Posted on 20 Comments

Gower Coastal Walks – Llanmadoc to Crofty

Part 2: Llanridian to Crofty

This is the last stretch of my walk around the Gower coastal path. I started this particular walk at Llanmadoc, which is three miles along a generally flat, but not always obvious, grassy and often muddy path.

Path to Llanrhidian
Path to Llanrhidian

As I approach Llanrhidian, the atmosphere changes from rural scruffiness to urban tidiness; where the grass is kept short by electric mowers rather than by sheep. I pass along a path with a wooden fence along the one side. This seemed a bit of a shock after all the open spaces.

Llanridian itself is picturesque. It feels very much like a village that has been here for hundreds of years.

There is a unique church dedicated to Saints Illtyd and Rhydian in the village.  The village that grew up around the 6th century church was founded by St. Rhidian, hence it’s name – “Llan” (meaning religious enclosure) “Rhydian” (the founder’s name). Rhydian dedicated the church to St Illtyd, another Celtic saint who was believed to have lived here. You may remember St Illtyd, he was the Celtic founder of the sea-side church at Oxwich and has many churches dedicated to him across Gower and South Wales.

Llanridian Church
Llanridian Church

The church that exists in the village today was built in 14th century. It has a holy well and something known locally as a “leper stone”, as well as a 11th century wheeled cross shaft near it.

Remains of Wheeled Cross
Remains of Wheeled Cross

The so-called leper stone is a probably the remains of a door lintel, or maybe even or tombstone lid and dates from the 9th century. I probably did not have any connection with lepers was, other than in the imaginations of the Victorian who discovered it near the west tower doorway  it in 1865 and subsequently had it moved to the church porch.

Leper Stone, Llanridian Church
Leper Stone, Llanridian Church

According to tradition, when St. Illtyd lived on this spot as hermit, the sea often flooded the site, destroying the saint’s cell and chapel. Several times he built an embankment of mud and stones to protect himself, but in vain. He asked an angel to help him and the sea obeyed the saint, subsiding. He then struck his crozier on the dry shore and a holy well gushed forth, instantaneously. This well still flows today and is said to have curative properties. It is located in a private garden near the Church. It also known as the “milk well” or “butter well” , by locals, as in 1185 milk and butterfat was seen flowing in it instead of water, according to the Annals of Margam. This miraculous event was said to have lasted for at least three hours.

Here I joined the coastal road. The atmosphere changes back to the marsh wildness with the mild peril of possible flooding.

Llanridian Marsh
Flooding Warning Sign, Llanridian Marsh

It the only true coastal road on Gower. It skirts along the side of the wide marsh from Llanridian to Crofty.

Gower Marsh Road
Crofty in the distance

I could see Crofty off in the distance, but I wasn’t going to be fooled into thinking it was close because I could see it. I can see Port Talbot from Swansea Beach, it’s still 13 miles away an in no sense “close”. Same goes for Crofty. Turns out its three miles from Llanridian, which was possibly further than I realised when I decided to trudge it’s length. It figured, its flat. It’ll be easy!

North Gower Marshland
The Marsh, North Gower

Well it was flat but it was also a very long road. It was a very empty road. I passed only three cars/vans and one cyclist in the two hours I was walking on it. The cyclist nearly ran into me when I walked into his path.

Marsh Road, Gower Peninsula
Lone Cyclist

I was my fault as I didn’t look over my shoulder when I heard a noise behind me, but I was very tired at this point.

Danger sign on North Gower Marsh
Pergyl! Danger!

I stopped several times to take photos and enjoyed watching the light change as the clouds moved above my head. It may seem to strange to say, that this was probably my favourite part of all my Gower walks. Strange, it was very beautiful but I decided that I wasn’t going to paint this landscape. It’s too flat for my painting tastes. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed it all the more. It’s even hard to capture its essence in a photograph.

North Gower Marsh
Llanridian Marsh

I haven’t attempted to paint it but I loved the sense of wilderness here that it’s present anywhere else along the Gower coastline.

Gower Peninsula
Marsh Road, North Gower

At one point there must have been a lull in the cold wind and a silence fell and then I heard a rustling in the trees and bushes behind me and then a moment later, I felt its force. It was rather eerie to feel the force of nature.

