I have come to realise that I have not really fulfilled too many ‘out there’ goals this year, blaming a host of reasons for my lack of fitness, stamina and strength. It was whilst crafting a mail to my friend across the pond, Casey, that it finally dawned upon this here dimwit that I had been making all manner of excuses for my woes, but that’s exactly what they were excuses. So switching to computer off, leaving Casey’s mail unfinished, it was time for a change of tact. I’ve noticed that within my last few posts I have drifted away from my usual thread, that is primarily rambling on about the walks that myself and ol’ stinky take together and sharing them and their seasonal changes with anyone who may care to read my simple musings. This was also partly prompted by a delightful post from Claire at "Are we nearly there yet?”. So without further ado, put on your walking boots, grab a coat and come along with myself and Lucy for a stroll if you’re so minded, that is if you can stand the stench of the odourfull bog monster!
My walking lately has been lacking in distance and any real sort of gradient, although it has taken me through some soulful and enchanting woodland. So it’s time to stretch those leg muscles and get the heart pumping a tad harder me thinks, it’s time we headed back to the hills. We start off early morning and as we load ourselves into the Fun Cruiser the cold, frost laden, air can be felt deep in our chests as we draw each breath. Lucy seems to feel the new sense of purpose, there’s no dawdling to sniff out who’s crossed her front garden in the night, no it’s straight into the back of the car with a shiver of anticipation coursing through her muscles. The journey to the lower car park at Moel Famau is swiftly over, no music this time, just the hum of the tyres on the road. We disembark; taking a moment to let the cold air wash over us, the crisp smell of this cold autumnal morning is something that I cannot describe with justice, just that it says that we’re back where we belong. The low autumn sun has not long risen and it won’t find the slopes on which a lot of our path is to take us at any part of the day at this time of year with its lowly trajectory.
We set off at a good pace, a little too good I’m to find out later on, and the gradient away from the car park is enough for us to forget about the chill air as our muscles warm to their task. Half way up the slope Lucy hesitates, looking back at me foe support. Sure enough there, in the gloomy distance, is something smack bang in the middle of the path. I call Lucy to my side as we ease our pace, trying to make out in the low light what’s there ahead. Without warning a bird launchers itself off the trail towards the canopy of the now bare larch branches, a raptor! Knowing my camera’s limitations (and my lack of skills) we’re still too far for a picture and I’m still puzzled as to what type of raptor it is. As we near its position it heads off up trail once more and alights again upon the path, tis strange goings on indeed. It’s smaller than a sparrow hawk and its behaviour is puzzling us. We slow the pace further still becoming more aware of where we are placing our foot steps, a gentle hand on Lucy’s neck keeping her alongside of me. Again it lifts itself, this time landing upon a power cable support. This time we’re close enough to see what has so far eluded our attempts at identification, a kestrel! A rare sight indeed up here, only the second one that I can ever recall seeing on these trails, it seems that this is a good omen for the walk ahead. Again he heads through the larches canopy, allowing us just one more distant picture before he slides off beyond our vision.
We pick up the pace once more, Lucy springing along, happy to be given her head once more. As we crest the first of the hill’s shoulders the path darkens, the sunlight only glimpsed through the occasional gap in the dark, looming pines that now dominate the trail. The crunch of frozen surface water under our feet is like a quiet gunshot going off in this crisp air. The only other noise is shrill cries of warning from flitting mobs of Blue Tit-Marshes as they urge us to move on, move on through their patch of hillside. But even here, in the gloom of these tall trees there are splashes of beauty and wonder to behold even if only on the smallest of scale.
Lucy is now in full flow, her bursts of energy belying her age as she blasts back and forth within the run off ditches along side the trail. I reach for the camera to capture her madness when an almighty racket stops us within our tracks; Lucy’s only gone and flushed a cock pheasant from the undergrowth. His alarms cries shatter the stillness of the morning as he heads at full pelt through the pines down the valley side with Lucy doing her best to give chase through the tangled undergrowth, her hind quarters overtaking her front in her excitement. Camera forgotten, I stand there, grinning like a fool, as she clambers back up through the mass of dying ferns and deadwood, a more than sheepish look upon her face. We walk for while longer on these darkened pathways, our pace not yet slacking with only the odd break in the tree line opening out to reveal some stunning views on these few miles covered.
As we turn westward the trees begin to give way to a barren landscape where the remains of once mighty trees now stand witness to our passing like so many bleached bones from ancient battles. As the vista opens out even further to our eyes the felling comes over me as we pause to drink in the views that we are nothing more than fleeting shadows upon this ageless world and that when we’re finally gone it’ll heal itself as if we’d never been.
The trail starts to even off now, the hills and slopes around use tempting us like sirens seeking to bring sailors of old to their grief. I’m tempted to turn towards them in my heart but head wins the day. I know that I’m not yet ready to climb the slopes yet, so with a slightly heavy heart I turn to follow our planned route dreaming of walks to come.
The sun on this expose ridge, our pace and to be honest my lack of preparedness is combining and are beginning to take their toll upon me. I thought that in the cool of the dawn that I’d little in the way of gear and provision, a basic mistake! I should have kitted up with more care and foresight for now I’m becoming overheated and my muscles are starting to feel the strain. Fortunately I had done one thing right, and that was to consider bail out routes if required. But if I’m honest I was thinking of Lucy and had not considered them necessary for myself. If fact Lucy was doing more than ok, she’d remembered water stops that she hadn’t seen for over twelve months and watching her cavort through them all thoughts of her age were dispelled.
Another mile and we come to the bail out path, swiftly heading downhill on a steep gradient it would soon bring us back into the shade and cool air that I need.
Once descended the path again became dark and where the sun would fail to reach here, leaving frozen surface water and frosted leaves crunching under our footsteps once more. My eyes are drawn to a frozen track meandering across our path, I wonder if any of you good readers would care to have a stab at identifying the culprit of this finger wide track shown in the bottom of these three photos, perhaps a small prize would be in order?
We draw ever nearer to the car park, my over heated body now back in kilter, my lesson learnt. the next time I'll be far better prepared, with my walking kit in order, perhaps a post about what I'm (should be) carrying would be order? As we approach the car Lucy hangs back, reluctant to leave the hills. I crouch down to her, rubbing her ears roughly. “We will be back soon my girl” I whisper to her, very soon……
I hope that you enjoyed our foreshortened stroll, maybe next time we'll get that bit further. Oh and that mail to Casey? done and dusted.
Best regards, your friend,