Walking through the sands of time

As I woke-up last Saturday to rays of golden sunlight, shining through the gap in the curtains, it was clear that I was not going to be staying in watching the World Cup this weekend – I’d be making the most of it, camping on nearby Gower.

So it was that me and my beloved packed the car and headed off into not quite the sunset, it was midday, but certainly the sunshine. We drove along the A4118 south Gower road, turning onto a lane just past Knelston. Passing through the little hamlet of Burry it was especially pleasing to see little tables by the side of the road with fresh farm produce for sale, quintessentially rural – lovely.

After 15 minutes or so we arrived at Llangennith, passing the small crowd in the garden of the King’s Head quaffing golden ale we headed for Hillend Caravan and Camping Park.

Hillend is a well-run site set in the dunes at the northern end of Rhossili, a 2-3 mile stretch of beach. We paid our site fee of £22.50 for the night, a little expensive but demand is guaranteed owing to the beach’s attraction to surfers, and entered the campsite crossing a rather hi-tech electric bollard.

We pitched our tent close to the rather clean toilet block (ready for the run to the loo in the middle of the night) and made our way to the beach. Rhossili can be a little exposed and Saturday was no exception with a keen wind ensuring the sea was choppy, but alas for the surfers the waves weren’t that good.

After an hour laying in the sand we finally mustered enough courage to plunge ourselves in the sea. I must admit the water was surprisingly warm, but that wind was chilling.

Around 5pm we went back to the tent and I attempted to get our new bucket BBQ going with a bottle of Old Speckled Hen in hand. What can I say, the bloody thing was enough trouble to try the patience of Job. But thankfully I had patience, perseverance and a few more bottles of Speckled Hen, and after not far off 2 hours I got the thing lit.

We had a really pleasant evening sipping a few glasses of wine, chatting and watching the sun going down behind the dunes before turning in for the night.

Sunday morning, and it wasn’t rays of sunshine greeting us but clouds promising rain. Not to be dismayed, after a light breakfast in Eddy’s we began our steep climb to the top of Rhossili Downs. The panorama at the top is breathtaking, with views across Carmarthen Bay towards Pendine and Pembrokeshire. As you can see from the following photo the clouds gave way to more glorious sunshine – yippee!

We walked along a little way and stumbled upon some ruins. Initially I thought it was an old street left empty and demolished after the National Trust acquired the land, but after a little digging (thanks Google) I have discovered that it’s the site of a WWII radar station and anti-aircraft gun. Part of a defense network to protect vital ports and industrial cities along the south Wales coast from the German Luftwaffe.

Here’s some pictures of the site now.

More information about the radar station can be found at 28dayslater.co.uk

We stopped at the Trig Point (number 192) for a quick photo before heading down to Rhossili. Here’s Emma, my beloved, who must have more patience than Job to put with me.

Love must have been all around us then as I noticed this heart made of grass in the path – is it a sign?

Blondie's lesser known hit - 'Heart of Grass'

We entered Rhossili and whereupon we entered the open church. St Mary’s was built during the Norman period around AD1200 and the kind parishioners had left bottles of water for people to help themselves to, leaving a donation to help with repairs to the building if they so wish. I’m a little religious, and this is quiet act of kindness, I think, shows religion at its best.

We stopped for a liquid lunch at the Worm’s Head – a nice pint from local brewers Tomos Watkin.

Feeling refreshed it was quick trot down the steps and onto the beach to find the wreck of the Helvetia, one of many shipwrecks scattered around the Gower coastline, which ran aground in November 1887.

Half way along the 2 mile stretch of sand and the clouds had closed in again and it began to rain. We made our way back to tent, packed up and left not resisting the urge to call in and try a pint of Rhymney Bitter at the King’s Head on the way out of Llangennith.

I must admit, you can trick yourself with a little one night break on a weekend. You go to work on Monday feeling as though you’ve really had a nice long weekend. Maybe Emma and me really did walk through the sands of time.

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