North, Gower, Llanridian Marsh
Llanridian Marsh

Off in the distance was an aeroplane circling round and round the estuary off over Burry Port where Amelia Earhart landed all those years ago.  Amelia was the first woman to fly (or be flown) across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, when she flew across the Atlantic, this time as the pilot and on her own, four years later she landed in Northern Ireland.

I finally reached the village of Crofty.

North Gower, Marsh Road
Crofty, North Gower

It had a distinctly urban feel to it, not like Llanrhidian. By now had drunk both of my 500l bottles of water. I had very sore and stiff legs but I forced myself the trudge with purpose because I knew that I had about 20 minutes to make it to “New Road”, the main road, and catch the bus back home.

As I cut through the streets of Crofty, the roads all seemed unreasonably long but I eventually found the main road and I started walking in the direction of Llanridian. A bus shelter stop appeared.

Bus stop at Crofty
A Miracle!

It seemed like a miracle to my tired legs. A bus appeared – a number 116 it its distination read “Llanridian” and not Swansea. I was so excited to see a bus with the number I was looking for I hailed it. The rotund bus driver looked at me slowly. No, this wasn’t the bus to Swansea. The stop for that was on the other side of the road. I looked across the road. So he pulled off and I crossed to the other side of the road, although there was no bus shelter or bus sign there. So I waited and waited. After about ten minutes, a school bus pulled up and some street-wise-looking teenagers got off. None of them looked like they were rushing home to do their homework.

Eventually, after I started wondering if Crofty had a taxi service or I’d have to stumble another two miles up the road to Penclawdd, a number 116 bus appeared. It said Swansea on the front. The bus indicated that it was stopping before I put out my hand to hail it. That was handy, I thought. I stepped onto the bus to show the driver my return ticket and as I glanced into his sour face, I realised that he was the same bus driver I spoke to twenty minutes earlier. Not a flicker of recognition passed over his face. I walked to the my seat, glad to sit down after 4 hours walking, chuckling to myself.

I had covered 6 miles and my feet were throbbing. It was a funny end to the walk. I had not seen the sea or river all day but I had smelt the salt and felt the wind. I had hardly seen a soul. It certainly the wildest and flattest part of the coastal path. I was glad it was over and my challenge was finally complete, Well, almost.

Post Script

This isn’t quite my last Gower coastal walk. I haven’t walked out along the causeway to Worms Head. However, you cannot climb to the top of the outer headland between the 1st March and the 31st of August – as it is closed in order to protect the many breeding sea birds, so I am waiting until September to do this final walk.

 

Below is a short video clip of the marshes near Llanmadoc. I’m afraid its rather poor, turn off the sound, but it’ll give you a good sense of of how vast and flat the marshes are.

Posted on 36 Comments

Walking the Gower Coast; Limeslade and Langland Bays

Gower Coast without a Car 2016
The Old Leaflet

This was all my sister’s idea. She suggested I walk along the Gower coast and paint the bays and beaches. I had no idea how difficult the logistics of this would be. I had the daft idea that catching buses and walking the coastline would be easy. After all I had a jolly looking-leaflet “Gower Coast and Countryside with out a Car” with a photo of a bus on the front.

Sadly, it turns out that Swansea Council have changed their mind and aren’t that keen for walkers to come and visit this “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” (since 1956, you know).

Tourist Info.jpg
Closed

I’d picked up that leaflet two years ago. I had called into the Swansea Tourist Office,  sensibly located next to the bus station. There were two helpful ladies who gave me lots of leaflets where told me where I could get up to date bus timetables.

When I tried to revisit them last week, however, I was horrified to discover that the office was closed. There was no notice about where to get tourist information. Swansea council claims that 11,100 people are employed in tourism in Swansea but they can’t find the money to fund two people and some leaflets in a tourism office!

Bus Info.jpg
Bus Station Info Point

Not to be defeated, I called by the bus station, in the hope of getting up-to-date timetables for Gower bus services. I had to wait several long seconds whilst the youth on the information desk pondered over his suduko puzzle, sighed, and looked up. When I asked about buses round Gower he tore off two A5 sheets of paper for the week-day buses to North Gower and to Rhossili. He then went back to his puzzle. I wasn’t filled with confidence about getting around the coast by public transport.

