Day 109 – Cheriton to Gowerton 25 July 2018

Day 109 – Cheriton to Gowerton 25 July 2018

We had a great celebratory meal last night, at an Italian restaurant in Mumbles, and I confess I was a little heavy-headed this morning. We hoped that today might be the lucky day for finding an 11 o’clock coffee stop, but alas, no joy.

We left one car near the station at Gowerton, then came back to the pub we finished at yesterday, and turned off down the lane where, had the sea wall at Cwm Ivy still been intact, we would have emerged from the salt-flats. To begin with the walk meandered around the flats again, but then entered farmland and some pleasant wooded areas.

However, it was not long before the path joins the road at Crofty.  We arrived there around 10.15, but neither pub was open.  The door of one was actually open, and a lady was laying tables, but she did not feel able to serve us coffee – nothing could be done before twelve.

Somewhat disgruntled, we marched on. Before long we saw a hiker coming towards us and stopped to talk. She is doing the Wales Coastal Path, but in the opposite direction. We talked about the optimum number of days to do on a trip. I said that in some ways, I’d like to do a really long chunk of two or three months, but that in fact, the longest stretch I have done was two weeks, by which time I was thoroughly fed up.  Her advice was that, once you push through the two-week mark, walking becomes your life, and you sink into it completely.  Not sure – one to think about if I have an extended period of free time – not likely in the immediate future.

The road was quiet to begin with, but became busier.  In parts, you can walk to the side on the old railway track, now a cycle-path, which used to serve a branch line from Gowerton to Penclawdd, initially installed to move coal from the mines in the Morlais valley. It is hard to believe there were once mines in the Gower – the Welsh Development Agency has done a fantastic job of removing all signs of this once pervasive industry.  Before the railway, there was a canal, which brought coal from inland to the dock, for transport to sea-going vessels.  There is the merest ghost now of the dock to be seen at low-tide.

Some effort has been made to make the route pretty with wildflowers, and it was good to see across the estuary, but after yesterday’s gorgeousness, today was bound to be a bit tame. Nevertheless, the weather was pleasant, and having my brother-in-law for company made it a silver day.

12 miles.

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Day 108 – Porth Einon to Cheriton 24th July 2018

Day 108 – Porth Einon to Cheriton 24th July 2018

We promised ourselves that we would start earlier today, and we did a bit better than yesterday, finding somewhere to leave one car and wriggling all the way through the lanes to cross Gower from north to south for 9am.  The morning was somewhat overcast, but it was not raining, and the forecast was good. We set out along the east side of the headland at Porth Einon, climbing up past a campsite, and looking back across to the headland we were on yesterday.  There is a

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View east from Porth Einon

monument stone at the top, dedicated to Gwent Jones (1910 – 1962) and Stephen Lee (1889 – 1962), described as ‘Dau gyfaill gwyr’ – two faithful men, who, as members of the Gower Society, helped preserve the cliffs.

Their work was well done – the cliff top walk is fine walking. We were pleased to see some ponies enjoying the view, too.Ponies above Porth Eynon 24.7.18 The tide was out, showing how the cliffs have developed over millennia, rock thrusting up from the earth’s core, and being worn away by the constant pressure of the waves.  There are no trees on this stretch of path, nothing but gorse.  Although we have had rain the last couple of days, the grass is yellow and worn.

Around 10.15, the clouds began to clear. We were in hopes of finding a cliff-top café for coffee, but, once again, were disappointed.  The path winds in and out of the deep fissures in the cliff face – running inland for a few hundred yards, down and up a steep slope then out again towards the sea. We were looking out for the famous Worm’s Head, but were not quite sure we had found it, until we passed it and looked back, then the shape of it is easy to sea. Nothing to do with worms, of course – ‘worm’ is a mediaeval term for a dragon.

