enough that I could hear the canopies open with a rip, and I could hear the excited voices of the parachutists as they called to each other.

On the way back, I spotted a large dragonfly flitting around a gorse bush. The photo below is one of 7 I took, 5 of which were reasonably in focus. I chose to manually focus and picked a small aperture to maximise depth of field as the autofocus couldn’t cope with the rapid movement. I like to think that given I got several usable shots, it was a result of experience and logical thinking rather than pot luck.

I came across the Meadow Brown butterflies while negotiating a large gorse bush. They were all gathered together, maybe eight or ten, and I disturbed them so that only three or four remained.

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