Gower Coastal Walk

Walking the Gower Coast: Port Eynon to Rhossili Part 2

One thing I will say for Swansea Tourism is that they provide excellent free maps of the Gower. You can pick them up at “Information Points” around the city. I invariably have one folded into my pocket or in the front of my rucksack. They are small enough to be folded and stored easily like that. Not like my massive Ordnance Survey Explorer map of Gower. It’s about 20 years old so I don’t like to get it out unless I really have to. I am not very good at folded maps back into their original shape. Even the free map when is essentially a A2 sheet of paper (42 x 60 cm or 16.5 x 23.4 inches) printed on both sides causes me trouble in a good breeze.

I don’t really need my map today as the path follows the sea in a logical manner. The coast path signs appear at all junctions to make it clear which way I should be going. I do need the map to work out where something called the Knave is. The knave is a triangular slab of rock. I had come across a beautiful photograph of the Knave by Paul Edwards and was quite intrigued by it, as I had never come across it before.

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The Knave – Paul Edwards 2012

I did not get to see the Knave from the same angle as Paul’s photograph on this particular walk.

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The Knave from the coast path (west)

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The Knave from the coast path (east)

From the coast path the Knave looks a bit like a dragon beginning to unfurl itself. I say that because there is a much larger dragon ahead, I am looking forward to seeing close up. I don’t have the time or energy to walk down to the Knave beach, today, I will leave that for another time.

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The Knave

I carry on the path towards Rhossili and my attention is drawn to the houses and farms  that lie away back from the cliff edge. You can see them from miles away and I wonder what they are like inside, looking out at the sea.

There is lots of wildlife to observe. I can hear a lark’s rising song and I see black crows. Dylan Thomas probably would described them as “bible- black”. I see a robin. I think on every walk I have been on I have seen robins, whether I am in woodland, by a wooded stream, on heath land or on on the clifftops, they really must be very adaptable little birds. I even see a rabbit; his white tail vanishing into the gorse. Apparently rabbits are a vanishing species in the UK, their numbers have fallen by 80-90% in the past 20 years so I am happy to see one out here today. I also see and manage to photograph a solitary tortoiseshell butterfly. Although, it is one of the most widespread butterflies in Britain, it too has suffered a decline in numbers.

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Tortoiseshell Butterfly

It is lambing season and the path is littered with sparkling white-fleeced lambs, twins and singletons sunning themselves along side their mothers. Maybe it’s my imagination but many of them seems to be smiling as they relax in the sun!

The path passes a series of narrow gullies down to the sea, Foxhole and Butterslade, and then the magnificent Thurba Head, a headland with 200 foot sheer cliffs down to the sea.

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Part of Thurba Head

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View from Thurba towards Worms Head

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View from Thurba eastwards – where I have just come from

Mewslade. Here there is a path down to the sea, there is also a long dry stone wall that trails down to the sea. It is in the process of being repaired. I stop to look at the stones and marvel at the craftspeople that know how to arrange the stones to make a sold wall, all without cement.

Round Mewslade

Round Mewslade

If you go down to Mewslade, at low tide there is a beautiful sandy beach but at high tide there no beach at all, just rocky cliffs.

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Mewslade at Low Tide

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Mewslade – tide’s coming in!

At low tide, you can supposedly walk from Mewslade to Fall Bay around the next headland. I think some rock climbing might be involved. When I tried it from the other direction (Fall Bay to Mewslade) I ended up with wet boots (it’s a long story.)

After Mewslade I am getting excited as I can see Tear Point at the far end of Fall Bay. I have walked this part of the path quite recently and although I am getting very tired, I have a sense that I can do this. This long walk will be completed.

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Tears Point off in the distance

Now onto the climax of this long walk; Worm’s Head. As historian Wynford Vaughan Thomas called it “the Land’s End of Gower”. Its still quite a way until I reach the bus stop in Rhossili but I am now powered on by the sight of the Worm (in Old English “Wurm” means dragon).

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The Worm (left) and Coastwatch Station (right)

This curious dragon-like, tidal island snakes off into the sea. I have seen seals on the leeward side of the island. Between the cliffs and the Worm is the causeway, it is visible this afternoon. It is a rocky mess of rocks and rock pools, which is open for 2.5 hours either side of low tide. At low-tide, the causeway can be crossed to the island. It is usually fatal to attempt to wade or swim to from back from the Worm when the causeway is flooded or partially so. Sadly, people have died tried to do so.

It’s one of the jobs of the little Coastwatch station, perched on the headland, to stop people from risking their lives doing this. It’s a stout and sturdy single story building is made of granite. It has been sitting alone at the top of the high cliffs that look out towards Worms Head and beyond to Lundy Island and to the Celtic Sea for well over a century. It’s also looking out for fishing and leisure craft who might experience difficulties off the rocky shoreline.  A team of local volunteers look after from the coastwatch station; from 10am till 4pm in the winter and 10am till 6pm in the summer. If at the end of watch the Causeway has not yet flooded and there are members of the public still out on Worm’s Head, the watch is kept open until everyone is safely back on the mainland.