Tescoes IP
Tescos

I went home to look up on the internet where the office had been moved to.  It hadn’t; it was gone. The tourist information office in Mumbles has been closed too. I emailed the tourism people for help. I was tartly informed that information was moved online and supplemented by a series of “information points” around the city where I could get help. I initially thought that these might be sort if dedicated tourism-related computer terminals. turns out that these “information points” are leaflet racks. I wqs informed by the tourism person that they were “a network of Visitor Information Points (VIPs) across the destination, offering a drop-in facility for visitors with plenty of advice, maps and leaflets at the ready!” I didn’t feel very encouraged by this. So I went back into to town to have a look. The first information point I visited was in the foyer of Tescos. There was no one to speak to here.

IMG_20180328_110321 (2)
Grand Theatre

I then visited the foyer of the Grand Theatre where they had a number of racks filled with leaflets. There were staff there. They were sitting behind a glass screen at a counter. There was a queue of people waiting to buy tickets. When the queue went so did the counter staff. I lost heart. I didn’t think they’d thank me for asking them about buses to Port Eynon and I knew that they’d direct me to the bus station, so I left. Whilst was at the Grand Theatre, I did pick up a leaflet which spoke volumes about Swansea Tourism’s much reduced ambitions for tourism the area.

teaserbox_56937528

Instead of “Gower Coast and Countryside without a car”  it’s  now “Mumbles and the City of Swansea without a car.” Swansea and Gower really need the money that tourism can bring to the local economy but the local council just fail to provide the infrastructure that is needed. I’ll come back to the issue of bus timetables later, as it is something that has kept  me awake at night trying to figure out how to go and get back from places in Gower.

Mumbles to Caswell.JPG
Caswell to Mumbles Head

Limeslade. This is where I decided to started my Gower Coastal Walk in 2018. The “First Cymru” buses from Swansea Bus station run every hour along Oystermouth Road. It is a very good service. As a shy teenager I had a terrible fear of speaking to bus drivers. Not anymore. These days, I gabble at them and give them long questions about the right ticket and the correct time.

IMG_0495
My first bus stop

The bus travels along the seafront road to Mumbles and then snakes its way around the bungalows of Langland. Many cheerful white-haired passengers got on and off the bus with their bus passes. Many of them seemed to know each other and they chatted away to each other and waved at friends out of the window. The sunshine has cheered everyone’s spirits. Finally, at the bottom of Plunch Lane, the sea reappeared and I dismounted.

IMG_0507.JPG
The bus at Limeslade

Here there is a little rocky bay called Limeslade Bay, which is a five minute walk round the corner from Mumbles Pier and Bracelet Bay.

Why is Limeslade called Limeslade? Well, limestone is a big feature of the Gower landscape. From Mumbles to Oxwich, the coast is made entirely of Carbonifeous Limestone that has been faulted and folded. There are many little valleys along the Gower coast called “something-slade” and that’s what “slade” means -in an old English word (“slaed”) meaning a low valley, dingle or an open space between banks or woods. Which might surprise you that a Welsh coastline has so many names of Old English origin rather than Welsh. This reflects that fact that Norman landlords claimed the more fertile southern part of the peninsula and left the wilder, less profitable northern parts to the Welsh.

There are two paths you can take from here. There is the official Coastal path which snakes along above the sea following the many inlets. I have taken this path many times before.

IMG_8870.JPG
The Coastal Path

The second one, sneaks up alongside the left hand side of Fortes ice cream parlour, up a steep muddy track onto the Rams Tor. This is the path I took.

IMG_0510
Forte’s, with the steps to the higher path to the left

It is worth the climb. There is a great view of the lighthouse and the Coastguard station, and if its clear enough, further across Swansea Bay to to Port Talbot and Porthcawl.

IMG_9028.JPG
Mumbles Lighthouse from Rams Tor

This is where the coast feels more like West Wales. The stubby trees and gorse bushes all lean lean to the left thanks to the prevailing westerlies. Once on the headland the walk is quite easy, if not a bit muddy. You pass by a few of the houses that lookout over the sea but as you carry on further along the path, the houses recede, with fields in the way. Quite quickly, Langland Bay comes into view. I love the view of the coast where you can see the bays of Gower off into the distance.

