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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Dave and Rufus’ lads week day 4 – Just one more cairn

Following our training plan, today was down as a long walk. I had been thinking about where to go to give us distance and climb and I had decided on Craig y Fan Ddu. It’s a challenging initial climb with a range of options once we get to the top. An early start was in order and Rufus is very good at making sure I’m awake early. He’s learnt now that nothing happens before 6am but he still insists on checking to make sure I’m okay throughout the night. He appears at the side of the bed and if I’m awake, I give him a little tickle under the chin. That’s enough, and he trots back to his bed.

We set off early enough but as I was driving, I realised that it would take us nearly 90 minutes to get tot the start of the walk and it was too good a morning to miss out on time on the mountains. It was going to be a hot day and I wanted the main climb to be over before the temperature rose. So I changed out destination and explained to Rufus (he has a say, after all. I took his tail wag to be a sign of agreement). We made for the Llia valley instead, saving 45 minutes of travel time.

We set off from the car park at 8.13 exactly, according to the route mapper I use. The sky was blue and the sun was strong but there was a nice breeze keeping the temperature under control. Almost immediately, we encountered a stile, which Rufus took in his stride. Then we threaded our way up the side of Fan Llia, dodging sheep and lambs. To his credit, Rufus showed no inclination to chase them and was happy to lead me along the path. There are many pathways up the side of the mountain, some made by walkers but most made by sheep. And streams trickle down to the Afon Llia, making for some hard going. The fine weather had dried the worst of the marsh out, though.

In just over 40 minutes, we reached the cairn that marks the summit of Fan Llia. The views all around were gorgeous. I’ve mentioned in this blog before that Rufus and I have walked all of the mountains we can see from Fan Llia. I get a great sense of how the Brecon Beacons (from the Black Mountain in the west to the Black Mountains in the east) are laid out.

Just one more cairn, I said to Rufus. He was out of earshot, investigating a particularly pungent scent and I took his lack of answer to mean ‘ok’. So we continued north, curving slightly to the east as we followed the high ground. The sheep were fewer here but still Rufus ignored them in favour of a few small pools of water, in which he took great delight in cooling his paws off.

We reached a small pile of stones (naturally occurring so not strictly a cairn, but allow me this) and we stopped for a breather and to allow Rufus to cool down in the breeze, as the sun was beginning to heat things up. We sat for 20 minutes drinking in the view across the valley to Fan Nedd and Fan Gihyrich, watching the airliners heading off to America and Canada and listening to a cuckoo calling from the woods more than a mile distant.

Then it was time to find the next cairn. This one was on a new bit of the mountain for Rufus, although I had walked this way many years ago while preparing for my first Everest base camp trek. Our route took us across Cefn Perfedd and down into a valley that was criss-crossed by deep cut sheep paths which channelled us along. But on the other side as we climbed, the next cairn (a proper one this time) was visible on the horizon. We watched two soldiers with their bright orange hi-vis panels on their back packs as they crested the ridge and took a moment’s break at the cairn. Two more walkers left was we were approaching.

We stopped at this cairn for lunch. I had a Cornish pasty (Rufus had some, of course) and Rufus had a selection of snacks and chews, all good for him (no junk food for him on our walks). I always carry plenty of water for both of us and I use it as extra weight for training and we both had a good long drink here. It was getting warmer now and I had been watching Rufus to make sure he was okay as he can feel the heat, being a big black furry hound. But he seemed okay and when I suggested carrying on to the next cairn, Rufus was off before I could fasten all backpack straps.

This last section took us to a cairn set at the edge of Craig y Fro, overlooking an old quarry and the A470 just north of the Storey Arms. By now the cool morning was turning into a hot afternoon and here there was little breeze to cool us off. So after a couple of photos of the cairn, we turned to start the homeward trek. Above us, a Red Kite circled lazily in a corkscrew, taking it away from us.

We took the walk back more easily. We were both feeling the distance and there was no hurry to get home. So we took our time, stopping where we felt like it. We took a longer rest at the spot where we could look over Fan Nedd and once again the sounds of birds and rather hoarse sheep were all that we could here. The walk along the top of Fan Llia seemed never ending, with each little rise hinting at the summit cairn, but always disappointing until finally it was there, signifying the final drop down tot he car park. Sheep parted before us as we made our way through them and down to the stile, which Rufus cleared in two bounds. Then we were back in the car park.

The car park is next to the River Llia and what better way to cool off hot paws than by a paddle and swim in the waters? We spent another half hour splashing and swimming. Well, Rufus did and when he saw I wasn’t getting wet, he made sure he splashed me and shook himself dry on me.

Our route.

