Walked 13th August 2012
Approximate distance: 16 miles. Overall quite demanding. A little taxing at first with a short steep climb in the dunes. Mostly the path is then on firm surfaces with a steep section after Oxwich Bay and several climbs and descents around the bays .
OS map: Explorer 164
I had finished the last section of the path with a mad dash for a bus from near Parkmill, where the Gower Heritage Centre is situated. This was the starting point for today’s walk with two friends Paul (see Port Talbot to Swansea) and Neil. They hadn’t met each other before, but I was confident that they would get on OK. Neil and I were to be staying the night at the Wormshead Hotel (and I was walking on from there), so we had left Neil’s car there and Paul had picked us up and took us to Parkmill. The centre was quite happy for us to have a car parked there all day (£3).
This section of the walk, and indeed the whole of its route on the Gower, comes within The City and County of Swansea. Their relevant officer for the path is Chris Dale. Contact email@example.com
The National Trust are having a competition to invite people to share what they love about some of the areas of the Welsh Coast that they manage. The prize is a Coasteering or Kayaking experience under instruction for you and up to 4 others. You need to have a Facebook account and to have visited the place within the last 6 months of your entry and make your comment by October 30th 2013. Follow this link then choose the place that you’d like to comment on. Pennard Cliffs and Rhossili Bay are two places on this walk that they manage.
It was easy enough to find the path through the woods to the Burrows, though it was very narrow and muddy. It follows Pennard Pill through the edge of Northill Wood and then emerges into the wide open space of Three Cliffs Bay with a view back to Pennard Castle. The threatening skies deposited a short shower on us; the forecast for the day wasn’t great. Undeterred we re-joined the Wales Coast Path shortly after it crosses some stepping-stones and climbed up the soft sands of the burrows. As we climbed so the views back over the Bay improved.
The highest point is also the site of several ancient earth works and a burial chamber but we didn’t really have time to try to locate these and a minute or two after losing the view of Three Cliffs Bay we had a new view ahead of us to the near deserted two and a half mile long sands of Oxwich Bay.
The official path routes you through some woods and along the dunes but we took an early opportunity to drop down to the beach and its vast expanse of firm sands. This way required a bit of a paddle through a very shallow stream that flows across the beach (the path proper crosses this by a small footbridge and then keeps to the dunes). Either way you arrive at the Oxwich Bay Hotel right on the side of the beach. Just before you get to the hotel there are public toilets over on the right.We paused for a cup of coffee and to speculate on why it was so deserted in August (it had dried up by now).
Shortly after the hotel the path climbs up through Oxwich Woods past St Illtyd’s church. Neil thought that it had been re-rendered recently and this link confirms this – it’s a very nice subtle muddy colour now.
We arrived, puffing heavily, to open views again as the woods finish above Oxwich Point, where limestone was once quarried. The hillsides are covered with gorse and heather – a very pretty combination worthy of a picture (see the banner pic at the start of this post).
An easy and very pleasant mile and a half beneath the cliffs on a wide grass path cropped by wild horses brings you to the small village of Horton. You walk through a little car park, past the public toilets – which looked pretty shabby from the outside.
We didn’t fancy the rather tired looking pub we first came across for lunch, so carried on another half a mile to the rather more attractive Port Eynon where there were several cafes and pubs to choose from. We had an excellent cup of tea and baguette at a café just above the beach (apologies for not recording its name). The very friendly lad that served us had run from Mumbles to Rhossili recently though by the look on his face as he told us, I don’t think he’ll be doing it again in the near future.
The three of us were managing well the subtle process of sometimes walking together and sometimes alone or in pairs, and Neill had got Paul onto his favourite topic of the darker side of the Beach Boys (Ha ha, I just realised the connection with our walk!), so I felt reassured that my introduction of these two friends had been successful.
From Port Eynon the path climbs up past a very tidy looking campsite to Port Eynon Point (the most southerly point on the Gower) and stays fairly high above the rocky shore, giving you exhilarating views of the rugged coast and steeply inclined rock strata.
The formidable rockface bars the way at Longhole Cliff (there is a cave beneath the cliff where remains have been found of Reindeer, Cave bear and Mammoth) and you have to turn inland briefly to walk up though a steep-sided little valley. Shortly after your reach the top you get the first view of the unmistakable outcrop of Worms Head. Just seeing it seemed to give us a little more energy.
As we trekked along the easy cliff top path we admired the fine grasses on either side and there were lots of opportunities for “Oo’s and Ahs” as another wonderful view of a cove presented itself.
It’s quite a demanding section, though as you climb and descend small gullies, and Neil’s legs were beginning to tire. After passing the rather embarrassingly named Deboahs Hole, there was another sharp descent and above Mewslade Bay Neil decided to take the opportunity to follow a footpath back inland and walk the mile or so to Rhossili along the road.
Which was such a shame, as the extra mile that you have to walk as you keep to the coast path to the National Coastwatch station opposite Worms Head was easily the best of the day. The peninsula gives you superb views back along the bays and coves that you have just walked above and equally dramatic ones out to the rocky outcrop of Worms Head. And then offers you an astonishing view over the two-mile long stretch of sand that is Rhossili Bay.
As we approached the furthest point on the peninsula I had the unique experience of encountering a hassidic man dressed in his black coat and accompanied by five children seeking directions. My astonishment only increased as I spotted more of his community on the horizon, walking back towards Rhossili village.
Almost everyone on the peninsula appeared to be hassidic. I couldn’t resist asking one stripey-jumpered woman surrounded by stripey-clothed children where she was from.
“London, Stamford Hill”.
“And how many are you”?
“A hundred” she cheerfully replied “we are camping nearby”.
I wished her an enjoyable holiday and volunteered that I had known her community slightly when I had lived on its edge in Stoke Newington in Hackney. I made a bit of a hash of telling her that I had enjoyed their presence in my life but how do you explain to someone that you like their dramatic foreignness?
As we approached the Worms Head Hotel the views over the sands of Rhossili Bay were wonderful, as was the prospect of a beer and a shower.
The beer came first, then Neil heroically drove Paul back to his car whilst I checked into a room with a fabulous view.
Neil and I had had a drink on this terrace about 30 years ago when we had camped behind the beach. As sunset approached every terrace table filled up and we all just sat and gazed at the sea hoping for a stunning sunset over one of the best views in the world. We weren’t disappointed.