At the time of going to press, Covid restrictions limited residents to a daily walk that started and finished at their home address. This walk is confined to the Mumbles area, so please comply with current lock down rules.
The four of you who regularly read these ramblings of mine will be familiar with my efforts to encourage you to get out walking. Well, judging by the amount of people I’ve recently encountered out and about I think the lockdown has done my work for me. The parks and beaches are busy with socially distancing groups escaping from the confines of their homes.
Well let’s face it, there’s bugger all else to do. No pubs, no cafes, no restaurants, no gyms and no shops. It’s one of our only means of a leisurely distraction. And the boredom and feeling of claustrophobia has inevitably kicked in to the extent that when I had to self-isolate recently it only served to make me appreciate what a treat it was just putting the bins out! Hell, I even had an early night and a shower!
But the beauty is that everything is on a local scale, like a reset button has been pressed and we’re all back to the 60s before the car enabled us to take our leisure pursuits further afield. And if I’m typical, I just think that it makes us appreciate how satisfying simple pleasures can be. And indeed, how glorious our particular corner of the world is.
Just walking in the park or on the beach, breathing in the fresh air and sitting for a while with a restorative flask of tea and a Welsh cake watching the world go by, is thoroughly relaxing and very therapeutic, helping our circadian rhythms in the process. Weather permitting of course. And gives us the opportunity to reflect on how lucky most of us are at the moment, and to spare a thought for all those who have suffered or are suffering from Covid or have lost loved ones as a result. And to all the essential and front-line workers out there, who are soldiering on in the face of a massive threat from this awful virus.
So, as staying local and exercising from the house has been thrust upon us for the foreseeable future at least, I’ve planned a circular walk around the Mumbles area.
Obviously the start of the walk will be different for everybody, so you can just jump on where it suits. I started on Newton Road and walked up towards Underhill Park and headed for the steps behind the changing rooms onto Langland Corner. Carefully cross the road and walk up Overland Road and after a few hundred yards or so keep an eye out for an uphill path to your right just after a stone wall topped with a wooden fence. This leads on to Wychwood Close, head for the opposite end of the cul de sac where the path continues. Keep on this path which hugs the ridge and gives teasing glimpses of the bay. The village will soon come into view.
The slippery path descends towards the entrance of a driveway to a private house on the right but continues opposite, emerging eventually onto Higher Lane. Being mindful of the traffic, turn left towards Plunch Lane and when the road swings around sharply to the right, left into Thistleboon Drive then left again into the caravan park.
This place holds particularly fond memories for me as I went on my first ever holiday here, and it doesn’t look like I’ll be going much further afield this year! Like a lot of places you re-visit from your childhood, it seems an awful lot smaller than I remember, especially the playing field. Exit the caravan park at the far-right corner behind a caravan named Burgundy and join the gravel path and turn right. This takes you onto the Mumbles Hill Nature Reserve, which itself is an interesting place. Apart from an abundance of wildlife and fauna, it’s home to the site of a couple of gunnery positions and control bunker from the Second World War the ruins of which are clearly visible. The path opens out as you approach the tall trans-mitter mast in front of you and just to the left is a vantage point where an almost uninterrupted and very agreeable view of the bay can be enjoyed.
Now, it’s a cliche we often hear that we don’t appreciate what’s on our doorstep, but if any proof is needed then here it is. It’s been compared to the Bay of Naples, and you can see why. Apart from, of course, the seething metropolis of Naples, the active volcano of Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Sorrento and the beautiful Isle of Capri – and obviously the weather.
But apart from all that, it’s just like the Bay of Naples. Joking aside, it is quite spectacular and I’m hard pressed to think of anywhere else in the UK with such a stunning city location. Look at the beach, the quality of the sand – it’s fantastic. Ok, you almost have to walk to Devon through ‘granny’s custard’ for a paddle when the tide’s out, but still, it’s an extraordinary and underused resource right under our noses.
Geologically, the landscape you can see is the result of complex interactions between the nature and type of the underlying rocks and the physical processes that have affected them over millions of years. The hills overlooking Port Talbot and Kilvey Hill, for example, comprise of harder rocks which are more resistant to erosion, so they have a higher elevation. Between Swansea and Mumbles, the rocks are of a different type, are at a lower level and flatter, thought to have been formed by coastal erosion when sea levels were higher than today. In other areas around the bay the rock strata has been pushed together concertina-like to form wavy corrugated folds, with peaks and troughs (anticlines and synclines) which in turn have twisted, been eroded and suffered faulting.
