Grey

Rufus let me lie in until 6.15am this morning. Although he checked to see I was okay at 12.30am, 3.30am, 5am and 5.30am and only hinted at his need to patrol the garden again. It was light when we went out and there was the suggestion that the morning would be dry, so pausing only briefly to look at the slugs and make sure they weren’t attacking my fledgling potato plant shoots, we had a swift breakfast and made our way to Whiteford.

Today’s training plan called for a long walk on relatively flat ground but with a heavier pack. With a large chunk of Old Red Sandstone from Pen y Fan in the bottom of the pack, it weighed around 22lbs (that should be around 10lb heavier than the pack I carry on a daily basis on the trek). As I’m writing this, the lack of weight on my back makes it feel as if I’m floating!

The wind was blowing and there was a hint of drizzly rain in the air as we set off towards the beach, but apart from one short shower, we remained dry throughout. We walked along the length of the beach to the headland with the recently turned tide slowly ebbing. Whiteford Lighthouse was engulfed in a rough sea. There was a little shelter around the headland as the dunes kept the worst of the wind off us, so we stopped there for a water break.

Turning back, we walked amongst the dunes so that I could get the effect of walking up and down short but steep hillocks. We shared the dunes with loads of sheep, some frisky horses and in the distance a number of cows. There were a lot of different species of birds today; waders on the sea shore, plenty of lapwings and smaller birds inland. Our route was lengthened by having to weave around clumps of sheep although Rufus showed little interest in them.

In the distance on the edge of the Landimore marsh, a pair of horses were making sweet love, and a loud racket too. We ignored them and carried on through the dunes and the woods before crossing the dunes to the beach again. In the hour or so since we’d left the beach, the tide had raced out by around 100m and waves were breaking in the distance.

We passed through the lapwings once again, and avoided a flock of sheep chomping on the grass of the dunes. Then all that was left was the long uphill slog back to the car park.

Back home, it was showers all around; me because I was sweaty and Rufus because he’d managed to roll in every single appallingly smelly thing on the beach.

Today we did 9km in just over 2hrs.

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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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On the waterfront

Confused by the change to British Summer Time, Rufus dozed until 7am (which is 6am in GMT), a full 30 minutes longer than normal. I relished the extra minutes in bed. Coffee and scones (and a breakfast of chicken and vegetables followed by three small pieces of scone for Rufus) fortified us for the morning and off we went. We made a short diversion to Broadpool and then parked up at Cwm Ivy. It’s a short walk down to the beach and once there, we had the sweep of the bay to ourselves. Lapwings made their almost electronic whistles as we walked past, lifting and swooping to distract us from their nesting ground.

The sun was shining and the tide was in. The waves were lapping and every now and then a larger wave would push the water further up the beach. There are a few shelves on this beach and once the water rises above each one, it rushes in quite quickly up to the next. As we got on to the beach, the water rose above the final shelf and rolled in quickly, leaving little space between the water and the dunes.  We walked on pebbles for a while and had to creep in close to the dunes several times.

As we neared the point, the waves started getting much larger and crashing loudly onto the shore. At the point, the water boiled and raced this way and that. The easterly wind was blowing spray from the tops of the waves as they broke. In the distance, Whiteford lighthouse was surrounded by rough sea.

The guy we met at the point was wrapped up against the winter winds, and he was complaining about the bitter cold but when we rounded the tip of the dunes, it wasn’t that bad. The sun took the edge off the cold. We sat on top of the highest dune around and had a rest. Rufus had a chew and water and went off in search of new scents. I sat and enjoyed the morning, and rested my knee which was beginning to ache again. I watched a crowd of little wader bird as they scavenged along the waters edge. They chased the water as it went out and scurried out when the next wave came in. All the time, they were moving along the beach. It was quite comical to see them move back and forth with the waves.

We made our way back through the dunes. Almost immediately, we were sheltered from the wind and the dunes held the heat from the sun. It was lovely and warm as we walked back. We met horses, Rufus chased a rabbit until it hid in a bramble bush and I had to drag him away. It was soon forgotten and we carried on up and over and around and between the dunes. Then we were back at the little valley that leads up to the car park. Slowly, we plodded the last half mile and finally sank into the seats, tired but happy.

Today we walked about 8.5km in 2.5 hours.

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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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