A walk on the common

Bank Holiday Monday. Sunny but with rain coming in around lunchtime. No surprise there, but what should we do? I had a meeting with Rufus, my outdoor pursuits consultant, and he suggested a walk on the common while the good weather lasted. There may have been some bias in his coming to that decision, but I trust his judgement.

I decided to write a lighter blog after yesterday’s and it seemed a good idea to base it on a typical walk in Gower – one of the ones we do all the time and take for granted. So here it is. You have been warned.

Where we go on Fairwood Common is dictated by the location of the livestock there. Farmers get free grazing on this land and in that past we have encountered one several times who believes the land is his own personal possession. As I like to let Rufus off the lead as much as possible, I always look for the cows and sheep and avoid them. Today the cows, along with some horses and foals, were at the top of the common so we had free range. I parked the car off the road and we set off along an old and overgrown access road built for the airport when it was an RAF fighter station. Near here were a dead badger and a dead fox – I’d seen them before so I kept Rufus on the lead until we’d passed. Further along the road was the corpse of a dead cow, but that had been moved since we were last here. It was safe to let Rufus off the lead now and he went trotting ahead as we weaved through bushes and tree branches, all the while the birds singing from the cover of the branches.

At the perimeter fence, we usually see rabbits beyond in the airport. There weren’t any today; maybe we were a bit late. But Rufus picked up their scent and spent a few minutes trying to squeeze himself through the chain links. Giving up, he padded along the fence heading north along the line of the main runway. Two planes were flying, taking turns to land and take off before circling around again.

This part of the common is littered with the remains of WW2 buildings. Most of them are little more than concrete foundations; some are raised above the level of the ground and one or two have several courses of red brick poking above the marsh. Today, Rufus passed all of these and made for the end of the runway. I let him choose the route as he has an uncanny knack of finding trails and paths.

Fairwood Airport was built as a fighter station at the beginning of WW2. Thousands of tons of ballast and slag from the local steel and copper works were deposited in the marshy area known as Pennard Burch. Time was found to excavate two burial mounds in the area before they were covered by the runways. The airfield was open in 1941 and played host to a number of squadrons and aircraft types. It now hosts one of the Wales Air Ambulance helicopters, which was taking off as we walked, as well as the Swansea Skydiving Club and a number of private planes.

At the far end of the runway, we watched the planes coming and going, including the large aircraft used to take skydivers into the air. A smaller aeroplane had to dodge out of the way as the big plane taxied to our end of the runway. Beneath out feet, the marsh land was in evidence and I though that it was amazing how they were able to build on this type of ground. According to the records, damp and drainage were constant problems throughout the war at this base. Rufus disappeared in the long marsh grass but I was able to follow his progress by the splash and squelch noises he made as he explored. He wasn’t worried by the low flying aeroplanes.

We turned back and went onto firmer ground slightly above the level of the airfield. From here, it’s clear that the airfield is built in a dip in the ground. Not an ideal location, but it is the flattest part of the common and the only suitable place to site the runway. We were walking through the remains of the buildings now and Rufus climbed on to every foundation raft to make sure it was clear of local critters. We made our way further from the perimeter fence to a point that would have had a clear view of the whole airfield. Trees now block the way, but they are recent additions. Years ago, I found the half buried entrance to what I thought was the Battle HQ for RAF Fairwood Common. A recent check of a site map proved me correct. Nearby are the filled in remains of two infantry trenches, and between them is the holdfast for a small gun, possible an anti aircraft weapon.

It was all downhill from here and the car was visible from this part of the common. It’s at this stage that Rufus normally slows down. Not because he’s tired but because he doesn’t want to go home. Today, he was too caught up in the smells of the countryside and he ranged either side of me until I eventually had to put him on the lead when we got close to the road. There was a lot of traffic as people took advantage of the sun to get out into Gower.

Then we were back at the car and our walk was over. We’d done just over two miles in about 80 minutes. No records were in danger of being broken today, but that’s not the point of our walks. It’s all about enjoying and having fun. And that we did.

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And another thing…

Have you noticed that ‘digital’ is no longer a technology, it is now a whole philosophy. One created to make things more marketable.

I can now buy a digital case for my camera. It’s actually advertised as a digital case – presumably it’s made up of lots of little ‘0’s and ‘1’s and when there’s a power failure it will crash and require rebooting. Of course, I can get a digital photo frame. I sort of get it, but in the centuries that follow us, when all the digital records are corrupted and someone finds a scrap of paper with ‘digital photo frame’ written on it, will they assume it was a programmable frame style rather than a display tool?

Moving on from photography, I could get a digital ovulation test pack, and a digital pregnancy test kit. If, by some miracle, I was pregnant and delivered a bouncing baby (how hard can it be?)  I can get a digital baby monitor (I can only guess that if you have an analogue baby, you need a different product. “Darling, the baby is emitting a strange sound, I think he needs rebooting”). I can buy camouflage pants in digital camo! Guaranteed invisible to the digital robot overlords, but not the analogue ones. I can get a digital compressor for inflating (I’m making a big jump here) digital tyres?

Should I require feeding, a digital microwave will heat up my food. Discretely in packets of ‘0’s and ‘1’s. I assume each molecule will either be hot or cold. None of your analogue ‘luke warm’ here thank you very much.I can get a digital ceramic tong for my curly locks. And this introduces another one of those marketing ploys, because not only is the ceramic tong digital, it’s also ‘pro’. Because you wouldn’t want an amateur tong, now would you?

I can get a digital Scalextric set (hmmm…) and a digital microphone for my iPad. But neither of these are ‘pro’. I’m beginning to have my doubts now.

But wait, I can get a ‘pro’ electric tooth brush, a ‘pro’ electric home pedicure kit, a ‘pro’ metal threaded tap connector and a ‘pro’ steam mop. ‘Pro’ trousers, ‘pro’ low energy light bulbs and for my digital child, a ‘pro’ child seat for the car are all available.

There is a serious point here. The words ‘digital’ and ‘pro’ are used by marketing people because they have become synonymous with the words ‘quality’ and ‘essential’. But most people don’t consider whether this comparison is true. So when they see these tags, they assume it must be better than before. It may be, it may not be. My point is that we are being trained to accept that it is. This attitude extends into the abstract – services are now being advertised as digital (in this case, digital usually means ‘online’, which is slightly different). I was looking into cloud computing the other day. But I had to have a good internet connection to do so, and of course if I actually wanted to work with the ‘cloud’ I’d have to have a consistently good connection. I process images on a PC not connected to the Internet – by choice as it means I don’t have to run potentially disruptive firewalls and virus checker software. So the cloud won’t work for me. The concept is good but the execution (as usual) is not quite there yet.

But the government tells us digital is the way to go. So that is where we are heading and if you haven’t got a secure hold on the bandwagon, you may well fall off during the bumpy ride.

By the way, all the examples of ‘digital’ and ‘pro’ above were found on one well known shopping website. Other well known shopping websites are available, all of them digital and some of the ‘pro’.

Fuji GSW690

An analogue camera with analogue dust. Ironically (and I didn’t spot this until I took the photos) it is labled ‘Professional’.