There seems to be a tendency these days for people of a certain age to turn back the clock and re-visit pastimes they last enjoyed in the full flush of youth. Some energetic, some not so. Why, I wonder? Is it a stark realisation, that with the inexorable movement towards the inevitable, if we don’t do it soon then the opportunity will pass us by? Are we hopeless romantics and incurable nostalgics (or is that incurable romantics and hope-less nostalgics?) hoping to return to a better place as a coping mechanism to escape these testing times?
For instance, I’ve recently bought a fishing rod, not having fished since before decimalization, and a friend of mine with a dodgy knee has bought a surfboard. What next? Airfix models. Pinching apples from back gardens? Marbles and jacks? Conkers? Bobby knocking? But one I was willing to embrace with gusto recently, was a camping trip down the Gower, ‘with the boys ‘. Now, I’m sure for many this will sound familiar. A week’s camping at Llangennith was a rite of passage for us teenagers back in the 70s, when even council house boys from Morriston could pretend to be Californian surfer dudes. And the weather at the time helped too. Falling-off a surfboard all day could be thirsty and tiring work of course, so the evenings were spent under-age drinking at the Kings Head, where we rubbed shoulders with proper surfers, sometimes in the presence of the God of surfing himself, PJ. Heady, happy days.
So, five chums, all in our 60s booked a weekend in Oxwich under canvas to try and relive those magical days (the campsite at Hillend being closed). One of the party, who we’ll call Rupert to save his blushes (more Pooh than Grylls as it turned out), was a little reluctant to join us having spent most of his holidays over the last 30 days in luxury resorts around the world. Things were made less attractive to him when he learnt the toilet block was closed due to Covid restrictions and we had to take our own portable ‘facilities’. But in the face of relentless peer pressure, he reluctantly agreed to come.
The weather was awful to be fair, but the time-honoured combination of wine, companionship and tales of yore around the camp fire kept us warm and our spirits high. Shadows painting our faces, traces of bromance in our heads. This wasn’t 1976, but we were having fun nevertheless. However little did we know that Rupert was having grave misgivings and planning his escape. He’d gone a bit quiet to be honest. Around 6am on Saturday and after a particularly stormy and wet night, I heard an engine start and a car pull away, but I didn’t twig. Then reading phone messages a few hours later, it all made sense. ‘Sorry boys. I haven’t slept a wink all night and I couldn’t take any more, so I’ve gone home to my comfortable bed’. He buggered off without telling anyone!! And when I tell you that the aforementioned comfortable bed was in his house in Woking, then you could see that his heart wasn’t in it!
To put this episode in context however, his dear late father spent months, maybe even years in the Burma jungle in the Second World War, experiencing almost insufferable con-ditions and constantly under threat from the enemy. Yet Rupert lasted barely 18 hours in Oxwich on a cold and wet weekend in August.
Had he grown a pair and stayed, he could have enjoyed this month’s walk, a circular stroll from Oxwich to Port Eynon and back. The directions for the walk are relatively simple (no jungle and no snipers), and suggest, as always that you wear walking boots. A director of a prominent local accounting firm told me that he did one of my walks recently in flip flops and hardly surprisingly found it hard going. Like doing the accounts without a calculator!
Starting by the Oxwich Bay Hotel look out for the path that runs alongside St. Illtyds church and into the woods – Oxwichs’ version of the Burma jungle. It’s an obvious path and it twists its way through the woodland, quite steep in parts, giving tantalising and spectacular views over the bay towards Three Cliffs, and Cefn Bryn. It also passes that major landslide that occured in January when an enormous rockfall changed the shape of the headland forever.
Emerging from Oxwich woods you’ve now reached Oxwich Point where the path veers right and in a little while, Horton & Port Eynon come into view. You’ll notice the landscape changes dramatically as you pass into characteristic South Gower cliff scenery, although the lower sections hereabouts have a gentler profile than normally associated with the precipitous coast of neighbouring areas.
