Dave and Rufus’ lads week day 8 – Fairwood and the shower

It’s the last day of our lads week today. I’m off to pick up Rufus’ owner from the airport in a few hours. So for this morning’s walk, we decided just to have a short leisurely stroll around Fairwood Common. We’ve done a lot this week (just under 60km, 1873m of ascent over just under 18 hours of walking) so we deserve a break. Of course, we’ve had lost of breaks in the house too – I’m not a slave driver.

So we wandered around Fairwood Common, taking in the flat, easy walking. I love exploring around the airfield as there is a lot of evidence of the WW2 fighter station which occupied a much bigger area than the airport does today. I would like to get permission to explore inside the fence too. I guess that will have to wait.

There’s also a lot of mud around. I’ve mentioned before that the airfield was built during WW2 on a bog and the land surrounding the airport retains it’s boggyness. There’s been lots of mud everywhere we’ve been over the last week. I’ve probably got two loads of washing to do once I get around to it. And that means Rufus is muddy to. He likes to finish a walk with a paddle whenever he can, so a lot of the mud is washed off. But there’s still enough to make a shower inevitable. And this morning, after our walk, shower time arrived.

Rufus knows about showers. He knows he has to have one and he knows it’s going to happen, But there is still a game to be played. It’s the slow chase game. I explained to him that he was going to have a shower and that he needed to go upstairs.

Rufus in my house

Reluctantly, he did so.

 

Rufus in my house

Then, instead of going in to the bathroom, he went onto his bed.

Rufus in my house

Finally, in the bathroom there was some reluctance to go into the shower.

Rufus in my house

But eventually he did.

Rufus in my house

He was quite dirty.

Dirt in the shower

Once the indignity of being washed is over, Rufus takes on the challenge of drying himself by transferring the water to me and everything else.

Rufus in my house

Then there’s the treat for being a good boy.

Rufus in my house Rufus in my house

Which is devoured in seconds.

Rufus in my house

 

And the game is over.

 

Rufus and Dave’s lads week (by Rufus) day 5 – rain

Hi, Rufus here. It’s my turn to write the blog as Dave is taking photos of the rain in the garden.

After yesterday’s marathon walking session, in which I had to repeatedly slow down to allow Dave to catch up, (he’s so unfit), I found myself a little fatigued this morning. Nevertheless, I made the effort to check on Dave to see that he was sleeping well. He wasn’t but I didn’t make a fuss. I got him up at 6am so that he could work the locks on the doors to allow me to patrol the garden. I spotted a cat in there the other day and chased it off. But it’s important to make sure the darn thing doesn’t come back because it will scare the birds away and might even catch one.

Dave was so tired he went straight back to bed so I did the same – just to make him feel better. But I made sure he didn’t lounge in bed all day and got him up at 7.30am. Yesterday, he’d muttered something about rain coming in today but it wasn’t so bad this morning. The sun came out a couple of times and it was warm. So we spent some time in the garden. I checked out the gaps in the hedges; Dave kept digging little holes in the patch of earth he calls ‘the spud patch’ (as in ‘mind the spuds, Rufus’). Of course I don’t mind them.

There was no sign of rain so I persuaded him to get out of the house. We ended up at a place called Fairwood Common – we’ve been there a lot. We walked over the common, across the road and right up to the fence of the airfield. When they’re flying from there, he’s always taking photos of the planes and the people who jump out of them. There were no planes today, so we explored the ruins of old buildings scattered around the common. We even walked up to a large white post he called a ‘trig point’. It was quite boring but he does tend to walk up to a lot of them and he always gives them a pat. It’s not as if they’re done anything to deserve a pat, though.

It was good to see that he wasn’t too tired to walk after yesterday and we spent ages just tramping around.

When we got home, it was time for lunch. Dave is always considerate and makes sure I get my food first. But his food always smells better than mine so I always wait for him to finish, just in case I get a couple of bites from him. He’s nothing if not generous.

