The fun starts here

A week off! Rufus is staying over and the intention for this week is to check my fitness before signing up for another go at Kilimanjaro. So that means a series of walks building up in distance and effort to test my knee.  During the week I hope to build up to a nice long walk up on to Fan Brecheiniog by Friday. The test will be the state of my knee after the week is up.  If it’s okay – I’ll be booking on to a trip taking place in January. If not – well, I don;t really want to think like that at the moment.

I picked Rufus up last night and we went straight out onto the hills above the River Tawe. It wasn’t too much of a hike but it was nice to get out in the fading sun. We ended up walking about 2 miles at a leisurely pace.

This morning, after a late breakfast, we drove over to Ystradfellte and the many waterfalls along the rivers there. I love the area and it’s been a part of my training for all the treks I’ve been on. Rufus loves the opportunity to get into water almost everywhere. I love the photo opportunities that the waterfalls give. Every time I’ve been here they are different. It’s always a challenge, not only to get tot eh waterfalls but also to try and find a new angle or approach. Today was no different.

The drizzle that started as we left the house turned into steady rain on the dual carriage way but it cleared to leave dreary grey skies as we parked at the start of the path to Scwd Clun Gwyn. We passed tow park rangers fixing a gate as we made our way tot he river and while I set the camera up for the first of many photos, Rufus explored the river bank. He didn’t start his normal habit of barking to get me to throw stones. I think because there were no stones to throw and he knew it.

We moved off to cross a bridge but the way was blocked by a kind of style. Rufus couldn’t squeeze under it (regardless of how hard he tried) so I lifted him over. He’s around 22kg in weight – heavier than a normal Cocker Spaniel because he is generally bigger than the average. Once over, he scampered across the bridge while I hauled myself after him. We walked up and along side the river, climbing the valley side to finally look down on Scwd Clun Gwyn from the opposite bank. Even this far away, I could hear and feel the power of the falls.

By now it had started raining again and so we sought shelter. A large tree provided this and we waited for around 15 minutes while the heavy shower passed over. In the end, bored by standing around, we set off anyway, resigned to getting soaked. But the rain stopped almost as soon as we left the shelter and by the time we’d squeezed along the narrow path high above the river, the rain had stopped completely.

Of course, it didn’t stay stopped and as we descended to the river bank again, the heavens opened for a short, sharp shower. Once we were soaked, it didn’t matter and my only concern was for the camera equipment. Eventually, we got to a spot where Rufus could take a proper dip and he spent a while swimming after sticks that I threw for him. I love watching him swim, specially when the water is clear enough to see his legs kicking against the current. The stick of choice was longer than him and he chose the most awkward way to carry it.

Finally, it was time to go home. At the bridge, I helped Rufus over (= picked up him and gently deposited him on the other side) He then turned to wait for the treat he normally gets when crossing a stile himself. I suggested he might want to give me a treat instead. There was no reply, and we made our way slowly back to the car, passing two lots of kids heading to the river dressed in heavy duty wet weather gear. The two park rangers were busy chopping down a tree as we walked past.

As I type this, safe and warm at home, there is a lot of snoring going on from the sofa, where Rufus is flat out on two towels, drying slowly as we both wait for dinner to cook.

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Drip

Rufus has been staying over for the last few days and I’ve been trying to get out with him every day. But the weather has conspired to keep us in. I’ve become quite adept at looking at the sky and spotting the early signs of a break in the rain. The only problem with this is that while it may be dry at my house, the places we like to go tend to attract the rain, and it lingers in the valleys and on the hill tops.

As a consequence, we’ve been drenched on several occasions recently. That’s not so bad, as it’s only water and we can dry off. But the experience isn’t so good and the photography is certainly limited.Yesterday, be got bored and went out before it had stopped raining. We headed up to the river – I thought that if we’re going to get wet we may as well do it in water. I took my DSLR but I also had a waterproof camera with me. Good job, as during the hour or so we wandered the riverbank, it stopped raining only once – for about 15 seconds. So most of the photos below were taken in the rain. I also tried it out in the river, and it didn’t seem to leak.

Once back in the car, the rain stopped and stayed stopped. Typical! So we headed off to Dinas Rock, a place I’d promised myself I’d visit, but which I’d never got round to. The last time I was here (which was the first time I was here) was with the Prince’s Trust, when I was filming a promotional video for them and the DVLA. I ended up spending most of the day in a wetsuit, gorge walking with the group while trying to keep the camera dry. It was a tremendous experience – scary, exciting and satisfying when i delivered the footage to the guys who edited it together.

Although it was dry, it was cold and my coat was dripping wet. So we only spent half an hour in the area, which wasn’t nearly enough. I’ll be back and I expect Rufus will be with me.

