Monday, 22 February 2016

A soggy walk

A normal lazy slow late rising Monday morning, a spell  of writing, lunch, then dry enough afternoon weather conditions to get out for a walk at last. Clare had made other arrangements, so I decided on a trek that would be a little more demanding than usual. I walked east through Canton and up Cowbridge Road West until I could turn left at the Baptist church and head to Parc Trelai, the huge open space that once was Ely racecourse, and now hosts lots of hockey and football pitches. 

My aim was to go further west to where I could take the road up to Caerau hill fort and the ruins of St John's church. The promise of a distant underpass traversing the A4232 western by-pass road, lured me, taking me straight to the base of the long high ridge which flanks the valley in which Caerau housing estate is set. I had hoped to find a trail leading upwards and westwards from there, but had gone quite in the wrong direction, well away from my intended destination.

On an impulse, I chose what seemed like an easy climb, straight up, through the forest of young beech and alder tress. It was further and higher and occasionally more precarious than I'd anticipated, as the ground was still quite soggy. It was half an hour before I came across a track which allowed me to climb up to the edge of the woodland. From there, it was a matter of circumnavigating a series of large sodden fields, home to grazing cattle in better weather. My Blackberry SatNav showed me where I was, Leckwith Hill, with some accuracy, even then, I didn't realise that I was the wrong side of the A4232 to get to Caerau Hill fort. I'd not used a large enough map to orientate myself in the first place. Serves me right.

The place where I emerged from woodland was too distant from my planned destination to arrive there by any route before sunset, so it was a question of finding my way to a road that would take me off the hill-top and back home. Farm tracks took me through one farmyard with a large herd of cattle, still under cover, and past another which was boarded up. Both farms had older dwellings, now used for storage that were centuries old but now superceded by 20th century houses. The upland plateau has been farmed and grazed by animals since ancient times.

Just by the second farmhouse, I spotted signs for a walker's path, and decided to follow it, as the view from the stile showed a metalled road about a quarter of a mile away across fields, the turning for which I must have missed earlier. The fields were occupied by muddy looking sheep and the ground was saturated and churned up, so progress was very slow. I nearly lost a shoe several times, and went into the mud up to my ankles as well, so I was in a right messy state by the time I got to the road. This led me back up over the ridge, giving me a glimpse of Cardiff Bay Marina and Penarth in the distance, and dropped me down into the hamlet named after Leckwith Hill.

There was a conveniently placed bus stop on the main road, and I had to wait less that five minutes for one of the number 95 buses running between Penarth and Cardiff, via Llandough Hospital. I perched on a seat near the door, avoiding rubbing mud on to panels or seats. At the next stop, a woman of substantial build with bright eyes and a smile got on the bus. "You've been somewhere muddy then." she said, on seeing the state of my trousers. "An altercation with a field full of sheep." I said. "Ah yes," she replied, "I get like that twice a day."

The 95 bus dropped me off in Canton to walk the last half mile home. I guess that I walked about five miles in my little adventure. Now there's the clean up to do. Amazingly, my socks were wet and  muddy only above the ankle, from where I sank in too deep. The new Ecco walking shoes fit so well that nothing penetrated the neatly fitting edge. Quite a feat of good design and manufacture.

Tonight's episode of the X-Files was hilariously tongue in cheek, about a giant lizard like creature that was meant to be ravaging forest walkers at night - a 'were-lizard', who worked in a smartphone shop by day, and had existential identity crises every evening. Mulder by an imaginative feat of detection gets to interview him and discovers it's not what you presume. It's a lizard mutating into a man, after emerging unexpectedly from a 10,000 year hibernation cycle. And the local dog catcher is actually the serial killer. It's a great piece of satire on both the original X-Files, with a touch of CSI thrown in. It clashed with the last episode of Benidorm, which was equally a satirical if fond look at ex-pat holiday makers, but that was accessible on ITV+1, a great remedy for scheduling clashes. A great afternoon out and entertainment to follow.

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