Crikey, what a night that must have been. Carnage!! The Earth certainly moved for someone! An example of a trough in such a fold is at Oystermouth and up along Newton Road. Valleys have been formed along faults in the rock which are areas of weakness, so easily eroded by glaciers and rivers. For example, the Tawe valley across the bay, was gouged out by glaciers along a series of faults known as the Swansea Valley Disturbance (not to be confused with a Saturday night in Pontardawe – I think I’ve used that gag before but it’s worth repeating). A similar process occurred at Clyne Valley. However, the lower areas of the bay, like Singleton Park, Clyne and the bay itself owe their appearance to glacial deposits. A glacier wreaks havoc on its journey by eroding everything around it and carrying the material along until it melts, when it unceremoniously dumps its cargo. Such was the amount of debris dumped in the bay that the bedrock is some 600m beneath the surface.
Where were we? Ah yes, the walk. So, once at the top, you can have a saunter around remembering that the route off the hill is to the right of the mast via a well defined path. I recommend however that you head for the area behind the mast where you’ll have uninterrupted views of the Bristol Channel, including Kenfig, Ogmore, Porthcawl and Nash Point, which marks the eastern end of the bay, and swinging around to the right, views of the coast of North Devon and Somerset. In the foreground is Bracelet Bay and the twin islands of Mumbles Head, whose name is supposedly derived from the French word for breasts – mamelles. The islands are made up of carboniferous limestone which has been eroded by the sea along two lines of faulting, causing the land to separate and forming the familiar features you see in front of you.
From the photographs, those with a keen eye for detail will notice that I did the walk first thing in the morning. It’s a hugely satisfying time to be out, especially if you’re lucky enough to witness such a glorious sunrise. You don’t have to get up too early at the moment so well worth the effort if the weather conditions are favourable.
Descend the path and head to the right towards Limeslade and just for a change, rather than take the coastal path towards Langland, head up the steps alongside Fortes cafe which takes you onto the cliff top. The short climb is quite tough to be honest, so if you don’t feel up to it, carry on along the path and you can rejoin a little later. The path levels off and ahead emerge views of the South Gower coast, with Langland in the foreground. Keep an eye out for the cricket club which will eventually appear to your right. As the path descends, go through the kissing gate to your right at the bottom of the slope. If you took the coastal path, look out for a signpost ‘Plunch Lane 1/4 mile’ to the right and head up the hill and the kissing gate will be in front of you at the top.
Through the gate where the path takes you behind the club leading onto Plunch Lane and into what must surely be the Beverly Hills of Swansea.
I took a left here along the path which runs parallel with the road then turned right down Thistleboon Road and then right again, down Village Lane. There are of course many routes you can take around here, like walking back down Plunch Lane and back towards the pier, but I particularly wanted to take in this picturesque street as the multi coloured cottages tumbling down the hill to the main road below gives off that ‘fishing village‘ vibe that Mumbles is known for.
At the bottom, carefully cross the main road to join the prom, turning left heading towards Oystermouth Square and beyond. Look out for the entrance to Oystermouth Castle Woods across the road and just after the houses on the left. Onto the path through the trees then turn left up the steps and left again at the top. You’re now entering the grounds of the 12th Century castle with fine views of the village from this commanding hilltop position. From here on you could just have a little stroll around the back streets of the village, but this is where I ended my walk.
So, there you go, a leisurely stroll around old familiar ground that we’ve probably walked a million times, but hopefully this time with a renewed appreciation of our surroundings.
- Starting point: Anywhere along the route
- Map: OS 165
- Distance: 7km/4.4 miles
- Duration: 2 hours
- Grade: Leisurely
- Dogs and Children: Yes
- Mary Hopkin: Those were the Days
- Trampolene: Alcohol Kiss
- Badfinger: Baby Blue
- Man: Keep on Crinting
- Bonnie Tyler: Total Eclipse of the Heart
- John Cale: Fear is a Man’s Best Friend
- Manic Street Preachers: Design for Life
- Mal Pope: City of Refuge
- Lost Tuesday Society: Universe
- Spencer Davies: Keep on Running
- Harry Secombe: If I Ruled the World
- Dylan Thomas: Do Not go Gentle Into That Good Night