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Lets go fly a Kite

Yesterday started off with a nice stroll along the tow path of the local canal. The Tennant canal was completed in 1790 to transport coal from a pit at Glan y Wern near Crymlyn the river Neath, where it was transferred to larger boats. It fell into disuse after only 20 years but was restored and enlarged to carry barges of up to 50 tons in 1818 by George Tennant. I pass it often, crossing by a bridge at Jersey Marine, and I’ve equally often promised myself a visit one day.

Part of the path was closed due to engineering works on the nearby electricity pylons, so I was forced to head north towards Briton Ferry. But on the tow path, it was impossible to work out exactly where I was. And that was great. Minutes before I’d been driving through the suburbs of Swansea and suddenly I was transported nearly 200 years back in time.

As I walked, the landscape changed from a valley, in which acres of reeds grew, to a more industrial one with the remains of storage depots and little engineering sheds, now in ruins. I passed under several bridges, ironic symbols of the canal’s demise as they carried rail and road over the water. I passed horses content to graze and watch me with no concern. Eventually, I got to the motorway bridge, a vast modern construction completely out of place in my little world. Just beyond the modern concrete bridge, a smaller stone bridge contemporary with the canal stood, signifying an early track across. I turned around here as I had other plans for the rest of the day.

I went with friends out to Carreg Cennen castle. The Medieval castle sits on an outcrop of rock and is by far the most impressively set fort I have visited. It reminds me of Dryslwyn’s castle near Carmarthen, but is much grander. The views from the top take in the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountain, with Carmarthenshire off to the west.

We explored the castle, and ventured down into the natural cave that winds its way under the castle courtyard. It was dark and narrow, with a slippery floor but we came prepared with torches and squeezed the stooped our way down to the very end. There we found a natural spring, which would have been a useful water supply for the castle occupants during a siege. Evidence was found here of pre-historic occupation and, more recently, finds of two Roman coins suggests at least a prolonged visit by the Romans.

After a delicious lunch in the cafe, we drove along the northern edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. We spotted signs for the Red Kite feeding centre and decided to take a look. We were so fortunate, because just as we parked, one of the staff told us we were just in time to see the feeding. For the next 45 minutes we watched from the hide as around 50 Red Kites wheeled and swirled in the air currents, dropping en mass every so often to swoop and pick up the meat that had been left for them. It was a magnificent sight, and even more special for being totally unplanned. Definitely one to return to.

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Seeing the light (house)

Back to Whiteford again this morning. Although I love it down there, especially in the lovely weather we’re having at the moment, I’d like to be back on the hills. I think it might be a while before my knee is well enough to risk that, though.

So at 8.30 this morning, we were out in the sunshine and rapidly warming air on the golden sand of Whiteford. It was clear and there was little wind. Lapwings leapt into the air with their strange siren call as we made our way through the long dune grass. I thought we might have the beach to ourselves but a group of people appeared to be making a movie a short distance from the path to Cwm Ivy.  We avoided them and carried on along the beach towards Whiteford Lighthouse.

The tide was out today, in complete contrast to last week. I love the sound of the tide so I missed it’s lapping. I could see that it was out far enough that it would be possible to get to the lighthouse, so that’s where we aimed for. I tried checking my tide times app, but there wasn’t enough signal to get any data. Instead I decided to trust to luck and frequent checking of the tide line. I could hear words from a previous blog post ‘the tide comes in rapidly on this beach’ running through my head as we walked out. Rufus was uninterested in such trivia as tides. He was more interested in the strange maritime smells that assaulted his nose.

We passed the wreck of a small metal hulled boat. Despite many searches, I haven’t been able to find any information about it and I begin to wonder if it was an old boat brought there to use as a target. Eventually, after crossing masses of seashells and small and medium sized pools, we reached the stone and concrete base of the lighthouse. I love this place. It’s so characterful. Barnacles encrust the base and rust engulfs the upper parts of the tower. Whiteford lighthouse is the only surviving wave-washed cast iron lighthouse in the UK and one of only a few in the world. It was built in 1865 and went out of use in the 1920s, although it was briefly restored to working order with a solar powered flashing light in the 80’s. It is now a daylight only navigation aid. It’s also a Grade II listed scheduled monument.

In awe of the historical and engineering magnificence of the lighthouse, Rufus peed on it.

We headed back to shore. I kept a wary eye on the tide but it didn’t seem to be doing much. I also kept a wary eye on the route, as we were in prime artillery range territory and it was unlikely that the tidal part of the beach had been cleared as thoroughly as the dunes. We were both okay, though, and we climbed the tallest dune around to sit and have a snack. Of course, Rufus wanted my snack as well as his own. It wasn’t to be and with a huff, he went looking for adventures.

