Walking around Oxwich Point in January

‘An exhilarating ramble through woodland and along delightful coastline’ is how the walking guide described the 4.5 mile circular walk around Oxwich Point, and after a three hour trek through the less explored part of Gower I couldn’t argue.

A windy day at Oxwich Bay

A stiff south easterly blew across the Bristol Channel to greet us as we stepped out of the car mid-morning on a Sunday – a great way to clear the head after a glass or two on a Saturday night.

We walked past St Illtyd’s Church, a medieval church built on a site used for Christian worship since the 6th Century, and began our ascent through the ancient woodland. The church is open to visitors during August, and a quick peep inside will reveal a selection of 13th Century monuments including effigies of a knight and his lady.

The ancient woodland clings to the the north-east facing cliff, sheltering it from the prevailing south-westerly wind, but making it quite shady. Part of the Oxwich National Nature Reserve the woods offer a spectacular display of wildflowers in the spring, such as bluebells and ramsons. Budding botanists will also get excited by the several rare species of plants such as the Purple Gromwell, Herb Paris and Butcher’s Broom (or Knee Holly).

Straight to the point... Oxwich Point!

Alas, whilst this winter has been rather mild bluebells were out of the question. However, we were treated to a sighting of a rather unusual fungi growing among some moss clinging to old plastic Coke bottle – I know Coca-Cola are big on branding, having turned St Nic red, but red mushrooms?

The fungi in red...?

We continued walking a little while through the woods, up then down, before finally emerging into the bright sunlight and a stunning view out to sea. It literally was breathtaking, or was it the climbing up and down? I pulled out my flask and we stopped for a quick coffee and to enjoy the scene.

Pennard ahoy!

After our caffeine fix we were ready to hit the trail again. Thankfully (for the sake of my marriage at least!) the path is easier from this point forward – it’s open, wider and pretty much flat. As you’d expect the views out to sea are brilliant. The sounds, especially the waves crashing on the rocks, soothing (ta-ta syrah!). We walked some way before turning Oxwich Point and gaining our first sight of Port Eynon in the distance.

Oxwich Point looking toward Port Eynon

Beyond this point the coastal path really widens, we’re virtually walking through fields, and being bombarded by constant reminders of why Gower was the UK’s first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

However, not even the remotest parts of our coastline can escape the effects of life in a throwaway society. The strandline on the pebble beach below was littered with debris, plastic bottles, and this crate!

A beached crate!

Not far from where I took this photo, at Slade sands, we stopped again for coffee before heading inland away from the coast and up the hill. A short walk along a track and we picked up the lane leading from Slade back down to Oxwich, stopping only to admire the fine-looking cows grazing hay in the paddock of a farm.

What a mooverlous day!

With journey’s end in sight, we picked up the pace, walking briskly down the hill past the entrance to Oxwich Castle and Greenways Leisure Park.

Our ramble was exhilarating, the coastline delightful, and we shall definitely be returning to this part of the Wales coastal path again, maybe in May to check out those bluebells!

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A walk around Rhossili Down in January

EmsSunset over RhossiliA happy coupleRhossili Down OS trig pointLooking good?Neigh!
Iron Age defence ditch?HillfortRhossili Sunset

Rhossili Down (January 2012), a set on Flickr.

I’ve been quite active this year – going to the gym, and heading outdoors to make the most of the stunning countryside on my doorstep.

A few weeks ago, on a stunning Sunday, my wife and I headed for Rhossili Down, here’s a few pics from our walk.

I’ll be posting more in the next day or so 🙂

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.