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Lads Weekend

Friday night, pouring with rain. That’s okay, because we were having a lads night in. Me and Rufus!

Neither of us drink and we’re both single, so the reality of our lads night in was really quite boring. In fact, after food and some TV channel hopping, we were both asleep around 10.30 because the following morning we were due to be out early for a stroll around Fairwood Common.

Fairwood Common was soaking wet, as you would expect after the rain we’ve had over the last few weeks. When they built the airfield during World War 2, thousands of tons of slag from the local steelworks, and other hardcore was dumped in the marsh to stabilise the ground. It meant that there were limits to the size of aircraft that could land there. But it was successful. You can get an excellent idea of what the ground was like before the hardcore was dumped by walking the perimeter of the airport, which is what Rufus and I did. I was interested in the tree trunks and took some photos for processing into black and white. Rufus was interested in getting wet, which he did with great efficiency.

I was out with friends for the rest of the day but Rufus stayed with me again on Saturday night and we did more lads stuff, like watching Top Gear and fighting. Someone rummaged through my rubbish bin as well, shredding the contents and spreading them out over the floor. But it’s not for me to grass a mate up.

This morning, we were out early for a walk up to Llyn y Fan Fawr. The weather was grim, misty and dark. Not long after we left the car, it began to rain and the showers kept coming all morning. At the lake, the mist was thick enough to hide the mountains and at some points, the opposite bank of the lake. It was dark, too and it felt quite claustrophobic. After some stone throwing at the lake, we decided to go around it’s edge and we headed off into the mist.

The mist rose and fell as we went and a chill wind blew across the water. At the far end, I sat for a while and sheltered behind a large rock and a shower blew in. Rufus wasn’t impressed and made a point of running around and posing of rocks while I cowered behind mine.

Then it was off around the other side of the lake, beneath the towering Fan Brecheiniog. I would have liked to have climbed it today as it’s been a while since we’ve been up there. But the weather wasn’t good and however cold it was at the lake, it would be worse on top. Instead, we meandered around it’s base and across the mud slides and land slides that dropped from its slopes. We were soon back at the starting point and after a snack break, we headed back down to the car.

It rained pretty much all the time we were making our way back and the little streams were turned into fast flowing rivers Lower down, the rivers were torrents and the waterfalls thundered with the amount of water crashing over them. By the time we got to the car we were both dripping wet. And the sun chose that moment to come out. As I stripped off the wet waterproofs, the sun warmed us up and a bright rainbow shone in the north. Typical!

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Another day of fun

Another day off today – where does all that leave come from and how does the office get by without me? Answers to these are on my other blog – “101 improbable things”.

First stop, the bank to pay in some change I’d collected, and a cheque for £1.08 being the extra interest I’d earned on a now closed account. I was surprised to see that they had already started to demolish the buildings of St David’s shopping centre. I managed to get a few photos of the area so that i can compare them with photos taken after the demolition. I’ve been snapping around Swansea for years so that i can record the changes.

Then it was off to pick up Rufus for our day of fun. The weather forecast was for heavy showers so immediately after I picked him up, we went to the site of the old Felindre steel works, a local favourite of ours. We had half an hour of chasing sticks and stones before the drizzle started. So off we went to my house for food and to wait out the shower.

Eventually, it cleared enough that we decided to head off to Gower. Cefn Bryn is a ridge running along the peninsular at around 200m. If I remember my ‘O’ level Geology course, it’s made of Old Red Sandstone, which means at some point it was under the sea. It was just as wet as we set off. The rain was blowing into my face, covering my glasses water. Rufus was happy – he always is regardless of the weather.

Not long after we left the car, I had my head down against the wind and I heard Rufus yapping. It’s not like him and I thought something was wrong. I looked up to see him chasing a rabbit. The rabbit was making sharp turns to stay clear and Rufus, being a large dog, couldn’t make the turns. But he was keeping up with the bunny. I managed to reach them just as Rufus chased the rabbit into a clump of gorse. The rabbit got away.

We managed about 3km in total before we were fed up with the weather and headed home in the car. I practiced a bit on the guitar while Rufus slept his chase off. Rufus has a chew that he leaves at my house and rather than chewing it, he carries it around, placing it in important places during his stay. He likes to tease me with it too and every time I try to get it off him, he walks away. This time I walked after him, and a very slow game of chase developed.

I had to take some photos of guitars that I’m selling and I had to fix strap locks to one of the bass guitars. Then I could relax and take it easy for a bit.

Tomorrow we head for the hills, so it’s an early night for both of us. In fact, as I type, one of us is already snoring quietly in front of the TV.

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