The predicted gorgeous summer’s day showed up on cue this morning and so a surprised Rufus found me getting out of bed as soon as he came to wake me up.

(Yeah, because normally it takes several attempts before you wake up and we’ve usually missed half the day by then.)

Breakfast was a formality.

(It may well have been for you, but breakfast is important to a pedigree hound.)

We set off for the Llia valley. No hills today, just a nice long stroll along the river. It was too hot for either of us to climb a mountain.

(Speak for yourself. I could have sprinted up and down before the sun had a chance to warm me up.)

I parked up next to the river, balancing the car on the edge of a drop down to the water.

(I could have done with a parachute when I jumped out of the car.)

There followed an hour of splashing, jumping, paddling, swimming, barking and catching stones.

(And endless photograph taking.)

And then we jumped back in the car for a short spring down to the forestry car park, where I thought we’d be able to walk through the woods by the river, taking advantage of the shade. But only a few yards away from the car park, several trees had come down and blocked the path. There was no way around so after some more paddling…

(…and barking…)

…and barking, we crossed the river and took a short walk up along the forestry road until, about 150 yards beyond the bridge, more trees blocked the route. They all seem to have toppled as a result of landslip followed by high winds, as all the trees affected were on slopes and the earth around them had also moved.

I stood for a moment looking back down the forestry track and listening to the sounds. The birds were singing but it was a different sound to the dawn chorus, more upbeat and sharp. Very faintly, I could hear sheep. There was no wind in the tree tops today and everything was still.

It was getting hot without a cooling breeze so we turned back for the car, home and second breakfast.

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Fan Nedd

Early start this morning. If Rufus had had his way, we would have been out of the front door at 6am but I was feeling a little under the weather and welcomed the lie-in until 6.45. After breakfast, we set off to the foot of Fan Nedd. It’s a relatively small hill from the road but like several in the area, can be extended by using different routes up and around. Today we chose the short route.

I could see the mist covering the hill tops so I knew this was going to be damp. I wasn’t expecting the wind at the top, and the cold. I guess winters is not far off! We took it easy going up but Rufus soon tired of the slow pace and raced ahead. I trudged up the faint path as the visibility dropped and the wind picked up. One benefit of the mist is that you can’t see how far is left or how steep it is. I was surprised when the ground began to level off and looking up, I saw the cairn. Standing next to it was Rufus, making sure I was on my way.

We sheltered behind the cairn for a few minutes had had snacks, drinks and a couple of photos. Then it was off across the top of the hill to the true summit about 300m away. A trig point marks this and recently, Rufus has decided that cairns and trig points are really indicators that a treat is required. I’ve noticed how he rushes to them and then doubles back to make sure I’m walking as fast I he thinks I should.

We walked on a little further to another, smaller cairn (treat marker) before turning back for the car. The wind was blowing into my face now and I hadn’t realised how strong it was. And the fine drizzle I found easy to ignore on the way up now completed misted up my glasses. Nevertheless, I was easily able to identify the cairns and trig points by the big black Spaniel waiting patiently besides them.

The big test today, though, was the descent to the car. It’s short but steep, like the last mountain, and slippery underfoot. I started down a little apprehensive but soon got into the stride of it. Until I slipped and landed hard on my bad knee. But it was fine (and still is as I write). In fact the whole downhill bit was okay and added to my growing confidence in pushing my knee again.

It was far too soon to go home (according to Rufus) so after dropping the back pack off in the car, we walked down to Maen Llia, the standing stone at the head of the Llia valley, and the river beyond. Rufus urged me to follow him to the river by jogging back and forth along the path. I had stopped to take a few photos of the standing stone in the mist but I got the message and followed him down to the stream. Many stones later, we trudged back to the car, soaked by contentedly tired.

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Back on track

It’s less than 10 weeks to go until I leave for Tanzania and the trek to Kilimanjaro. I’m behind on my training schedule thanks to a couple of injuries. So this weekend I have to make an effort and pick up where I left off.

It’s too hot for Rufus to do any long walks at the moment; he insists on wearing his fur coat everywhere, and he tends not to take things easy. So today when I set out, I was on my own. It was odd not to have him in the car and I found myself looking around to see if he was okay only to see an empty back seat.

