Walked 15th July 2012
Distance: around 12 miles. Easy walking on good paths around the Bay. Some climbs and descents around the bays that are steep at times but the path surfaces are good. Soft sand around Pennard Burrows.
OS map: Explorer 165 and 164
Having got the train back to pick up the car at the end of the last section, today I drove my lovely new car to Swansea. Finding a back street to park near the front was easy enough. But 10 minutes after I had left it in front of a shabby row of houses I got separation anxiety and went back. I moved it to a more public spot in front of a smart Indian restaurant and then tried to block it from my mind.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Wales Coast Path skirts Swansea Bay on a pathway next to a cycleway. Make sure you keep to the footpath bit because this is one of the busiest cycle paths in the UK and some of these guys think they are on a speedway (and btw, the sign says you need to be holding someone’s hand.
This is a nice walk, despite being close to the busy road. You pass Singleton Park on the right, then the university grounds, then Singleton Boating Lake where swans mix happily with dragons (you’ll understand when you go). Then the route curves left for a while and sandwiches a pitch and putt golf course between you and the road. After this you have great views out over the bay.
(At this point i found that I had made an unforgiveable mistake and my Canon battery was flat and I had not brough a spare. So all the pics today were taken on my iphone)
On your right, just after crossing a bridge over the Clyne River, Black Pill Lido is bonny and busy in the summer. There are public toilets at Oystermouth Square. As The Mumbles approaches, the number of pubs and cafes picks up and you get a real feel of being in a seaside resort. I love the Mumbles. Anne and I have had great times watching the sun go down and eating fish and chips and ice creams after a day at a nearby beach. I am missing her. The ice cream at the always bustling Verdi’s restaurant is fab (there’s a separate little section on the far side for ice creams).
I went as far as the pier and amusement arcade and climbed the steep little road up to Bracelet Bay car park. You can’t walk right to the edge of Mumbles Head and its lighthouse, but you might get a decent view of it by a bit of off piste exploring. The path follows the road briefly, passing Forte’s Cafe/ ice cream parlour, before heading off to the left, keeping to the cliff side. To your right, a steep hillside of gorse must be stunning when in flower. The path climbs steeply and then provides a wonderful view over to Langland Bay.
First you pass the pretty little Rotherslade Beach (another little cafe is on the route).
Langland Bay feels unique, fronted by hundreds of little green painted beach huts in various states of repair. Like a little community joined together by their beach huts.
After the Langland Bay a narrow stony path with some steep bits becomes wider for a while before dropping down to Caswell Bay I’m really missing Anne now as this is our favoured beach for a summer’s day out. It’s wide and sandy. It’s July and we have not had a single day this year when we even thought of coming here. But this is a glorious sunny Sunday afternoon and it’s as busy as it should be. And it has toilets.
You have to take the steep narrow road briefly as the cliffs are too steep but then the path descends through a wooded bit to the cliff side. After half a mile it drops down to the edge of the pebble beach of Pwlldu Bay, backed by woodland.
I lost the path briefly and walked past a couple of cottages that looked like they would be holiday lets. I reached the beach. It was quiet. Pebbles are rather unforgiving for an extended sit. (Many childhood memories of the beach at Shoreham, Kent, on which, so my Mum informs me, I was nearly born).
Retracing my steps, the path turns sharply right up the steep and wooded side of the hill. It’s rocky but OK in today’s dry conditions. You arrive at the drive of a nice looking house and continue to climb up to some more cottages where it turns left towards the coast again. There’s a place for sale and I briefly entertain my hankering for a sea side retreat. A short stretch through a wood brings you out into the open once more. This is what I think of as coastal walking- ups and downs and great views of the open sea. I liked the flat wide open spaces of the wetlands walking but I love this! There’s a great view back where you can still see the Port Talbot Steel Works on the horizon.
You continue to climb gently as the path takes you round Pwlldu Head – to a highest point of 309’ according to my GPS. It then descends to a minor road by Hunts Farm. For the next mile or so there are several options for the walk as a wide stretch of grassy cliff top is criss-crossed by several routes where locals walk their dogs. It was around 4.45 pm when I arrived at the car park at West Cliff. I had eaten an apple and an ice cream since breakfast so I felt blessed with good fortune that at the side of the car park was the Three Cliffs Coffee shop and unbelievably so to discover that they were still serving. We have a tradition in the UK of closing our tea shops and cafes at teatime. I have often wondered how foreign visitors make sense of this. Perhaps they don’t have teatime? And there was one piece of carrot cake left. Was I in heaven?
Refreshed and rested (they were still serving when I left at 5.30pm- the owners deserve a gong from the Queen) I noticed a bus stop opposite the cafe. I had planned to stay somewhere for the night and walk on the next day. I had packed my toothbrush and a change of socks and pants accordingly. But I hadn’t booked anywhere, my car separation anxiety was returning and I thought of Anne at home and the possible pleasure of an evening drink together in the garden. Amazingly, this being Sunday, a bus (the 114 coming from Rhossilli) was destined to arrive in an hour and a half – the last bus of the day- that went to Swansea. I was going to go home.
The sensible person would have decided to stop at this point and have a pleasant amble around the area until the bus came. But I am often not sensible and I calculated that I had time to do another mile or so on the path and then cut inland to pick up the road where I was sure the bus would be using. What I didn’t take into account was that shortly after West Cliff the very pleasant grassy path merges with the very soft, sandy paths crossing Pennard Burrows. The dunes are steep and the waymarks few, so it is easy to find that you have deviated from the official route, as I did.
Walking on soft sand is slow and tiring. Re-checking the map I decided to head for Pennard Castle. I kept re-calculating when the bus would pass by the road I could meet and it was getting tighter. But the dunes extended to the castle, which only held my attention cursorily as I worked out the way past the golf course to the nearby settlement of Parkmill. Here I missed my next opportunity for reaching the road (there was a river and steep little valley to cross) so had to walk parallel to it through a soft muddy track in a wood before emerging on the road I was after.
Further re-calculations were made. The bus was due in 15 minutes, and I was on a narrow, sharply bending road with a 10 foot high wall and lots of traffic. The bus would not stop here. So I hared up the hill, my pace picking up as the minutes passed, flattening myself to the wall when a car threatened to wack me with its wing mirror. It was half a mile before the hill flattened out and a turning to the right (which I was sure, meaning I was not 100% certain) headed towards Pennard village. I knew it stopped here but that was another half a mile away and I also knew that I could not get there in time. 100 yards from the turning was a layby in this quiet road. I knew that this was my only chance of hailing the bus. I didn’t know that it would stop for me, but my recklessly optimistic voice said to me that it just might. I began to form a plan b) of hitching back to Swansea if the bus didn’t come or wouldn’t stop. Three minutes later the bus appeared and my hand shot up. It stopped. Happiness returned. That was a great walk.