This is my third article, so I’m a little worried that I might suffer from 3rd album syndrome. That occurs when bands have exhausted their creative juices on the first two albums and consequently album No 3 is a right old stinker (see Oasis). Well, I’m encouraged to learn that Bruce Springsteen’s third release was Born to Run, so here’s hoping! Born to Walk, if you will.
This month’s walk has been requested by Lesley, the esteemed editor of this publication, who suggested a route which took in the church at Llandewi near Scurlage and the surrounding countryside. I’m always happy to oblige; so this month we’re staying in Gower. Right, let’s get back on the horse!!
I’ve chosen a 11/12 mile circular walk, starting in Rhossili, following the Gower Way (more of this later) for the first few miles, passing the church then swinging south over farmland to join the coast path before heading west and returning to that start. It’s generally flat, apart from a few short, sharp, thigh aching slopes on the coast, but when I did it in early January it was very muddy. I mean VERY muddy. Thick, gooey, treackly – hang on, let me get the thesaurus – squashy, squishy, boggy, energy sapping mud. It turned what I thought was going to be a gentle and easy stroll into a bit of an exhausting trudge to be honest, purely due to the conditions. It left me needing some convincing that mud is good for cooling the blood because quite frankly, on occasions it boiled mine. Perfect if you’re taking your pet hippo with you, but otherwise I suggest you keep a keen eye on the weather ensuring it hasn’t rained for about 3 months beforehand!
I parked in the church car park at Rhossili, remembering to make a generous contribution to the church fund in lieu of a parking fee. There’s a collection box for this purpose on the wall. There is a larger car park, opposite the Worm’s Head Hotel. Come out of the car park and head left towards Rhossili Down through the gate in front of you and start climbing the hill. In a very short while, you need to turn right in an easterly direction towards a dry stone wall. However, if you’ve never been to the top of the Down before, it’s worthwhile making the effort to do so, as the view is pretty amazing.
Of course Rhossili, apart from being one of the most spectacular locations anywhere, dare I say, in the world, is also known for its connection with Petty Officer Edgar Evans, a member of Capt Scott’s ill fated expedition to Antarctica. Born in nearby Middleton, Evans joined the Navy eventually becoming an important member of Scott’s Terra Nova team in the race to become the first to reach the South Pole. Although they reached their target in January 1912, they were beaten to it by the Norwegian, Amundsen by just 5 days. In a desperately sad ending to the tale the entire team, including Evans, perished on the return journey. There’s a memorial stone to him in the church.
On a lighter note, I was actually in school with his grandson (or could it have been his great grandson?) and I recall an incident in the dressing room at Morriston Park before a football match in the late 60s. I can only assume the opposition were doing a project on Scott’s expedition because their entire team, led by their teacher, filed past the bewildered child – probably sitting in his underpants, one boot on, one boot off – shaking his hand as they went, delighted by the experience of meeting a living relative of the great man – a real tangible connection with a legendary historical event. In an attempt to impress them even more, I told them my grandfather used to be Assistant Conductor of the Morriston Orpheus Choir back in its heyday, but somehow they didn’t seem as impressed. Ho hum.
Anyway, back to the walk. You’re now heading east and the dry stone wall should be on your right. The path will take a few twists and turns through the gorse, you’ll pass a white house on your right and an underground reservoir ahead, marked by a green cabinet. In 5 minutes or so, you come to a road/track and you take this to the left for about 1km passing a farmhouse and bungalow and in the near distance you can see the village of Llangennith and Hardings Down. Arriving at a Gower Way marker No 3, you take the gate to the right then bear right at the next gate a little further along.
It gets muddy here (did I mention it’s a muddy walk?). Proper muddy. Muddy McMudface muddy. Skipping over a stream with no obvious way of crossing it other than just ploughing straight through, there’ll be a derelict house known as Kingshall on the right. You enter a field where you stay left and go through the gate taking the waymarked path. Through a gate to another field and follow the obvious path running diagonally in front of you. You arrive at the next gate and it’ll be signposted Gower Way where you follow the path.
Just a word on the Gower Way. This is a cracking linear trail starting in Rhossili and ending some 35 miles away at Penlle’r Castell on the mountain road between Morriston and Ammanford. It was created by the Gower Society in partnership with, amongst others, the Swansea Ramblers to celebrate the Millennium, and to doff their cap in recognition of the ancient Lordship of Gower which in Norman times encompassed not only the peninsula, but also land stretching from Gorseinon, Pontardulais and up to Mynydd y Gwair. In fact, it seems that as it included Morriston, I can quite rightly claim to come from Gower !!