Then it was time for my afternoon siesta. Dave makes a good pillow and since he was watching some film on TV, I was able to get really comfy and have a good long snooze.

Tonight, I think I shall dine on fish.

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Early Riser

At some ungodly hour of the early morning, Rufus slumped down beside me on the bed. He likes comfort, so he snuggled in. Since his haircut, he’s been much more settled, probably because he doesn’t get too hot. So now he can sleep where he really wants to.

Some hours later, I was woken by a damp nose snuffling against my hand. It was time to get up. It was okay, though as it was 6.30 and we’d both had a bit of a lie in.

After breakfast, we set off for Whiteford bay. This is a gorgeous sweeping beach near Llanmadoc on Gower. It is harder to get to than the more popular beaches around, so it’s rare that we see more than two or three people there. Today was no exception. We had the beach to ourselves. The sun was low but warm, making the sand golden. We climbed the little outcrop called Cwm Ivy Tor – a mere 29m above sea level, but a very sharp, steep climb. I’ve used it as a test of fitness in the past. I was pleased to find I took it in my stride today despite a backpack full of water as weights. Rufus, of course, barely noticed it. The view from the top along Whiteford bay was wonderful.

Coming down was almost as hard as going up, the steepness made it slippery and took its toll on my knees. But soon we were walking along the beach. The tide was close to its highest point and there was quite a swell. This bay has a shelf that holds the tide back for a while but once the sea level has risen, the tide races in. The first time I saw this happen, back in 2007, it took be by surprise and I’m very careful there now.

Although the sun shone at our backs, there was a very large and very dark cloud making its way towards us. I could see the rain falling as a dark curtain blocking the horizon. So I headed for a small copse of trees just off the beach to try and get some shelter. Just before we reached it, the heavens opened and we were caught in a heavy shower of hailstones. The trees didn’t really provide much shelter but it was better than nothing. As quickly as it started, the hail stopped and for the rest of the walk we were lightly sprayed now and again by drizzle, but most of the time it remained sunny.

We walked through the trees and alongside the sea marsh before emerging at the end of the headland to see a danger sign ahead. This whole area was a firing range during world war 2 and was mainly used as an air to ground range for rockets and guns for the squadrons based at RAF Fairwood Common’s Armament Practice Camp. Several years ago, I found the complete remains, in shrapnel form, of a medium sized artillery round. More recently, a mustard gas shell was found and disposed of in the area. So we are careful.

After barks had been barked and stones thrown, we headed back along the beach. The tide was racing and swirling at the headland, which points towards Whiteford Lighthouse, but it was on it’s way out and by the time we’d reached the Cwm Ivy Tor again, it was several hundred yards offshore.

We met the first people of the morning as we walked back to the car park. It’s so much better to have an entire beach to yourself!

Today we walked 10.4km (6.5 miles) in 2.5 hours and climbed a total of 133m. Rufus probably did 50% more.

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Luck or skill?

Rufus and I went for a stroll this afternoon on Fairwood common, near Swansea airport. We like the area as there are lots of signs of the old wartime airfield (for me) and plenty of mud and water (for Rufus).

Today, as we walked in the warm sun, sky divers and parachutists were leaping from perfectly good planes to glide and float gently down. The air was still enough that I could hear the canopies open with a rip, and I could hear the excited voices of the parachutists as they called to each other.

On the way back, I spotted a large dragonfly flitting around a gorse bush. The photo below is one of 7 I took, 5 of which were reasonably in focus. I chose to manually focus and picked a small aperture to maximise depth of field as the autofocus couldn’t cope with the rapid movement. I like to think that given I got several usable shots, it was a result of experience and logical thinking rather than pot luck.

I came across the Meadow Brown butterflies while negotiating a large gorse bush. They were all gathered together, maybe eight or ten, and I disturbed them so that only three or four remained.

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History on your doorstep.