We made our way back through the dune system, weaving and wandering as the whim took us. I spotted a Kestrel sitting on a dune top, tearing apart some unfortunate prey. It was more interested in Rufus’ movements than mine, so I was able to get quite close before it flew off to a safer dune.

The while the sharp crack of shotguns had started to disturb the quiet. Near to Cwm Ivy tor, a club has built a clay pigeon shooting range. I say built, it’s a small container and some rope fencing off a dip in the dunes. It’s a little too close to places where people walk, the ponies and horses wander and more importantly, the Lapwings have their sanctuary. The coastal path passes behind the gun line but then turns to climb a hill to the left of the range. Be warned if you are in the area.

We trudged up the final path to the car park and I stopped to talk to the lady in the house nearest the gate into the village. She’s been putting a bowl of water out for dogs every day for the last 30 years. It’s certainly been there very time I’ve been there and although Rufus tends not to drink from it, I appreciate the thought. So today, I said thank you. We chatted for a bit about how dogs tend not to like fresh water. Then we completed our trudge to the car.

Today we did 10.3km in about 3.5 hours.

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Bicentennial

This is my 200th post. If you’re expecting something dramatic and/or insightful. I’m afraid you might be a little disappointed. On the other hand, if you’re expecting a few of my favourite photographs from the last 12 years, then you may be happy.

Climbing on Skye

Climbing on Skye

A great week on Skye with a mate (in the picture) during a snowy but sunny period. 2001. Here we’re walking up near McLeod’s Table in Trotternish.

Icicle

Icicle

On the same trip, heading through the forest to the Old Man of Storr, I stopped to snap this. I was using an Olympus CZ3030 at the time and still carried a 35mm SLR.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trees in the mist

Caledonian Canal, Corpach

Glen Garry

Glen Garry

Sgurr nan Ciste

Sgurr nan Ciche

Three more images taken on various trips to Scotland. I climbed Sgurr nan Ciche in 2007.

Everest, Nuptse and lhotse

Everest from Kala Patthar

Saddhu

Saddhu

Olympic flame

Olympic flame

Sensual tree

Sensual tree

Nant Ffrancon

Nant Ffrancon

Rose

Rose

Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian’s Wall

Craig y Fan ddu

Craig y Fan Ddu

Hercules over Pen y Fan

Hercules over Pen y Fan

And finally, some pictures of Rufus as a pup. As I type, he’s flat out in the front room having roasted by the fire for half an hour.

Rufus at 8 weeks

Rufus at 8 weeks

Rufus at 8 months

Rufus at 8 months

 

Don’t worry, normal service will be resumed for post 201.

Thanks for sticking with me.

Frustrations

Another glorious morning and the sun forced the curtains aside and slapped me on the face at about 7am. That’s ok – it’s an hour’s lie-in for me. Any longer lying awake and my back starts to ache. Age, I suppose. So I was up and out of the house by 7.45. My knee is still playing up so it was plastered with ibuprofen gel and strapped up. I ended up in Mumbles. It would have been a nice walk but today I had to drive and also be very careful where I went. No hills, no rough ground. Even the few steps down to the beach made me wince.

Even so, I managed to get some decent photos of the sea as it made every effort to soak me by splashing over the rocks. Then I strolled back along the seafront, taking in the views across Swansea bay. The tide was in and the waters choppy and restless. The waves seemed uncoordinated and random. I could just about make out my road from there and I have a photo that shows my house. It was that clear. Beyond Swansea, I could see the snow covered hills. I would much rather have been there with my walking buddy and slave driver, Rufus. But it would be foolish to risk worsening my knee.

Not content with Mumbles, I drove down to Birchgrove to find the engine house of Scott’s Pit. This was one of three or four small scale coal pits in the Birchgrove area in the early to mid 19th century. All that remains now is the shell of the Cornish beam engine house which was used to pump water from the mine. Despite several developments to the site, and a branch of the Swansea Vale railway line being built, it went out of use in the middle of the 19th century as the flooding made the pit uneconomical. I’ve seen the characteristic engine house and chimney from the motorway many times but today I was able to find access to it.

Then it was back home for coffee and the inevitable housework.

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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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What could have been 2 – what was.

As a brilliant birthday present last year, my friend bought me a flight in an old bi-plane.  I’d had several attempts at booking the flight, all of which had been postponed by the weather. I re-booked for Wednesday and at the last minute changed the date to today. I rang up the company this morning just before I left and was told that the sky had turned a funny shade of blue and it was ideal flying weather. I set off, nervous and excited and eager to get to the airport, in Gloucester. Staverton was an old RAF station that  was home to training flights and played a part in developing air-to-air refueling at the end of WW2. I’d studied Google maps and the place looked like a maze but I drove slowly between the hangars and finally spotted Tiger Airways on the left.

