Looking Forward.

Thank you for putting up with my retrospective over the last couple of weeks or so. It’s time to move on. So while my mind gently returns from the African Plains and dreams of climbing Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro again, the rest of me has been getting on with life, and my local hills.

Last week we took a longer than planned stroll around the hills north of the Upper Lliw reservoir. It’s an open area of low, rolling hills that surrounds the reservoir on three sides. To the east is Brynllefrith plantation, and you have travelled there with us before. To the north is Mynydd y Gwair and the wind turbines recently installed there (you’ve been there with us too).

It was the western hills that we hadn’t visited before, and after walking along the edge of the plantation, we ducked under a fence, crossed a little stream feeding the reservoir and squelched our way up along a muddy quad bike track until we were on the western side looking down on the forest. With the weather threatening to get wet very quickly, we headed back to the car and managed to reach it’s shelter as the rain came in.

Today was an opportunity to seek the snow once again. The weather forecast was favourable and we set off for The Black Mountain north of Brynamman. As soon as we got onto the mountain road, it was clear it had been snowing here recently. The dark road surface turned white in minutes as we climbed higher. It’s a twisting road and although the drop isn’t far or steep, leaving the road would guaranteed being stuck. So I took it easy on the slush and ice and only briefly thought how much more appropriate the Freelander would have been here.

That said, we had no trouble reaching the car park near the Foel Fawr quarry. I did have a slight problem getting out of the car, as the string wind tried to shut the door on me. But I managed to extract myself and Rufus and while he went to check on the snow, I kitted up for the bitter cold. Since he had his haircut, I’ve been careful to keep an eye on Rufus to check he doesn’t get too cold. Today was no exception.

We set off up the white hillside. There were no clues as to where the path was but I’ve been up here a few times so it didn’t worry me too much. The snow had a frozen crust and at first it made the going much easier. But as we climbed, the snow got deeper and the crust gave way with a disconcerting suddeness so that my boots sank up to the laces. For the most part, Rufus managed to walk across the top of the snow without sinking, but every now and then he’d drop a couple of inches as the crust gave way.

I noticed that although I was wading through the snow, my boots weren’t wet and the snow wasn’t sticking to Rufus’ fur. It was frozen and later I found I couldn’t make proper snowballs either.┬áRufus seemed to be having fun, charging off in all directions but I found the going hard. I had loaded my back pack up with some extra weight for the exercise, and I was beginning to feel it’s effect.

We climbed slowly over rough, rocky ground made more treacherous as the gaps between the rocks were hidden by snow. But we made it and eventually we dealt with the steepest bit and the slope rapidly slackened until we were walking on the rocky, barren top leading to the summit cairns and trig point of Garreg Lwyd. Being flat, it was also windswept but unusually, it was also clear and sunny. Most times I’ve been here, there has been a thick mist and I can’t remember the last time I saw the cairns from further than a few metres away.

Walking to the cairns felt like walking in the barren north. Snow had built up in the lee of the rocks and boulders, and had drifted into little gullies. Being a limestone environment, there were many sink holes and dips and while some were visible, others I only discovered when my feet sank into them. Rufus seemed to have a sense of where they were and I should have followed him to avoid them.

At the cairns, we stopped for a few minutes for a snack and a brief respite from the cutting wind. I love being on the top of hills and mountains and today was almost perfect, with blue sky, sun and plenty of snow and ice. The only negative was the wind. I noticed that when we stopped, Rufus back leg was shivering a bit. It happens sometimes when he stands awkwardly and also when he’s excited. But I decided not to take any chances and so we set off back towards the car.

Now we were walking into the wind and it made the going quite a bit harder. Rufus spent sometime walking behind me, sheltered from the worst of the gale. We stopped at a small cairn for a selfie before heading down over more broken rock until we left the worst of the wind behind. Then we slackened the pace and enjoyed the last few hundred metres through the remains of the limestone quarry.

The shelter of the car was most welcome and Rufus settled in the back as I got the heater going and we slipped and slid our way back down the mountain road.

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Rufus and Dave’s Fortnight of Fun part 1:River

I was worried about Dave this morning. I woke him up as usual at 5.30, 5.35, 5.40 and 5.45 am and then again at 6am. He let me out in the garden but went back to bed. It’s not how it should be. He’s meant to be up at 6 and making me breakfast before disappearing off for a few hours to somewhere he calls ‘Work’. (He calls it other things as well but I don’t understand those words). But this morning he went back to bed. I didn’t know what to do so I woke him up again at 6.15, 6.30 and 6.45. He didn’t shout at me and in the end, I gave up and joined him on the bed.

He finally managed to rouse himself at 7.45! Layabout! He didn’t seem concerned that he should have been at ‘Work’. Instead, he seemed quite happy and jabbered on quite a bit. After breakfast, he asked me if I wanted to go out. Silly question, he knows the answer. We set off and very soon I realised we weren’t off to Gower. It took a lot longer to arrive at our destination and when he finally let me out (he tends to fuss a lot after he parks the car), I found we were at the River Tawe. He knows it’s one of my favourite places and since my little operations he hasn’t allowed me anywhere near water. Clearly today would be different (whether he planned it or not).

As soon as he let me off the lead, I was in the water. It felt so good to paddle and cool my paws off. The sun was warm and it was lovely to be out here again. I was happy, and I let him know I was happy by barking in my happiest voice.

Dave had his camera with him so I knew I’d be able to explore the river for myself, and play games with him by standing in front of the camera just as he knelt down by it. Sure enough, every time he went to take a photo I was able to get a reaction from him by popping up on the waterfall or in the water near by. He loves this game almost as much as I like catching stones. I did need to bark sometimes just to remind him why we were here but generally speaking Dave behaved himself and we both had a good time.

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