Last weekend the weather was very hit and miss which gave us an ideal opportunity to focus on some serious walking and to give the camera a rest (I mostly failed on the latter). The reasons for wanting to do this were two-fold, starting with the fact that we are in the early stages of planning an attempt on the Offa’s Dyke long distance path next year. Stretching from north to south Wales over a distance of 177 miles it is definitely going to be a tall order, but that’s precisely why I want to do it. The second reason is that next summer I will be part of a team from work taking on the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge. This will involve climbing Snowdon, Cadair Idris and Pen y Fan in less than 24 hours and is definitely going to be tough. Despite being fit already there are always improvements to be made so on Saturday we headed to the Glamorgan Heritage Coast for another ten miler. Starting at Nash Point I couldn’t help stopping to look at the lighthouses which were far less effected by the gale blowing in off the sea than we were.
Speaking of wind the Bristol Channel was again packed with Manx Shearwaters but despite looking we couldn’t locate anything else in the choppy seas. Along the cliffs Fulmars and Rock Pipits were nice additions but it was the Skylarks in the fields that really grabbed our attention. A couple were in full song and flying quite close by, possibly as a result of this fledgling sitting slap bang in the middle of our path.
This coast is famous for its stratification of overlapping shale, limestone and sandstone, a make-up which has resulted in historically unstable cliffs. As they have been slowly (and on some occasions rapidly) worn away a huge wave cut platform has formed at their base. Walking along it is one of the best ways to see the many fossils that litter this coast. We collected a couple but will definitely be back for a more serious exploration.
The cliff top fields seemed to be ideal locations for growing beans, but as with too much of our farmland these days were mostly devoid of bird life. The occasional Dunnock, Chaffinch and Linnet were about as good as it got until we stumbled across a Shrew sat on the track. Initially we thought it was dead but as we passed it suddenly moved. Instead of bolting off into the undergrowth though it ran a couple of inches and then set about trying to eat a Snail. It was completely oblivious to our presence and allowed me within a couple of centimetres to part the grass and attempt a photo. Sadly I was only partially successful and got this slightly blurred attempt, but what a great encounter. It didn’t half make us jump when it suddenly bolted towards us though. Turns out we were just in the way of where it wanted to head next.
I should also mention that we had fantastic views of a Peregrine Falcon with kill near St Donats. It flew over us calling before returning to land on a ledge near the top of the cliff. We can’t be sure if it had young nearby but chose to move on quickly just in case.
On Sunday it was time to leave the flat coast behind and climb Pen y Fan. Being one of the ‘three peaks’ you couldn’t ask for a better practise ground and we were pleased to reach the summit in less than an hour even with a rather poorly Emma. Sadly the view from the top was almost entirely obscured by cloud but in some ways it made the place seem far more remote than it really is. I even succumbed to a friendly offer from a passing walker and ended up on camera myself, a rare event indeed.
The climb down was even quicker and in no time at all we were back at the car. Our return obviously coincided with the summit finally clearing, just another reminder that you never know quite what to expect when out in the countryside. I was asked yesterday if I would ever consider emigration and I categorically answered no. I just love this country too much!