I’ve always been interested in local history. While I was still in school, I attended local history lessons and since then I’ve taken an interest in the subject. I never studied history in school and that’s one of my regrets. I’m particularly interested in the military history of the area and that probably stems from the stories my mum used to tell me of the Swansea Blitz in February of 1941.

Swansea Bay Pillbox

Swansea Bay Pillbox

Swansea was used as a staging post for troops involved in the invasion of occupied France on D-Day. The bay was full of transport ships and the farmland around was full of American soldiers. Very little, if anything, of this remains today. Most of the visible signs of the area’s war lie in ruins. There’s a pillbox on Swansea Bay, opposite the University. I haven’t been able to find anything out about when it was built or if there were others, but it sits alone, half buried in sand. It’s seaward face has no embrasure and it was clearly intended to provide enfilading fire, that is to shoot at the enemy from their sides. You see it on the German defences on the beaches of Normandy and elsewhere.

A now ruined radar station sits of Rhossili down. Another is sited near Oxwich Point. A third sits overlooking Port Talbot. All kept watch on the Bristol Channel.

Clyne Pillbox

Pillbox at Clyne

More pillboxes defend a possible invasion route from the west towards Swansea along natural obstacle of Clyne Valley. One is hidden opposite the Railway Inn in Killay.

Mumbles Hill Heavy AA Battery

Mumbles Hill Heavy AA Battery

There are a number of anti-aircraft gun emplacements on and around Kilvey Hill, protecting the oil refinery and industrial areas of Swansea nearby. My mum told me of an anti aircraft battery, including ‘Z’ rockets (unguided surface to air missiles) sited on the playing fields near Singleton Hospital. The rockets were secret at the time. Another battery of heavy guns were sited on Mumbles head, above the Yacht club My uncle recalls that the sound of these 5″ calibre guns firing was totally different to the smaller 3″ guns nearer the city.

 

 

Mumbles Head Searchlight House

Mumbles Head Searchlight House

Lower down on the slopes, on a now flat and empty piece of the hill overlooking the lighthouse, a battery of anti shipping guns were located.

On the tidal island which is home to the lighthouse, there are searchlight houses.

Mumbles Lighthouse Fortress

Mumbles Lighthouse Fortress

Part of the buildings that for the lighthouse were originally a 19th Century fortress and gun battery.

Swansea airport was originally built as a fighter station in 1941 on land that was so boggy it had to be filled in with thousands of tons of industrial waste and rubble (which took a year to complete). Over the war years, it was home to a number of squadrons and became  a base for anti shipping strikes, night fighters and eventually the home of a weapons training facility.  The aircrews would practice shooting, bombing and strafing on nearby Whiteford and Llanmadoc bays. Fragments and unexploded ordnance is still being found there – last year an old gas shell was still potent enough to affect the ammunition technician sent to dispose of it.

Infantry trench

Infantry trench overlooking RAF Fairwood Common

Recently while walking around the area with Rufus, I came across several reminders of it’s past including an area of slightly higher ground which seemed to have been a defensive point. The faint indentations of several trenches could be seen, along with a deeper concrete lined one and the mounting for a small artillery piece of heavy machine gun.

Fighter dispersal pen

Fighter dispersal pen. Each metal feed trough is placed where a twin engined fighter bomber (probably a Beaufighter) would have been parked. The earth bank between them would have protected them from bomb damage.

Until a few years ago, I had an old Anderson shelter in the garden. I remember as a boy seeing several such shelters in back gardens around the area, most still buried as was suggested when they were issued. The wall of the old police station in Swansea is pitted with shrapnel damaged bricks from a bomb that fell in the street. Looking at the records for the bombing of Swansea, at least one house near me was destroyed by a bomb, and many others were damaged. There is a story that a stick of bombs fell close to the nearby further education college and a rumour persists that one landed in the marsh on which the college is now built, and failed to go off.

There are many such structures in the UK and many more that have been lost over the years since they were built. They are a valid part of our history in the same way as castle, churches and bridges are. I hope we don’t lose sight of that just because they are a reminder of an unpleasant chapter of history.