The cliff tops were easy walking, and we soon began to see lots of other people with children and dogs.  Passing the Worm’s Head, we could see the curve of bay that is the delightful Rhossili beach – voted Wales’ best beach this year (2018) by Trip Advisor, and apparently in their top ten for the last six years.  And it is, indeed, spectacular – probably the best beach I have encountered so far in the whole walk.  Some of the Norfolk beaches might run it close for length and beauty of sands, but with the cliffs and the scenery round Rhossili also being magnificent, it is in a class of its own.

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Me overlooking Rhossili Beach.

On a more prosaic note, there is also a fine café, where we had a super lunch, overlooking the sea. To reach the beach, you need to go down a winding path and then steps.  The sun was getting stronger, and the sky bluer – ideal conditions.

The beach itself is completely flat – the sands are soft and pale gold, and the water was warm- we took off our boots and walked through it – very welcome to the feet after several days walking. The size and quantity of jellyfish was less pleasing.  As we walked north (the bay is at the end of the peninsula, and turns north), we could see lots of para-skateboarders. Not sure that is the right name – they have skateboard type things, with sails, racing along the sands.  Some of them went so fast they took off and it looked great fun – shame I am too much of a wimp to give it a go.

The path climbs up the cliffs, to a hillier section. On this stretch, there is no beach – the rounded green hills just drop straight into the sea,  and you can see across the estuary of the Llwchwr into the county of Carmarthen.  Llanmadoc beach and the Llwchwr estuary 24.7.18We then curved round and down into some sand dunes, and the path meandered down to the beach at Llanmadoc   The beach went for miles, extending into an area called Whiteford Sands along a spit, and, for me, was quite as impressive as Rhossili. We kept thinking we must have reached the end, but the beach curved on and on for nearly four miles.  At the northern-most tip, it swung back on itself and the path went inland. To our left was a vast expanse of wetlands and marsh.  To our right,  a strip of woodland, Whitford Barrows, only a few hundred yards wide, but completely different scenery from the beach on the other side.Whitford Barrows 24.7.18

It used to be possible to cross the wetlands on a mediaeval sea wall at Cwm Ivy, but the wall was breached earlier this year, and has not been repaired. We therefore had to join the road and walk a mile or so along it, back to the pub, where I also picked up some good news about another project.

Unsurprisingly, with the views, the company and the weather, this was a diamond day – only my second. 18 miles.

Day 107 – Caswell Bay to Port Eynon

Day 107 – Caswell Bay to Port Eynon

What a difference from yesterday in the weather!  When we started out, it was grey and mizzling and continued overcast until well on into the afternoon. We drovIMG_4131e down into Gower, and left one car at Port Eynon, before coming back to Caswell Bay.  We dropped down on to Pwll du beach – being very critical of the rather ugly 1960s block of flats that over shadows it. Walking to the end of the beach, it was not clear where the path went – either over a heap of rocks at the end or else up onto the road in front of the block.

Whilst we were deliberating, we saw a couple of brave swimmers – it was still wet and quite chilly, and we were thinking that swimming was the last thing we fancied – suddenly, the man called out – Nick! Astonishingly, the couple had been my sister and brother-in-law’s neighbours in Surrey back in the early 2000s. Talk about a coincidence.  Just proves you cannot go anywhere without running into someone you know.

We chatted for a moment, and asked about any cafes in the vicinity – coffee was feeling like a good plan. Unfortunately, the nearest was an hour away at West Cliff.  We arrived at the excellent café in pouring rain, so spent a good 45 minutes having a delicious Welsh rarebit and coffee. It was still drizzling as we emerged but we were slightly comforted with the thought that the latest weather forecast was for sun in the afternoon.

Back on the path, we went round the headland, and found ourselves overlooking Three Cliffs Bay. The path then deviates into Pennard Burrows – as one might guess from the name, this is a series of sand-dunes – not brilliant for walking in, and easy to lose the path,  but, with the general lay of the land, not possible to get lost, even though you have to go slightly inland, towards a ruined church, as there is only one place to cross the little stream – a series of stepping stones. There were quite a few people about by this time, with dogs and children as the rain had stopped.