I parked at the Blaen Llia car park and set off up the path to Fan Llia. The sun was shining over the tops of the trees as I crossed the river on the wooden bridge. Someone had fixed two bunches of flowers to the side, presumably to remember a loved one who was no longer with them. It’s a lovely place and ideal for such a memory. Across the stile, there were sheep everywhere and they scattered as I walked through them.

As I started climbing the hill, the sun disappeared behind a cloud. Ahead, I could see mist crossing the Llia valley around where the standing stone is sited. I deliberately took my time and tried to keep my pace slow. A breeze blew but it was warm and the walking conditions were just comfortable. I reached the top of the hill after about 45 minutes and was slightly alarmed to see dark rain clouds ahead. I’m always wary of thunder storms when on the hills. Having been caught in one on Ilkley Moor several years ago and only just getting back tot he car before the lightning started, I’m on the look out for them. There had been a warning of isolated storms possible; these were dark enough that they might cause me problems. My plan was to turn left and descend to the valley if I saw or heard anything.

The breeze picked up on the ridge and the air was humid, but the clouds moved away to the west and I carried on heading north. I was fully expecting rain though, as the cloud cover was complete. I looked over to Fan Nedd and saw that it was in bright sunshine. So I decided to drop down into the valley and climb it.

I crossed over Sarn Helen but my route today lay in a different direction. I was crossing open moorland and it was hard going. There was no path but more than that, there were a lot of birds rising as I walked along. I had to be careful not to step on some well concealed nest. So I made my way slowly until I came across the modern road.

After a brief rest, I set off on the path to Fan Nedd. Disappointingly, the sun was still hiding behind the clouds. It’s funny how I missed Rufus on this part of the route. We’ve done this hill so often that I associate various landmarks with him. The stile is one he clears with no trouble, but he always waits for a treat afterwards. There’s a rock about half way up the hill and when I reach it, Rufus is posing like a great explorer, looking over the valley below, while waiting for me to catch up. When we near the top, he disappears over the lip of the hill and a few seconds later, his head appears as he checks to see if I’m coming.

The sun started to appear between clouds and when it did, is was instantly warm. But between those moments, the atmosphere remained humid and heavy. It wasn’t pleasant walking. Dropping down off the Fan Nedd ridge, I was heading towards another pathless section. This one has large tufts of grass and hidden dips and hole that are just waiting to catch an ankle. Given my recent luck with injuries, I was most careful where I stepped.

Just before I reached the road again, the ground flattened out. There were a lot of sheep there and as I arrived, they ran in all directions. Across the road, hundreds more lay basking in the sun that had reappeared once again. As soon as they saw me climb over the stile, they gave a chorus of bleats and stampeded away down to the river.

I did just over 7 miles in four hours today, climbing more than 500m in the process. It felt good to be back on track.


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Hill and Dale

Two weeks off. Time to start the preparation for the Kilimanjaro trek in earnest. So far, I’ve just been getting fit. Now it’s time to do the hours and the ascents.

This morning I took a stroll down to the beach immediately after breakfast. The sun was shining but unfortunately the tide was out so I contented myself with watching dog walkers skirting the mud.

Rufus and I headed off to Fan Nedd this afternoon for a swift jaunt up and along the ridge. Neither of us had done much for the last week and so this first hill was by way of a warm up. There’ll be more.

With my backpack loaded down, I found the going quite tough, but that was the point. Rufus bounced and raced around enjoying the fresh air. Several times he disappeared and I guessed, (rightly as it turned out) that he’d found some exotic scent to roll in.

Eventually, after much huffing and puffing from me and a resigned look from Rufus waiting on top, I reached the cairn on the summit. After a short rest, we set off southwards towards the trig point and beyond to the most southerly cairn.

The wind blew wisps of cloud 0ver the ridge but the sun made it warm and pleasant walking. We turned back to the summit and back down to the car. But this wasn’t the end of the day, as I’d promised Rufus a trip to the River Llia to let him cool down. We found a place to stop off road, and for the next 30 minutes or so, Rufus splashed, jumped, dived and swam in the river. There was lots of barking as I wasn’t quite quick enough to throw the stones. It was great to watch him swimming in the clear water, legs kicking and the occasional huff as some water got up his nose.

On the way home, Rufus was fast asleep in the back of the car. I’ll have to teach him to drive so I can have a rest sometimes.

Our Fan Nedd route.