The contrast between the landscapes of bays and the cliffs reflect the geology around here and their respective levels of resistance to erosion. Broadly speaking, the bays consist of less resistant Millstone grit rocks, while the cliffs are made up of the more resistant carboniferous limestone.
You’re now heading towards Port Eynon so you can’t really get lost, although, if like me you stray to the right away from the sea, you’ll come across a sign saying private property, so just head back towards the path which hugs the edge of the rocky beach on the left. You’ll also be faced with a diversion around the dry valley of Slade. The coast path ahead has largely disappeared due to coastal erosion and so it diverts in a U shape route up towards Slade and back again. If you want to shorten your walk then head straight up the valley at this point, climbing the path to the top, turn right and return to Oxwich.
Through Horton, passing the lifeboat station and towards Port Eynon, you can elect to walk on the beach or through the dunes over the conveniently laid boardwalks. Into Port Eynon where you can stop for a cuppa or a bag of chips in the cafes there, or indeed a pint in the Ship, and then walk up the main road as if you’re leaving the village. Take the road to the right of the 14th century St Cattwgs church and take the second right when you see a park bench in front of the cottages ahead. In the churchyard, look out for the memorial to the three-lifeboat crew who lost their lives at sea in 1916. You’re now on a tarmac road by the New Park Holiday park and you’ll discover that the path ahead that you should take according to the OS map is completely overgrown, so you just follow the road into Highfields Holiday park doing a small loop to the right and back to the point where the path would have taken you. We’re only talking about 20 yards or so. Look out for the path which continues up a series of steps through the trees to your left at the entrance to Highfields Holiday park.
You’re now going to climb back up the cliff tops on a sometimes over grown path but perfectly passable. On the way, you’ll climb over a stile, go immediate-ly left and the path swings to the right emerging out into the open and onto the access road to Bank Farm Holiday Park,
On the way you’ll get great views of the areas around and what struck me was the extent to which the caravan parks almost dominate the view. They’re some-times hidden at ground level but from this vantage point you can see that they really are quite extensive. Now, I know that these divide opinion, and you can see from here that they are certainly a little challenging on the eye, contrasting starkly with the traditional buildings of the old village. In fact, they surround the small village to the extent that it’s almost swallowed up. But whatever your view, there’s no doubting that they are brilliant places for children’s holidays – full of fresh air and fun as the Ramsbottom’s might have said.
Follow the road to the right and exit Bank Farm between the reception and clubhouse emerging onto the main road into Horton. Turn left as if you are leaving the village and just after the community hall on the right, follow the signposted path towards the Beeches, a farmhouse on the right. Pass the farm and then you’ll face a choice. If you fancy walking half a mile on a path of gooey, slippery, energy sapping mud and where you literally have to bend in half to avoid overhanging branches, all the while losing the will to live, then take the gate to the left. If not, and preferring a gentler, less constricting and stress-free route then take the gate to the right (recommended!). Into the field and head towards the corner of the neighbouring field ahead and on the left and then straighten up towards the farm. Judging by the amount of manure, you might encounter some cattle, although none were around on the day I did it. If you do, take care. Over the stile into the farmyard, down the track and then it’s basically a straight road back to the start, passing through Oxwich Green and then the castle on your right.
Distance: 7 miles approx.
Time: 3- 31/2 hours
O/S Map: OS Explorer 164
Refreshments: Oxwich & Port Eynon
Child friendly: Yes (maybe nettles so wear long trousers)
Dog friendly: Yes, on a lead
I’d Really Love to See you Tonight – England Dan & John Ford Coley
Dance with Me – Orleans
What a Fool Believes – Doobie Brothers
After the Love Has Gone – Earth Wind & Fire
Escape (The Pina Colada Song) – Rupert Holmes
Sailing – Christopher Cross
Couldn’t Get it Right – Climax Blues Band
Midnight at the Oasis – Maria Muldaur
(we’ve had this before – but a great song)
Listen to What the Man Said – Wings
We don’t Talk Anymore – Cliff Richards
Barbados – Typically Tropical
One of these Nights – Eagles