Over the stream, and up onto a low headland, than down through woodland with dunes under foot, onto Oxwich Bay.  We met a boy of around 12, who was holidaying with his IMG_4189family, who was eager to tell us about the giant blue jelly-fish he had found. It was the largest one he had ever seen – it was even the largest one his dad had ever seen!  And when we came onto Oxwich beach, we could agree that the jelly-fish are monsters!

We stopped for a drink at the hotel at the end of the bay, then went through the woods at the west end of Oxwich – there is a little church hidden in the woods, dedicated to St Illtyd. Legend has it that the first Christian church was built here in the sixth century – the current building is ancient enough – 13th & 14th century.  Unfortunately, it was locked.IMG_4206

There was a steep pull up to the top of the cliff, but the sun was beginning to shine quite brightly and the views were excellent as we did the last few miles along the beach edge before arriving at Port Eynon. There were lots of ponies wandering about – presumably they wander on the common land like Esmmoor ponies. IMG_4233

We found a pub, and had a welcome gin and tonic. The pub was crowded, and lots of people were eating. However, the presence of a (used) nappy in its sack on the table next to us argued in favour of a home-cooked meal.  A silver day, with 13 miles covered.

Day 106 – Abertawe to Caswell Bay 22 July 2018

Day 106 – Abertawe to Caswell Bay 22 July 2018

Today was quite a contrast to yesterday!  I left the rather lovely Air B and B I have booked, with the idea of leaving the car about halfway between Abertawe and Mumbles. Nick, my brother-in-law from Australia, was due to meet me mid-afternoon, so the plan was to walk half-way, then meet him back at the house and continue.

I duly parked, and waited for a bus. And waited. And waited. According to the timetable, they passed along the road every  half hour, and I saw two come along, and turn up the road just before the stop I was standing at. I wrestled with downloading the timetable again on my phone and concluded that the bus I wanted did not run on a Sunday (atlhough the whole site was rather vague on detail), so I drove into Abertawe and parked by the station again. A good hour wasted!

But it did not matter – the weather was warm, and although I was feeling somewhat battered about the legs after yesterday, I was in good spirits. I walked down through the shopping area of Abertawe, past the ruins of the Norman castle, and into the bay area. This has been renovated in recent years and is a rather lovely marina. There were hordes of people around, apparently a charity run is in progress.

I fought my way against the tide of runners, and along the marina, coming out onto a short passage of sand-dunes, before the beach.

It is a superb beach – I am amazed it is not a more popular holiday destination. The sands are flat and golden, with a long tidal range.  I walked steadily for a couple of hours, soothing my scratched legs in the clear water, before climbing back up onto the cob and finding a bus that was actually going to Swansea. I picked up the car, and went back to the house, where I met Nick.  After a swift lunch, we dropped one car off at Caswell Bay, just beyond Mumbles and took the other back to where I had caught the bus. Proceedings got off to a good start with an ice-cream from the local dairy.

Again, it was a leisurely walk – the beach at this western end of the bay is much less attractive – quite a lot of rather smelly mud, so we walked mainly along the promenade, into Mumbles. We could see the lighthouse on a promontory, off the beach below – there were steep stairs going down, then up again to the lighthouse rock, but much of it was inaccessible. The lighthouse was built in 1794, and re-engineered in 2017 to be LED lit. The other famous feature is the pier, with the station from the old Swansea-Mumbles railway – the first railway in the world that took paying passengers. At that time it was horse-drawn, but converted to steam-power in 1877. Always a popular holiday destination, Mumbles was described by Dylan Thomas as ‘a rather nice village, despite its name’.  The town was chosen by The Times newspaper as the best place to live in Wales in 2018 – personally, I preferred the beach at the Swansea end of the bay, but it is certainly a charming town.

The path then climbs up onto a headland, over the golf course and in the late evening sun we could see far away to the headland above Oxwich.  A thoroughly enjoyable day – actually reaching Gold standard.