The hangar was full of aerobatic monoplanes and two Stampe SV4Cs with their engines disassembled. Tiger, the half greyhound, welcomed me in to the office where Chris set up the Pre-flight Briefing DVD. Apparently, if I touched anything with yellow tape on it, the plane was likely to plummet to the ground and if I didn’t do the harness up properly, I was likely to plummet to the ground – no parachutes here. If I talked while the air traffic control were talking, I could make us miss something important and if didn’t plummet to the ground, people would shout at me.  Then it was on with a flying jacket and white silk scarf and out to the waiting aircraft – a Stampe SV4C G-AZGE with a complete engine. After filling the tank, I climbed into the front cockpit, nervous and excited. Tizi, the chief instructor pilot, fitted the leather flying helmet and I did a radio check. Chris took photos.

Then, just like the movies, there was a lot of  ‘fuel pumps on, brakes on, carbs primed, contact,’ stuff and on the second attempt and with the aid of a hammer, the engine started. They even said ‘chocs away’ just before we started off. After some contact with air traffic control, we taxied out to the runway and waited for a Cessna to land. It bounced quite high and Tizi laughed as only an experienced pilot is allowed to. Then, with the wind in my face, we bumped down the runway. In a surprisingly short time, we were airborne and climbing away from the airport. The wind buffeted the plane, making it shake and shimmy, but there was no stomach churning turbulence. I actually felt part of the plane rather than sitting in it. We always returned to the same heading and level flight. Tizi tested me out on the controls and then offered me the chance to experience some simple aerobatics. We looped, then we did a loop with a roll. The thought of both made me doubt I wanted to do them, but the reality was that they were exhilarating, fun and not nearly as bad as I was expecting.

Then I had a chance to fly the plane. The control stick was remarkably sensitive and required the lightest of touches from finger and thumb to make the plane bank, climb and descend. It was very simple to maneouver the plane and the bit of the briefing that said ‘it’s easier to fly this plane than to drive a car’ felt true. With Tizi’s guidance, we climbed up over the flooded Severn, over Tewkesbury and then circled gently around to fly over the airfield at around 2000 feet. We watched other aircraft landing and taking off from above. Then we circled again to join the landing circuit. I was just about getting the hang of the tiny movements required to guide the plane as we dropped in behind a Cessna that was ahead of us in the queue to land. Tizi only took over again as we descended and slowed on final approach. The landing was smooth and we taxied back to the hangar.

Sitting in the cockpit waiting to fly, I thought about WW1 pilots and how flimsy their planes were to take into combat. I was feeling nervous at that point and it must have been similar for them. As we taxied, I felt excitement too, but it wasn’t like the flights to and from Lukla. I felt more in control as I could see more and feel the plane – as I said before, it felt as if I was part of it. In the air, it was nothing like flying in a passenger plane. I could see clearly out but the height wasn’t an issue. I guess because I was looking sideways rather than down. Watching the ground above me was odd but not frightening. Diving towards the ground coming out of the loop and roll was disconcerting but not scary.

When I got home, I looked up the history of the plane on the Internet. It was built in 1947 in Belgium and was probably a trainer. But the most fascinating this for me was that in 1976, it was modified to look like a WW1 SE5a fighter and used in the film ‘Aces High’. Look at this link to see the plane itself – scroll down until you see the plane on the ground with the tail number E-940. I sat in the front of that!

What a great experience!

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Around and about

In total contrast to yesterday, today was grey and grim and drizzly. I was tired after gigging last night and so I spent the morning indoors, cleaning and more cleaning and other necessities to make sure the house is at least presentable. I hate cleaning, as it tends to throw up dust which I’m allergic to. But it has to be down.

As a reward, when the drizzle lifted, I went for a stroll down through Sketty. I took the infra red camera and called in to a local graveyard on the way. It’s opposite where my Gran used to live. When I was very young and my dad was in the RAF, we’d come to stay when he was posted to a new station while he got the housing sorted. Even at that age, I was never frightened of the graveyard despite knowing what it was. Since then, I love walking through old graveyards and reading the inscriptions, which often tell a story. I was taken by one large grave, topped with a large white memorial written in French. The inscription was for a Swiss born woman and, later, her husband. But what made it more striking was that her son was buried there too, before her, as he was lost at sea as a merchant seaman during the war. It’s not only the servicemen who died to keep this country free.

From there, it was a short walk to Singleton park before calling in to the local supermarket and then, as the drizzle started again, home.

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