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Early morning wake-up call

I received my early morning wake up call at just before 6am this morning. It was a wet nose in my face, followed by two paws on my arm. It was accompanied by a huffing and puffing as if to demonstrate disapproval that I hadn’t already got up and made breakfast. ‘The day has started, Dave, get up and be part of it’.

So I got up, let Rufus explore the garden to make sure there were no illegal immigrant cats, and made breakfast. As predicted by the weather forecast, the morning was clearing and so we left for Fan Nedd and the Llia valley.

The clouds lifted as we drove and by the time we parked up at the foot of the hill there was blue sky and the visibility was good. Rufus dismissed the stile with ease and didn’t even wait for his traditional treat. He was off exploring the heather. I headed up the muddy, marshy path. It was a straight forward climb. The wind was blowing from the west and was bitterly cold. In the distance, Fan Gyhirich was wearing a cloud cap and further south I could see dark clouds and the mists of rain. The prevailing weather was coming from the west, so I knew we wouldn’t have long in the sun.

At the top, the wind was strong, gusting fiercely enough to risk me overbalancing if I wasn’t careful. Rufus, closer tot he ground, was finding it much easier. Not long after we started walking along the ridge, a short but sharp shower of very fine hail reached us and we sheltered for a few minutes in a conveniently sited drystone walled enclosure. Then we were off in the sun again to the end of the ridge. By now, the weather was closing in from the south west so after a few snacks for Rufus, we headed back to the car. By the time we got down, the top of Fan Nedd was topped by the same cloud cap as Fan Gyhirich. But down on the road, the wind had died away and it wasn’t too bad, so we headed off to the river and the standing stone, Maen Llia. While Rufus splashed about in the river, I tried out a lens I’d picked up cheaply a while back. It was a manual focus wide angle lens and I wanted to see if it would perform nicely as it was light and compact. It turned out to be fine apart from at maximum aperture, when there was a a lot of vignetting.

I spent too much time taking photos and I got the hurry up whine and bark. Then it was time to get back to the car to beat the drizzle and, later as we drove home, the heavy rain.

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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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Day Off 2 – Rufus and Dave’s Day of Fun

Feeling energised by Thursday’s expedition to get as wet as possible without jumping into deep water, we decided to make for the Llia Valley and a small hill called Fan Nedd. It would be a good test of my fitness, offered the option to going on or turning back if it was too much and there was a river nearby for Rufus to cool off in afterwards.

The journey was swift and, apart from stopping to tell a farmer that there were sheep and lambs in the narrow lanes by his farm (they weren’t his but the owner had been told), uneventful. The sun was out again but I paid more attention to the surrounding clouds this time. Once we’d parked the car and set off, I could see that we would be free from rain clouds for a while.

We set off slowly, (well, I did. Rufus accelerated to his happy pace and kept that up for the whole walk) and as soon as I hit the incline, I could feel my lack of fitness. I slowed down to the pace I used in the trek, a slow and deliberate cadence that worked. It was like changing down a gear. Rufus was rushing around, ahead of me, then by the side of me for a treat, then behind then ahead again. There was no question that his fitness levels were the same as before I’d been ill.

The path steepened to climb up the side of Fan Nedd and I put my head down and carried on going. We had one water drink stop and it didn’t take too long to gain the summit and the tall drystone cairn that marked the end of the difficult bit. Time for a snack and another drink before heading south towards the trig point. Although there were sheep everywhere, Rufus wasn’t inclined to chase them; instead, he raced off to beat my to the trig point by several minutes. In fact, he got bored waiting and came back to see where I was.

It was great being back on the hills again. I’d missed it. I checked when I got home and found that it had been two months since the last time we’d been on the high ground. The views from the top were spectacular and I could even see my place of work from the trig point. That wasn’t so good. Looking around, I could see dark clouds in the distance and although we were in warm sunshine, we both decided that it would be better to set off for the car just in case.

By the time we reached the car, the clouds had passed by to the east, so we made our way down to the river Llia where we spent a splashy half hour throwing and retrieving stones. There was a row of stones that Rufus had dredged from the riverbed lined up on the bank. Shortly after we set off in the car, the heavens opened and we were in the middle of a rain, sleet and hailstorm that the windscreen wipers could barely clear.

Back home, we settled on the sofa and watched daytime TV in between nodding off and snoring.

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