Weekend Training

As you may have noticed by the theme of the last few posts, I’ve stepped up my training for the trek. I have to increase the time I’m out and I have to walk with weights to prepare for carrying the back pack. Based on experience, I think my trekking back pack will weigh 5-6kg so I’m trying to regularly train with at least twice that weight, often more if I can. I feel that the heavier the load I can manage regularly, the better it will be on the day. In the hot weather we have at the moment, it’s easy to make that weight up with water.

Yesterday, Rufus and I went out to Whiteford for a stroll. As we were walking through Cwm Ivy, I spotted a signpost for a footpath we had never tried before. I thought it would be something different, and it offered us the opportunity to walk through woods for a large part of the distance which would mean cooler conditions. Even at 8.30 am the temperature was climbing and neither of us like the heat of midday.

The path through Cwm Ivy wood was undulating but shaded by trees to give a gentle, green light. It twisted and turned until it was hard to judge which direction we were heading, but every now and then I caught glimpses of the dunes and pine woods of Whiteford burrows. Eventually, we left the canopy of trees and emerged at the edge of the salt marshes where we turned left to walk along the sea wall towards the dunes. I decided to stick with the trees as much as possible, so we left the main path and headed inot the woods. There was a nice breeze between the trees and we ambled along enjoying the morning.

We popped out onto the beach at Whiteford Point. I was hoping the tide would be in for Rufus to have a paddle but it was a distant line. However, there was a large pool of seawater close in and almost as soon as I had registered it, Rufus was in it up to his knees. There followed a 30 minute splash and chase session which Rufus enjoyed so much that he even ignored a passing dog in favour of the next stone. I turned to leave; an act that was met with a frantic series of barks which reminded me that Rufus actually runs our walks and I just participate. His barks echoed off the trees but in doing so, they lost some of their bass frequencies so although a large Cocker Spaniel barked, a tiny Terrier answered back.

Eventually, I persuaded Rufus that we had to leave and he reluctantly agreed. We headed back into the woods and weaved our way between paths, tracks and dunes. We went back through Cwm Ivy wood but even here the heat was growing and the tress that sheltered us from the sun also blocked any cooling breeze. In the car, the air conditioning was on full and we both enjoyed the fridge-like temperatures on the way home.

Today, I was up a little later after a late finishing gig last night. Rufus was home and so I decided to take a stroll down to the beach and as far as I felt like going. I was still sleepy when I left the house the the mile down to the sea front was enough to wake me up. I walked along the beach as the tide went out. There was a cooling breeze coming in from the sea which made the walking more pleasant. I managed to reach Oystermouth before deciding to turn back. By the time I got closer to Swansea again, the beach was full of people.

Swansea beach is a lovely stretch of sand that is hindered only by the unpredictable weather and a line of mud just below the high tide mark. I have great memories from my childhood of going to ‘the sands’ as I called them. Whenever I visited my grandparents (which was every 2-3 years as we stayed with them while my dad was posted from RAF station to station and was arranging accommodation), we would always go to ‘the sands’. I remember going there one day and seeing JCBs filling trucks full of the sand. I was distraught as being only 6 I thought the beach would disappear. Later I found out the sand was transported to Blackpool, of all places.

A good weekend of training, but I have to up the walking time over the next few weeks.

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Mumbles

Out of my window I can see Swansea bay. If I strain and squeeze my neck out of the window (okay, I can’t do that but I’m painting a picture here so bear with me) then I can just see the Meridian Tower (South Wales’ tallest building). At the other end of the bay is Mumbles Head. The headland juts out into the Bristol Channel, and has two tidal islands. They are probably the origin of the name; many websites will tell you they are so named as they resemble breast shaped hills (the Latin ‘mamillae’ being easily corrupted by sailors and fishermen). What they’re trying, delicately, to say is that the two islands look like boobs. There, I’ve said it. The sniggering you can hear is from schoolboys who have Googled ‘boobs’. (And, of course, I can now legitimately add boobs to my keywords list and thereby raise my hit count ten fold).

Anyway, if we could get back to the real subject. I’ve been going to Mumbles for years, every since we first moved to Swansea several decades ago. Some of my earliest mameries.. er memories of Swansea are of Bracelet Bay, between the lighthouse and the coastguard station. A little shop, in the shape of an apple, sold buckets and spades and other beach essentials. It was originally built as a promotion for an apple flavoured drink in the 1930s. Recently, the apple shop was damaged by a car and there was some doubt over whether it would be repaired. As a result, a campaign in the local paper took off the the apple has been restored and is there today.

I remember playing in the remains of an anti aircraft artillery battery on the top of the mainland when I was 10. It took me many years to go back and find the place again. My mum, who lived in Swansea during their blitz of February 1941, recalled hearing the sound of anti aircraft guns. There were several sites, but they always knew when the Mumbles site was firing because the guns were bigger and made a deeper, louder sound. There was also a battery of anti shipping guns protecting the bay based just the other side of the road by the big car park at Bracelet Bay. There is nothing left of this now apart from the flattened area where the guns were located, but on the outermost breast… er… island, clustered around the light house are the remains of searchlight houses and the old Napoleonic era fort that protected Swansea docks.

In the 1980s, me and a group of school friends were making a comedy movie on super 8 equipment and one of the scenes called for an old pram (with a baby inside) to be washed up on the shore. We chose Bracelet Bay as the location and I still remember trying to get the pram to float and then hoping it would come back in to the shore again. As I recall it belonged to the sister of one of the guys, and she didn’t know we had it! We told the coastguard in case there was a scare. I’m not sure what they made of it.

Mumbles Head catches the worst of the westerly winds and it’s always a good place to go if I want to capture storm waves crashing against the rocks. I’ve seen them breaking over the lighthouse, although I’ve never managed to snap those as I’m usually sheltering in the car at that point.

In the summer, Mumbles is a popular destination for day trippers as well as those staying longer. The village itself is strung out along the shore and as a result, there is always a bottle neck of traffic as people try and get to and from the few car parks. I like it in winter, though, when the sun rises over the light house, there is no one else around and as long as I don’t look too closely, I could be back in the days of my childhood.

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