A return to GowerSunday, December 30th, 2012
The last weekend of July 2011 (a month of five weekends, incidentally, and each of them were spent away from home too) saw me make my first ever visit to the Gower in south Wales. Though the sun gamely attempted to break through on occasions, grey skies were the dominant feature of the trip that saw me use the Heart of Wales railway line for part of my return train journey between Macclesfield and Swansea. Even without the sun, the day was a warm one with plenty of folk around too.
However, it was not a full walking trip like others that I undertake. Even so, I trotted out towards Worm’s Head and returned to Rhossili making a short loop featuring the coast as I did so. Then, I was lured up Rhossili Down towards its trig point before I scotched the brainwave of making another circuit from there in favour of a quicker return to catch a bus back to Swansea again, pondering a return as I did so.
Unlike Pembrokeshire where it took me just over six years to make a return, the Gower was to see me sooner with a visit in early August of this year. Unlike the previous trip, this was a walking outing and there was more sun about too. The hiking started off where I last left off too with a trot over a windy Rhossili Down that completed the circuit that tempted me before. As I did so, the sun went into hiding on me behind clouds. Even so, there still were better views towards Worm’s Head than in 2011.
Other folk were making the effort to gain height as I was doing so and I played with the idea of avoiding the trig point but revisited it upon reconsideration. From there, it was a matter of picking my way over Sweyne’s Howes and Bessies Meadow before dropping down to Hillend Burrows. Rhossili Down is access land and seems to see a lot of footfall so there were more paths on the ground than on the OS map so keeping to the right of way would involve some effort if so desired; there was a strong wind so staying upright was more of a concern.
Once down a steep incline (the Down may be low but that’s never to say that it isn’t steep-sided as so many are), I picked up a bridleway at Hillend Burrows for returning to Rhossili again. Initially, this went by a caravan park but that was soon left behind me and boggy sections were set to be found too. In fact, there were none of these on the hilltop so it must have been the shelter that sustained them. The sun began to emerge from the clouds again and the heat of a scorching summer day could be felt; it left me wishing for the cooling buffeting that was my lot up high.
The path was a narrow with deviations from the main track when things got really muddy. Once past the caravan park, I began to build up some pace even with others using the right of way at the same time; the deviations came in handy for this. Once by the Old Rectory, I could see my destination was coming nearer and it was reached in less time than I had grown to expect.
The heat of the afternoon was the cause of my visiting the National Trust shop for some ice cream and a drink. While I was there, some souvenir items for others were purchased too before I sat outside to enjoy the ice cream with views back along Rhossili Bay with Rhossili Down at the right hand side. Though I stayed a little while, it was later in the day than I had anticipated it would be. A delayed arrival due to traffic congestion and the Rhossili Down circuit perhaps taking longer than expected were contributors to this so I needed to get going again.
Port-Eynon was my next destination and I started by making my way out the busy promontory towards Worm’s Head. The time of day precluded any more serious efforts to make photos of Worm’s Head beyond the hazy ones that I got on the way up Rhossili Down. In fact, it was those views north along Rhossili Bay that yielded the best results for me.
My itinerary was to take me south-east and away from the terminus of the Gower Way. Another development since my last visit to Gower was the instatement of the Welsh Coast Path though it has been in place long enough for some of the signage to have fallen prey to the elements so careful use of a map is needed in places too. Some of its course already had been sampled on my Rhossili Down circuit and there was to be more to come. Being along the coast gained me a cooling sea breeze that was strong enough for kite flying and there were some enthusiasts making the most of the conditions on offer.
Passing them, I began see some of the coastal scenery that I was to pass after leaving Worm’s Head behind me. From reading guidebooks, I knew that this was worth walking and it reminded me of that previous visit to Pembrokeshire some years before. Such is the indentation of the coastline that the sights of Rhossili and nearby Middleton weren’t to leave me so quickly. There was a path diversion due to erosion too and recent coastal landslips due to al the rain that we have been seeing make me wonder if more have been needed since then.
On initial stages, there were a good few folk around but there was to be more in the way of solitude later on in the walk. Many of these may have been on circular strolls and those can be left behind to go their own way. So it appeared after passing Fall Bay and doing the same for Mewslade Bay meant an inland deviation and attendant loss and regain of height that reminded me of a hike from Newgale to St. David’s that I did on that Pembrokeshire trip; this yomp was to have less of that though.
With the last of the undulations behind me, it was onto steady field crossing on the way towards Overton. Cloud had arrived from the west to put an end to sunshine and gave a sense of close-down to the proceedings as well as warning of what rain was to come. As I continued in the dullness, there seemed to be more footpath signs than my OS map gave me to expect and I have not been able to see where the paths were leading since then.
In time, field crossing was to be replaced with rocky shoreline walking as the Welsh Coast Path lost height to go under Overton Cliff and along Overton Mere. This section felt wilder and more dramatic than any other part that I had passed all day and would make a worthy excuse for a return sometime; Port-Eynon seemed very away at this point. There was a bell to be heard too and I thought it a church bell in that village but I was being deceived. It was but one atop a buoy bobbing out in the sea that could be heard all around. An outsider with easily disturbed slumbering would have some acclimatisation to be doing. That apparent reassurance that I was really near my intended destination had been but a mirage.
In fact, I wasn’t that far away either; one last ascent was to prove that to me. Though I needed to keep going, curiosity had me surveying a monument erected by the Gower Society to commemorate efforts to preserve the surrounding coastline. From there, I then dropped down towards the YHA hostel and trotted across the beach for the roundabout at the Port-Eynon end of the A4118. Following the road from there, I found my bus stop with a few folk waiting there, one of them being a Welshman wearing a kilt!
Having others waiting at the bus stop was comforting because it meant that I hadn’t missed a bus but the wait was to be a long one that extended into dusk. The earlier traffic congestion that I met on the way to Rhossili was the cause of delaying bus services even more by the time that I was going away again. There even was a call to First Cymru to make sure that buses still were running and it was just as well that I had a mobile that worked in Port-Eynon; O2 and Vodafone didn’t while T-Mobile and Orange did. That bus did arrive before any rain though and that was just as well since thunder and lightning arrived around midnight and stayed for most of an hour in the sultry early hours.
Even with any traffic congestion, the Gower remains alluring for me. Seeing what is around Port-Eynon again with some sunshine would be a good thing and there’s Oxwich Bay and Three Cliffs Bay (the latter’s near Penmaen) to be savoured too. As well as this catching Worm’s Head at a better time for photography would be another draw and there’s the Gower Way and other parts of the AONB to be experienced too. All in all, there are ample excuses for making a return sometime. Let’s hope one actually happens.
Return train journey from Macclesfield to Swansea, with a change at Bristol Parkway on the outbound journey and at both Cardiff Central and Birmingham New Street on the return one. Bus service 118 from Swansea to Rhossili and travel on the same service from Port-Eynon to Swansea.