New Hill

The title conjures up images of massive upheaval of the very ground we stand on, momentous events changing the landscape. Well, that should have attracted the geologists scouring social media.

Today we set off for a new hill to us. It’s been there for countless thousands of years and in fact both Rufus and I have seen it many times as we climb Fan Nedd or Fan Llia. Fan Bwlch Chwyth (it translates as ‘Peak of the Windy Gap’) is across the Fechan valley and in the past I have never thought it accessible. However, a check of the appropriate OS map shows that all of the land there is open access. The reason fro our visit today was for me to try and find the wreckage of an Avro Vulcan bomber that crashed there in February 1966.

This bomber, XH536, took off from RAF Cottesmore on a training run on the 11th February 1966. My previous blog explains why Cottesmore holds an interest. I read about this crash while researching the Vulcan for that last post. The plane flew up the Fechan valley in poor weather and the crew thought they were in the Llia valley – a mile to the east. They turned east to enter the Senni valley but hit the high ground to the north of the Fechan before they could complete the maneouver. All five crew were killed by the impact.

We set off from the car on a beautiful morning with a cool breeze keeping the heat manageable. It was the first proper hill for both of us for a while and I took it easy. Rufus, however, doesn’t understand the concept of ‘taking it easy’ and soon left me behind. So I pushed a bit to keep up with him. Eventually, I found a pace that suited both of us. We eased around the northern end of the hill before reaching a dry stone wall, collapsed in places. A narrow path between the thick tufts of grass made the going a bit easier and soon we had pulled up onto the hill and after a few more minutes, the expected trig point came into view.

After a short break, we headed off southwards, facing Fan Gyhirych and, to the left, Fan Nedd. There was a clear route tot he top of Fan Gyhirych and I filed that away for use in the Autumn. One of the problems in tackling Fan Gyhirych from Fan Nedd is a field full of cows between the two tops. Another is a stule that is particularly for Rufus. The new route would bypass both.

Today was for getting the muscles used to hills again, so after a couple of miles, we turned back and started to look for the crash site. The description I’d read told how the plane left a long trail of debris, as it had hit the hill at around 450mph. The heaviest parts of the aircraft – it’s 4 engines and two undercarriage legs – travelled the furthest. The landing gear cleared the stone wall, about half a mile from the initial impact point. Today, the impact area is fenced off as part of an enclosed parcel of land. This meant I wasn’t able to get close enough to identify the area. Only a few pieces of aluminium remain to mark the debris field and it wasn’t possible to see these from the fence.

We headed back down, only mildly disappointed that we hadn’t been able to get to the crash site. I was more occupied with the fate of the crew and the otherwise beautiful location we had just visited. Rufus, with a different set of priorities, was more interested in bounding over tufts of grass, charging off to investigate every little scent and avoiding my camera every time I pointed it at him to try and snap his carefree runs down the slope.

Back at the car, it was warming up as it approached noon and we were both glad to head back home in air conditioned comfort.

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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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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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