Carry on and you come to a house Old Henllys on your right, which strikes a rather sad and forlorn figure seemingly being empty and unoccupied for some time. Passing through a few more gates you’ll eventually come to the welcomed sight of a tarmac mud free path and eventually the church at Llandewi.
The pretty church, occupying a rather unusual position essentially in a farm yard , was built in the 13th Century and dedicated to St David. If you look very carefully it’s slightly on the wonk (technical surveying term) as the nave and chancel are slightly out of alignment which just adds to its kookiness.
You now have a choice of routes . At the farm outbuildings there’s a path signposted right, but when I was there the farmyard beyond was full of inquisitive and menacing looking cows. I had my dog with me safely attached to his lead , so when I asked the passing farmer whether it was safe to go past them , he helpfully advised me that it should be fine, but if the cows did attack me just remember to let the dog go! Naturally, being a fully paid up member of the Wimp Club, I chose the alternative and safer path, walking straight on for a few hundred yards or so until I came to a road. Take a right here then right again onto the main A 4118 . Take great care as there are no pavements here , so when you come to the next bend in the road, take the path to your right and you’re back to where you would have been, had you taken your life into your own hands and gone in with the cows.
Bear left after joining this path and carry on going through a gate until you come to two more gates together in front of you. Take the one to the left into a field and diagonally cross it in the direction of a wooded copse slightly to the right. Here the path swings around to the right and you’ll see a derelict house in the near distance. Head for this and you’ll see a gate which leads to the lane running alongside and past the house. Walk up this lane where you’ll come to two gates taking the one on the right, then go immediate left. (Just realising – this walk is all gates and mud!) A cream coloured house appears and you head to the right of this towards a gate in the right hand corner of the field then take the lane to the left. As you approach some farm buildings look out for a stile to their right which you climb over following the track to join Pilton Green. You are now on the main Rhossili road, which you cross carefully, and the path you need is across the road slightly to the left and is signposted to Foxhill Slade. This takes you across a number of fields and heads towards the coastal path and the glorious South Gower coastline.
Just at the point where you join the coast path you’ll see a steep valley ahead of you running towards the sea and it is here, at Foxhole Slade, that you can get to Paviland Cave. As you are no doubt aware, this world famous cave contained the remains of the skeleton of a man discovered here in the 19th century. Originally mistaken for a lady it was given the moniker ‘Red Lady of Paviland’ until the mis-identification was realised – although the name stuck. The pear shaped cave entrance can only be safely accessed at low tide and by scaling the cliff as it is about 10m up the cliff face. I tried to get to it once with the help a trusty guide (we’ll call him Frank to protect his identity) who assured us that it was the lowest Spring tide for years. It’s a bit of a challenge just getting to the base of the cliff in the first place as you have to climb and scramble over sharp craggy rocks. So you can imagine my disappointment to discover that after all this effort, the tide wasn’t very low at all and there was no way we were ever going to get anywhere near the cave that day. Poor old Frank had to resort to a Canute like exercise, standing on a rock willing the tide to recede. Seemed funny at the time – I suppose you had to be there.
This didn’t stop us from admiring the surroundings though. The coastline around here is quite magnificent. The cliffs comprising of Carboniferous Limestone, have been twisted and folded by earth movements, moulded further during the ice age and subsequently eroded by the destructive action of the sea, resulting in the spectacular landscape we see today. The names given to the headlands and cliffs are pretty cool too; Thurba Head, Blackhole Gut, The Knave, Horse Cliff (ok, that one’s not so great)
Back to the walk. Follow the coast path heading west , which is well waymarked passing Mewslade and Fall Bays until you return to Rhossili taking the route around the headland as you do so.
There is nothing I can usefully add to the superlatives used over the years to describe this particular area , indeed for the whole of Gower for that matter .It’s an old cliché I know, but we’re very lucky to be living in a place of such beauty and I’m willing to wager that most of us at some time have showed off this area to visitors with our chests puffed out with pride, as we witness their jaws drop in awe at their first sight of Rhossili Bay. You can muse over this or weightier things if you prefer whilst enjoying a well earned pint in the Worms Head Hotel looking out over the sweep of the bay . Unless of course they have a sign saying “ No Muddy Boots “.
OS Map: OS Explorer 164
Start/Finish: Rhossili Church OS 4168 8809
Distance: Approx 11/12 miles
Time: 3 – 4 hours
Grade: Moderate to tough depending on conditions – several stiles and gates to climb
Pet/Child Friendly: Yes , but dogs must be kept on a lead
Pub/Cafe: Worms Head Hotel / Bay Bistro