Friday, September 14, 2012

Day 5 - The Gower 'proper' - Gowerton to Llanridian

A 'beached' boat makes an interesting landmark
It’s hard to believe nearly two years have passed since Harri and I completed his book of circular walks on the Gower peninsula (soon to be published by Northern Eye Books)

Like most people from south east Wales, I’d always felt I knew the Gower peninsula quite well. Once I’d passed my driving test (first time on my 27th birthday with a very freckly-faced examiner), it was easy to pack the girls in the car and head for Rhossili, Port Eynon and Oxwich beaches. Years later, when Dad was living in West Cross, we discovered Pennard and lunched at The Gower Inn regularly.

Beautiful landscapes abound on Gower
Walking Gower with Harri has been an entirely different experience. We did most of our walking in the winter when tourists are few and far between, the roads quiet and the vast beaches practically empty. Harri introduced me to less ‘touristy’ places, like the spine of Gower - Cefn Bryn (more on that in a future blog) – and small inland communities, like Reynoldston, where sheep graze on the village green and cows mill around road signs.

In the introduction to his book, Harri describes the Gower as ‘a small but priceless gem’, adding ‘the peninsula is ... a place of stunning and astonishingly varied natural beauty. Here are hidden coves and glorious sandy beaches, high cliffs and windswept downs, dunes, marshland, wooded valleys and picturesque villages. Almost every path on Gower opens up a new and rewarding perspective, a different aspect of the peninsula’s varied landscape’.

Wow, I couldn’t have put it better myself. It’s true, every word. Gower is absolutely an absolutely stunning part of the world; unfortunately, the high house prices reflect this.
Entertaining local 'residents' in the front garden

These stepping stones are a recent - and very welcome - arrival
Our fifth day’s walking took us along the northern shores of the peninsula, past Penclawdd, Llanmorlais and Crofty.

Until the end of the 19th century, Penclawdd was a thriving sea port but, according to Wikipedia, a 'training' wall built around that time with the intention of confining the fluctuating channel of the River Loughor had the effect of accelerating the silting up of the Penclawdd. 

The modern landscape is compelling if not exactly the stuff of picture postcards; at low tide, the empty mudflats with their deep-sided pills stretch almost as far as the eye can see to Whitford lighthouse and the open sea beyond. Wild horses graze here, inexplicably venturing out into the middle of the estuary at low tide. The few boats that remain tethered along this stretch of coast, relics of more prosperous times, have long since been abandoned to the relentless onslaught of mud.

If you’ve ever enjoyed cockles at Barry Island or Trecco Bay you’ll probably have been eating cockles from Penclawdd. We watched as a convoy of four-wheel drive vehicles and quad bikes edged carefully across the tidal mudflats to reap the day’s harvest before the fast-approaching sea forced them back to the shore. Until the seventies women were the main cockle gatherers, using donkeys to carry their catch back to shore; sadly, today’s obsession with profit and economy of scale has seen an end to this traditional way of cockle fishing.

Wild horses graze on what was once a busy estuary

Our need to return to the car meant that we        could only cover eight miles of the Wales Coast Path today. Rather than hang around for an infrequent - and expensive - bus we instead decided to do a circular route back to Gowerton via Llanrhidian and The Dolphin Inn – or The DolphInn as Harri likes to call it.

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