Rotherslade

IMG_3727
Rotherslade

There is a small cove before the main sweep of Langland Bay. This is Rotherhide. Beteen the two bays is Storrs Rock which the French Impressionist painter Alfred Sisley painted in 1897 whilst on staying  at the Osborne Hotel, which overlooked both Langland Bay and Rotherslade Bay, which was also called Lady’s Cove. His stay here must have been very a bitter sweet. He had come come  to marry his partner, so as to legitimize their two children, but both he and his wife were dying of cancer. He painted Storr’s Rock at many times of the day.

IMG_3915.JPG
Storr’s Rock 2018

 

Storr’s Rock (2018)

Langland 

IMG_0587.JPG
Langland Bay

Langland Bay is very popular with surfers and day trippers but its unusual for modern day sea-side towns, as it has not been hollowed out by holiday lets. That’s because Langland is an expensive place to live and its tiny lanes are often filled with Mercedes and BMWs. Wales’s first millionaires, the Merthyr iron-masters the Crawshays, set the tone in the mid-19th century when they built their massive summer residence here. It was originally known as Llan-y-Llan and looks as if it was ripped intact from the Scottish Highlands. It was later part of the Langland Bay Hotel but is now called Langland Bay Manor and been converted into swanky apartments that wont leave much change from £300K.

langland3.jpg
Old Postcard of Langland
IMG_3750.JPG
Langland Bay 2018

The clean lines of green and white beach huts have become another status symbol. These  striking green and white huts were built in Victorian and Edwardian times. They used to be dolled out to families on a lottery basis, at the very reasonable price of £236 for a three months lease. More recently, however, a cash strapped council decided it would raise money by selling some of the refurnished hut’s leases at a whooping £10,000. You would get to use of your hut for ten years and although the huts can be used every days of the year, you cannot sleep in them in overnight. I don’t know if anyone checks this! None of the huts were in use when I walked past but it was a chilly midweek day in March.

IMG_0003.JPG
Langland from Snaple Point

IMG_9978.JPG

Gower Coastal Path from Langland to Caswell

I continued my walk around the bay and again instead of following the official Coastal Path, I climbed up Newton Cliff which is alongside Langland Golf Club to look across Langland Bay.

IMG_0810
Langland Bay from Newton Cliffs at Sunset

After the climb up Newton Cliff I was starting to get tired. This is when I made a stupid mistake. I left the beaten track. In stead of following the footpath down the hill to rejoin the official coastal path, with its easy tarmacked surface, I decided to try and follow what I thought was a path along the top of cliff along the edge of the golf course. The sun had gone in and it started to spot with rain. This was a disaster, I ended up struggling down paths covered in brambles sleeping-beauty-style, only to eventually admit defeat and retrace my steps. It was a long detour. I ended up asking directions from some rather bemused looking golfers. I could tell one of them wanted to tell me off for being on the golf course but I was apologising so much, he just said “you shouldn’t really be here” and then directed me back to the official path.

By the time I reached Caswell Bay, I was very tired indeed. I had eaten the single banana I’d brought to eat long ago so I queued for minutes in the very crowded “Surfside Cafe” and bought a chocolate ice-cream which revived my spirits considerably. I then waited at the bus stop for the hourly bus back to Swansea.

What I learnt

  1. It hard to write notes on a bus.
  2. Take sandwiches.
  3. Stay on the beaten track – if there’s no post it’s not a path.
  4. Look at the map – put it in your pocket, don’t leave it in your rucksack.
  5. Leave longer than you think
  6. Leave the book on Gower History at home.  It’s heavy.
  7. Don’t believe the weather forecast. It can go from warm sun to wind and rain.
  8. Most importantly, check your camera lens for smudges. Most of the photos I took today were no good (see below).
IMG_0675.JPG
Langland Bay with smudge on the left side of the lens!

What I got right

  1. Coat with hood
  2. Walking boots
  3. Bananas are great
  4. Water bottle – its heavy to start with but you end up drinking most of it.

Next post – Will lots of chocolate biscuits see me through to see the stunning views from Pennard Cliffs?

P.S. Here’s some drone footage of the coast and Langland Bay (BTW The sea isn’t usually this colour)