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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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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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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Seeing the light (house)

Back to Whiteford again this morning. Although I love it down there, especially in the lovely weather we’re having at the moment, I’d like to be back on the hills. I think it might be a while before my knee is well enough to risk that, though.

So at 8.30 this morning, we were out in the sunshine and rapidly warming air on the golden sand of Whiteford. It was clear and there was little wind. Lapwings leapt into the air with their strange siren call as we made our way through the long dune grass. I thought we might have the beach to ourselves but a group of people appeared to be making a movie a short distance from the path to Cwm Ivy.  We avoided them and carried on along the beach towards Whiteford Lighthouse.

The tide was out today, in complete contrast to last week. I love the sound of the tide so I missed it’s lapping. I could see that it was out far enough that it would be possible to get to the lighthouse, so that’s where we aimed for. I tried checking my tide times app, but there wasn’t enough signal to get any data. Instead I decided to trust to luck and frequent checking of the tide line. I could hear words from a previous blog post ‘the tide comes in rapidly on this beach’ running through my head as we walked out. Rufus was uninterested in such trivia as tides. He was more interested in the strange maritime smells that assaulted his nose.

We passed the wreck of a small metal hulled boat. Despite many searches, I haven’t been able to find any information about it and I begin to wonder if it was an old boat brought there to use as a target. Eventually, after crossing masses of seashells and small and medium sized pools, we reached the stone and concrete base of the lighthouse. I love this place. It’s so characterful. Barnacles encrust the base and rust engulfs the upper parts of the tower. Whiteford lighthouse is the only surviving wave-washed cast iron lighthouse in the UK and one of only a few in the world. It was built in 1865 and went out of use in the 1920s, although it was briefly restored to working order with a solar powered flashing light in the 80’s. It is now a daylight only navigation aid. It’s also a Grade II listed scheduled monument.

In awe of the historical and engineering magnificence of the lighthouse, Rufus peed on it.

We headed back to shore. I kept a wary eye on the tide but it didn’t seem to be doing much. I also kept a wary eye on the route, as we were in prime artillery range territory and it was unlikely that the tidal part of the beach had been cleared as thoroughly as the dunes. We were both okay, though, and we climbed the tallest dune around to sit and have a snack. Of course, Rufus wanted my snack as well as his own. It wasn’t to be and with a huff, he went looking for adventures.

We made our way back through the dune system, weaving and wandering as the whim took us. I spotted a Kestrel sitting on a dune top, tearing apart some unfortunate prey. It was more interested in Rufus’ movements than mine, so I was able to get quite close before it flew off to a safer dune.

The while the sharp crack of shotguns had started to disturb the quiet. Near to Cwm Ivy tor, a club has built a clay pigeon shooting range. I say built, it’s a small container and some rope fencing off a dip in the dunes. It’s a little too close to places where people walk, the ponies and horses wander and more importantly, the Lapwings have their sanctuary. The coastal path passes behind the gun line but then turns to climb a hill to the left of the range. Be warned if you are in the area.

We trudged up the final path to the car park and I stopped to talk to the lady in the house nearest the gate into the village. She’s been putting a bowl of water out for dogs every day for the last 30 years. It’s certainly been there very time I’ve been there and although Rufus tends not to drink from it, I appreciate the thought. So today, I said thank you. We chatted for a bit about how dogs tend not to like fresh water. Then we completed our trudge to the car.

Today we did 10.3km in about 3.5 hours.

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On the waterfront

Confused by the change to British Summer Time, Rufus dozed until 7am (which is 6am in GMT), a full 30 minutes longer than normal. I relished the extra minutes in bed. Coffee and scones (and a breakfast of chicken and vegetables followed by three small pieces of scone for Rufus) fortified us for the morning and off we went. We made a short diversion to Broadpool and then parked up at Cwm Ivy. It’s a short walk down to the beach and once there, we had the sweep of the bay to ourselves. Lapwings made their almost electronic whistles as we walked past, lifting and swooping to distract us from their nesting ground.

The sun was shining and the tide was in. The waves were lapping and every now and then a larger wave would push the water further up the beach. There are a few shelves on this beach and once the water rises above each one, it rushes in quite quickly up to the next. As we got on to the beach, the water rose above the final shelf and rolled in quickly, leaving little space between the water and the dunes.  We walked on pebbles for a while and had to creep in close to the dunes several times.

As we neared the point, the waves started getting much larger and crashing loudly onto the shore. At the point, the water boiled and raced this way and that. The easterly wind was blowing spray from the tops of the waves as they broke. In the distance, Whiteford lighthouse was surrounded by rough sea.

The guy we met at the point was wrapped up against the winter winds, and he was complaining about the bitter cold but when we rounded the tip of the dunes, it wasn’t that bad. The sun took the edge off the cold. We sat on top of the highest dune around and had a rest. Rufus had a chew and water and went off in search of new scents. I sat and enjoyed the morning, and rested my knee which was beginning to ache again. I watched a crowd of little wader bird as they scavenged along the waters edge. They chased the water as it went out and scurried out when the next wave came in. All the time, they were moving along the beach. It was quite comical to see them move back and forth with the waves.

We made our way back through the dunes. Almost immediately, we were sheltered from the wind and the dunes held the heat from the sun. It was lovely and warm as we walked back. We met horses, Rufus chased a rabbit until it hid in a bramble bush and I had to drag him away. It was soon forgotten and we carried on up and over and around and between the dunes. Then we were back at the little valley that leads up to the car park. Slowly, we plodded the last half mile and finally sank into the seats, tired but happy.

Today we walked about 8.5km in 2.5 hours.

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