Run to the Hills

After some shorter walks of late, it was time for Rufus and I to head off to the hills. Neither of us had done much recently; I’ve been choosing woods and commons for our strolls so I can get some photos of the local wildlife, so the bigger hills were out. Instead, I decided to head off the Lly y Fan Fawr, a favourite of Rufus’ and sufficiently challenging to make a nice return to proper walking. As Rufus is getting on a little (don’t tell him I said so), I keep an eye on him to make sure he’s not overdoing things but he’s always been an active and fit hound, and he enjoys the outdoors.

I was disheartened to find sheep everywhere when we parked up. Rufus isn’t interested n sheep unless they run. Sheep are only interested in running when they see us. As a result, I always have Rufus on the lead when we’re near enough that he might chase them. For the first half hour, he was on and off the lead as we encountered sheep hiding in dips, skulking by the river and popping up from behind boulders. But in between, we were able to get some quality stone catching and dredging done. I am clearly improving in my stone throwing skills as Rufus didn’t have to bark once.

As we followed the river up the hill, the sheep disappeared and I was able to let Rufus roam. This is where I wanted to check to see if he was okay and not getting tired. I needn’t have worried. While he isn’t as fast as he used to be, he still has the energy to range across the hillside, occasionally stopping to make sure I’m ok. In fact, I found myself running out of puff and Rufus was coming back to urge me on.

On the way up, I saw a pair of bright purple flowers on their own and standing out against the green of the moorland. Not being a flower expert, I couldn’t identify them but they looked vaguely orchid-like to me. I snapped away until Rufus came to hurry me along.

It was boggy underfoot. No surprise there after our recent rainfall, so I was very quickly soaked. Rufus isn’t bothered by the water so I decided not to be either. After several close shaves, where I nearly disappeared into the bog (well, maybe not quite) the lake appeared ahead and Rufus was off. Fan Brecheiniog was capped by a blanket of cloud, as was the far end of the lake.

We didn’t stay long as a cool breeze was blowing, and without the sun to warm us up it was getting a little cold. Rufus shot off and I let him choose the path going back down. We meandered down the hill, always heading towards the river. Such are Rufus’ priorities. I got even more soaked than I was already but we quickly reached the upper streams that feed into the Tawe. Then we followed the water down, past sheep and waterfalls, towards the car.

On the way back, I spotted an odd looking flower and leaf on the rocks by a waterfall. The leaves looked like little troughs with curled edges and the flower was tiny, blue and four petalled.  I took a few photos and once again, Rufus came along to see what the delay was.

After some more stone catching, I had to put Rufus on the lead to pass another small flock of sheep. These all had pink heads (no drugs, just dye to identify the owners) and it reminded me of a walk here a few years ago where I came across lines of sheep with pink, green or blue dye. They all stayed together in their respective colours, but moved in one long line, following a path across the hill.

Above us, a red kit circled and swooped, probably watching the lambs. In the distance across the road, I could see three more. We reached the car without incident, having walked three miles in just under two hours.

Back home, I managed to identify the two flowers. The purple one was an Irish Marsh Orchid and the little purple one was a Common Butterwort. The Butterwort is carnivorous and traps insects in the curled leaves with a stick coating.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

More fine weather

A hint of fine weather could be seen through the kitchen window. I put my boots on and looked out again. it was raining, quite hard. I read somewhere today that we in the UK should be grateful that we get a mix of weathers. Sat in my living room on the PC I can understand and appreciate the sentiment. But when I’m champing at the bit or miles from the car, I have a different viewpoint. This evening I wanted the rain to stop.

It did, and I was out as quickly as I could. As I drove off, there were spots on the windscreen but there weren’t many and I could see lighter, cloud free skies ahead. I knew where I was heading – a spot I’d found on Monday when I was out with Rufus.

Ruus wasn’t with me this evening – he had a day out with some canine friends. As I left the car and headed into the mud and bog, it was odd not to have him forging ahead and finding the best routes and I found I missed him.

The spot I was looking for wasn’t far from the car but it was slow going because of the deep pools and high tufts of grass. But soon enough I was at the little stream, hidden from the road by a few small trees. In the shade under the leaves, there were a few flowers and a couple of orchids. It didn’t take long to set up the camera and tripod, and then I immersed myself in the photography. I’ve said before how it’s my stress buster and on a lovely warm evening, with the sun now shining on my back, it was just what I needed.

I spent about 30 minutes by the stream and then took a stroll around the area looking for anything interesting. Very quickly I found a thick mass of web in the undergrowth that ended in a funnel. As I looked, I saw a movement and assumed it was the spider. But it was a tiny frog, hopping beneath the web. As I watched I became aware of another movement and my hair stood on end as I spotted the large sider responsible for the web. The frog had got away by now and I forced myself to take a few photos of the webmaster before moving on.

I thought this was a funnel spider and when I got home, looked it up only to find that the funnel spider was the third most deadly spider in the world. And not native to the UK.

All was okay, though, because it was only a Labyrinth spider, and perfectly harmless.

All in all, and despite the trauma of looking up spdiers on the internet, it was a nice end to the day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.