Walked August 12th and 15th 2012
Approximate distance: 14 miles: an easy walk on the level on minor roads, firm tracks and roadside paths. Some roads liable to flooding. Walking 3 miles next to busy traffic from Pen- Clawdd to where it turns left before Gowerton.
OS map: Explorer 164
This section of the path to the Loughor Bridge is the responsibility of Swansea City and County. Their Countryside Access Team Leader is Chris Dale. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
15th August 2012
The weather forecast for today was bad. Very bad. So when I looked out of the window of my B&B at 7.30 and saw that it was just cloudy I decided to get up and out as soon as possible. So a piece of toast would have to suffice as breakfast. (No bad thing really, continuous cooked breakfasts just make you fat, even if you are walking all day).
From The Common near Llanrhidian I re-traced my steps to a point where a footpath drops down to the minor road by the marshes very close to where I left the path yesterday. This stretch of the road has lots of warning notices for walkers that it is liable to flooding. But no advice about what to do if the road is flooded – I guess you make a beeline for the B4295. You might be wise to check the tide timetables before this stretch. It wasn’t flooded but it did begin to rain heavily within 20 minutes of starting.
I had wanted my Montane Minimus waterproofs tested so I actually welcomed the downpour. And I was glad that I was walking on a hard surface rather than squelchy fields. The rather drab grey pebble-dashed St Davids Chuch at Wernffrwd was not attractive enough to get my camera wet for.
At the next village of Crofty the path skirts the village on a hard track passing a cockle processor. Well at least I took it to be one as evidenced by the large sacks of cockle shells that were sitting on the back of a trailer.
Cockles are big in this part of the world, being extensively harvested on the shoreline of the marshes. As you round the top of Crofty out of sight but not out of nose is a sewage plant. Crofty wasn’t the prettiest of places though the pouring rain didn’t enhance its attractiveness.
After Crofty, your path is now alongside the busy B4295 though Pen- Clawdd. I had stayed at the B&B (see below) next to the chapel. There are public toilets, several takeaways and a mini supermarket and a not very nice pub; but overall it’s a pretty run down place. A shadow of its former self as a busy port with 11 pubs.
The rain had been heavy and continuous for two hours and my legs were definitely sopping. Which was a big fail for the over trousers. (I sent them back). My feet were wet, too, as the water was also running down into my now wet inner trousers and into my boots. A further mile and a half of getting pressure spayed by passing cars brought me to a mini roundabout where you turn left off the B4295 and head north. I carried on to the street in Gowerton where I had left my car and where I was very glad of the change of clothes I had (awkward though it was to change within its confines of the car.)
To avoid a longish drive to the Gower on a Monday morning and to get this next part of the path done, I stayed at the excellent Bay View Bed and Breakfast in Pen-Clawdd on the night of the 12th. I received a very friendly welcome and my excellent room had a contemporary styling and fresh milk in a mini fridge (the noise of which was intolerable to sleep with, so it got switched off). In the morning I opted for the “Cockle pickers breakfast”, which was the usual cooked breakfast (all excellent ingredients) but with a small pot of – sorry, a bit gritty- cockles and lava bread on the side (not bread at all but a green goo which didn’t impress).
So I had done this next part of the walk from Gowerton to Llanelli on the afternoon of the 12th..
The afternoon started off a bit drizzly but improved as the day went on. The path now takes you past the end of the marshes and across the Lliw River with a caravan site on your right. On the left, marsh and cattle, both pretty damp.
Just after the bridge turn left at the road junction. It appears that the official route takes a right turn under the railway line but the sign had been broken off the lamppost it was attached to and it only avoids the road for less than half a mile, so in case this had been removed on purpose I carried on along the road .
You still pass under the railway line and walk through the southern edge of Loughor, firstly at the backs of houses and then through a park where the local youth have been creative with wall painting and a small hill contains the ruins (mostly C13th) of Loughor Castle.
Turning into the town briefly you climb a short hill to reach the busy A 4240. This road bridge, with a railway bridge right next to it, spans the wide channel of the River Loughor as it enters the estuary. It also takes you across the border between Swansea County and Carmarthenshire.
From this point the relevant Country Recreation and Access Manager for Carmarthenshire is Eirian James . Email EWJames@carmarthenshire.gov.uk
At the far side of the bridge the path descends some steps to take you round the back of a small industrial estate. Turning left at a road junction you pass the Lewis Arms pub and cross over the next road junction to enter a small car park which serves the Millennium Costal Park. This will be your home for the next day or so as the coast path keeps to its edge for about 13 miles.
From the car park the path crosses over the road and railway line again by the Bynea Gateway Bridge and brings you back to the marshy coast line with views across the estuary to where you might have been walking the previous day if you are following my itinerary.
You’re sharing this section with cyclists but it’s no hardship – the cyclists are very well behaved. To your right is the National Wetlands Centre of Wales and after about a mile you pass its entrance, just off the B4304 (toilets and refreshments are available).
It’s a shame that you are required to do a small stretch by this busy road before heading south again to the coast; looking at the map a route straight across the wetlands ought to have been possible. Anyway, you are soon heading for the coast again with the Machynys Peninsula Golf and Country Club on your right.
You are walking on sea defences at this point with the wide marsh covered with ???? .
Towards the edge of the marsh the vegetation does vary, here the hazy lilac is, I think, Sea Lavender (Limonium vulgare)- it doesn’t smell of lavender.
After walking alongside the marsh and wide mudflats yesterday you might be getting a little bored of these wide open spaces but not me- I can’t get enough of it and the walking is very easy.
Over to your right the settlement of Machynys appears. At first it seems extraordinary that this collection of quite pricey looking seaside residences was allowed to be built here, quite separate from the nearby Llanelli.
And then an excellent information board explains the history of the area. Originally an island with a house and then a farm, it had become a small village by the turn of the C20th. But by 1929 the surrounding area extending to Llanelli was covered in heavy industry (steel, tin plate, iron, brick and chemicals). An amazing aerial photograph at the time shows smoke belching works extending almost to the shoreline. The photograph also strikes home the dramatic collapse in employment and activity that has befallen this part of the world since the 1930’s The old settlement of Machynys appears to have been cleared away in the 1970’s for a regeneration project, leading to what you see today.
The path continues to hug the muddy shore until turning north to join the the road to reach a bridge at North Dock.
I stopped at this point and turning right at Copper House roundabout made my way into Llanelli where the train would take me back to Gowerton. This part of the town looks very run down. with the saddest little community garden I have ever seen. I think if I were part of this community I’d have turned my back on it, too. When I returned to do the next part of the walk it had been strimmed and I noticed a pretty ceramic plaque saying that this is the Hywel Phillips Memorial Garden. Hmm.
A blue plaque on a wall of a massive fenced off and cleared area just a little further up the street informs you that this was once the site of the Llanelly copper works, established in 1805 “the 3rd largest in the world in the mid C19th”. That so much can come and go in the space of 150 years is humbling, frightening even.