Kitchen Corner is a small bay to the right of the path that leads down to the Worm’s Head causeway. The boathouse was built in the 1920s and is often used as a location for fishermen although there was no one here today.

That little white building in the middle of Rhossili Bay is the old rectory. I will come back to it in my next post on my walk across Rhossili Downs.

I had looked at my watch and discovered that it had just gone 2pm. According to the notes on my post-it note there was a bus back to Swansea at 2.32 pm and then at just before to 4pm. I decided I would try and make the first bus.; It would involve a bit of a speedy march and by now I had a ranging thirst and I knew I would need to refill my lone water bottle somewhere. So I put my head down and forced my limbs to move as fast as I could along the long smooth concrete path from the Worm back up to Rhossili. A classic case of just because you can see it, doesn’t mean it close. It’s actually about a mile in distance.

Even as I am steaming along the path, I still have to pause and take a few photos of the incredible view across Rhossili Bay of Llangennith Beach. I pass people on the way, many different foreign languages floating on the breeze; German, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi. Of all the places on the Gower peninsula, this is the one that draws vistiors from all over the world, everyday, even on a day with bad weather. I love the international aspect of the place. It make me feel like I am citizen of the world.

I finally make it up the long path into Rhossili village. I also had time to stop off at the National Trust Conveniences to refill my water bottle. I am relieved to see that there is someone else waiting for the bus too. Always a good sign. An empty bus stop always has me wondering if I have just missed the bus.

It took me four hours to walk from Port Eynon to Rhossili. Was it 6 or 8 miles? It was probably 6 but it felt like 8, will all those ups and downs. I started the walk thinking about a slight twinge in my right knee – latter on I had forgotten that twinge in favour of my aching upper thighs (from going up and down hills), then it was aching calfs and finally whilst sitting on the long bus journey back to Swansea it is my feet that are throbbing.

So what did I learn today?

1. Remember suntan lotion. I should have put on suntan lotion. My right arm is burnt My left arm is fine. I now have a small tube at the bottom of my rucksack.

2 Water. Bring more water. Two bottles. Bringing enough water is more important than bananas, plaster, handbags and so on. I will bring two bottles on my next walk.

3. Finally, “Just because I can see it, doesn’t mean it’s close”. It’s now my walking mantra. However, it can be encouraging to see the end of your journey even if you are not there yet. This can be metaphorical as well are real – I can see the end of this journey now. I am over half way. I have walked over 18 miles out of the 32 or so I will need to do to complete this coast walk. I am buoyed by this feeling.

I have to pause in my journey around the Gower Peninsula because I have exam invigilation work for the next three weeks.

 

27 replies »

  1. What an amazing landscape filled with gazillions of potential motifs! I love your paintings of it — especially Rhossili Bay and The Waves at Fall Bay. I like the rhythm of patterns in the first which move through the whole composition in such an appealing way. And I love the color variations of Waves, particularly in the water.

    • Thank you, I love the lambs. When they get a bit older you notice that some ewes “babysit” lambs for other ewes. When you approach them there is a ewe with a clump of about 8 lambs about them, but if you get too close the lambs all skip off to find their mothers. These lambs so pretty small so they were all sticking close to their mothers.

  2. Funny you should end with “just because you see it doesn’t mean it’s close.” I drove to Plymouth and back today and from somewhere on the moor could see Rough Tor–one of the local landmarks in our area and it occurred to me how far away it would’ve been on foot. We’d still be walking. In a car, it seems close enough.

    • The strange thing is that sometimes when I go for a “run” along Swansea Bay promenade I go past places that seem far away when I drive past them. Walking, running and driving all that different senses of time (probably not in a Stephen Hawkins sense of time).

      • I haven’t even tried to read his book on time, declaring it over my head just on a hunch. Which won’t stop me from saying that you’re probably right.

      • I didn’t even try and do that – I just watched the biopic movie of his life as Cambridge PhD student!!

  3. Those living in coastal farm houses do have an unobstructed ocean view don’t they? What a place… and to walk past little lambs along the way! You live in a special place. No wonder you are inspired to paint the area.

  4. Rhossili is one of those places that I never quite get to but would love to. It looks such a spectacular sight and I hadn’t realised that the Worm’s Head is accessible. Ceri

    • Yes you can walk across the causeway but only the inner part of the Head is accessible from March to August to avoid disturbing the birds. I decided to wait until September to walk over to the worm because I wanted to visit all of it.

  5. thank you for sharing this trek ( I think it is more than just a “walk”). The photos are lovely and your paintings are superb. I love the kitchen corner. It looks like it is so perilously perched above the water. The lambs are darling.

    • It is wonderful and I think about it when I want somewhere expansive to go in my imagination. I’d like to walk this stretch again in autumn with different colours in nature to look at.

  6. Well done for crossing the halfway mark. The lambs are adorable and I love your paintings, especially the last one. (No, make that the last five! That station looks extremely trustworthy and vigilant. Love it!)

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