Merthyr Mawr, with its sand dunes, and Ogmore, with its rock pools and small caves cut into the rocky cliff bordering the beach, were my favourites. I used to love sliding down the sand dunes on an old tin tray, a bit like sledging on snow, but without the loss of feeling in fingers and toes due to the freezing cold conditions.
I also had immense fun exploring the rock pools and tiny caves at Ogmore. Here I would enter my own little world, unaware of the time passing, watching the strong waves lash against the jagged rocks on which I stood above the sea, the water surging into the rock pools, creating small waterfalls as the tide retreated before once again smashing against the rocks and overfilling the rock pools, inhabited by crabs, limpets and jelly fish, all over again.
As I write this I begin to understand where my deep love of nature and solitude comes from. My two brothers are much older than me and had already left home by the time I was eight or nine, so they very rarely accompanied us on these Sunday afternoon trips, and so I got used to being alone and entertaining myself, while my parents sat on the beach sipping hot tea poured from the thermos flask they had packed before setting out.
Sometimes we would head north from Cardiff along the A470 towards Merthyr Tydfil and the South Wales Valleys. Somewhere along that route my father would select different narrow country roads that wound their way up into the immensely beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park. Then he we would park the car somewhere, and we would go for a walk along the banks of a crystal clear stream or river, or up the side of one of the hills, stopping to admire the breathtaking views, which for me, surpass anything created by man. I could sit for hours watching the birds that flew by, or listening to the sound of the water gushing and stumbling over the rocks as it hurtled towards the sea to the South.
Sometimes we would be able to watch one of the sheep farmers working with his dogs, using different sounds to separately guide each dog as they worked together to gather and move the flock of sheep to the chosen location. I hope these rural traditions never die out. Imagine the sheep being controlled by computers instead of dogs, very boring! Even though I am now a vegetarian and don’t agree with the slaughter of animals, I still find it so beautiful to see that link, that completely personal bond, between the farmer and his dogs. There used to be a television programme on the BBC called, One Man and His Dog, where sheep farmers would compete against each other, guiding a small flock of sheep around a predetermined course. The trial was timed and the winner was the one who did it the fastest.
You can watch these two videos to understand how the farmer and dogs work together.–