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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Rhossili, Fall Bay and Kitchen Corner

I found myself in Rhossili yesterday. Didn't plan it. The cat woke me up at some ungodly hour, so I got up and did my usual bits and bobs, and realised it was still morning, by the time I'd done everything that needed doing. Even though the weather was far from ideal, with the wind and heavy cloud cover, I decided to hop on the next available 118 bus.

I've uploaded larger pics this time than I normally would, so please feel free to click on any image, to see a larger version. Also, I haven't Photoshopped them, as I didn't have time.

One thing I love about Rhossili beach, is the way the patterns in the sand shift - they're never the same two days in a row.

Yet another bunch of dopey grass-chompers ignoring the splendid views.

It was unbelievably gusty at Rhossili yesterday. Many of the gusts nearly knocked me off my feet and I'm no featherweight. However, I find traversing these cliffs in a gale to be an exhilarating experience, as long as there's no rain as well. As I've often said here, I love watching the white horses rushing ashore, something you won't see if the air's still.

Ever since the TV gardening craze hit the UK, garden plants and designs seem to be growing ever more elaborate and exotic. I find the simplicity of our native wildflowers, and the way they'll appropriate any suitable nook or cranny to ensure their survival, far more appealing. Forget azaleas, nicotianas and cascades of multi-coloured blooms - just give me a lichen-covered drystone wall sprouting hawkweed instead.

One thing I love about Gower at this time of year, is the proliferation of these gorgeous agrarian sculptures. Okay, I know they're just hay bales, but there's something very striking about a field full of these golden cylinders.

I wasn't at all surprised to see surfers taking to the waters of Rhossili Bay. Although I know as much about surfing as I do about cranial surgery, common sense tells me that a surfer needs a bit of a breeze and a few good waves, in order to have some fun. However, I was startled to observe people swimming, given that the water was very choppy, and the wind was easily gale-force, with such vicious and sudden blasts, I almost lost my footing because of it on numerous occasions, and Victoria Beckham-esque I am not. Sadly, a man drowned at Mewslade a couple of hours after my pics were taken, and the coastguard attributed his death directly to the rough conditions in the bay.

It must have been rougher at the top of the Down. I had expected to see paragliders taking off from their usual launch spot, about two thirds of the way up, but I guessed it was too rough for them.

Does anyone know if this fissure in the rock is natural or man-made? I wonder if any creatures sleep in there at night? Maybe it's a Verry Volk chamber or a window into their world :).

I'm convinced we're heading for an early autumn this year. I couldn't help noticing that several species of wildflower, which are normally fully in bloom at this time of year, had already gone to seed.

The sea was an incredible green colour, especially going towards Worms Head. I don't think I've ever seen it quite that colour before, but alas, the camera didn't do it justice.

What's the history of Kitchen Corner? I'm sure I must have read it somewhere, but my mind has failed to absorb it. Does it have anything to do with the quarrying that went on along the cliffs a century or two ago? I've always been intrigued as to why there's a large tin shack and a rough-hewn little quayside, complete with its own stone staircase, in such a remote spot.

I was delighted, when I reached the old Coastguard hut overlooking the Worm, to discover that I was still pain-free. Seeing plenty of people around, I decided to take the opportunity to head for Fall Bay. My last glimpse of Fall was in August 2002. Whenever I've been to Rhossili since, I've not been able to reach Fall, either because of limitations imposed by my health, or because I've been on one of my solo expeditions, and found the area too isolated for me to feel comfortable heading that way alone. However, finding circumstances ideal, I headed onwards.

Before long, I came to this rocky little valley, which at first, looked very treacherous. Closer inspection revealed some steep, but accessible tracks leading to the rocky shore below. However, given my intermittent and unpredictable balance problems caused by my arthritic neck, I decided to venture only a few metres down. As I ascended, I spotted a wooden gate leading to a marked public footpath, and decided I would explore further on my way back.

Glancing back the way I'd just come, I was rewarded with this new and interesting view of the Worm. As much as I love the Worm, I've become rather sick of photographing it from the same familiar old angles, time and time again.

As I forged ahead, I was soon rewarded with my first glimpse of Fall Bay in four years.

Suddenly, I was met with a chorus from these ladies, who greeted me like an old friend. "Turn the other way and enjoy the view", I urged them, but they just baa-ed back and carried on munching.

I'd forgotten what a charming little bay Fall is, with its neat, semi-circular shape. It reminds me a little of Lulworth Cove in Dorset.

I wish my camera had captured the striking visual effect of this rock formation, especially against the backdrop of the ocean. Better still, I wish I could stop blaming the camera for my own photographic inadequacies and inexperience.

I've always been intrigued by this collection of little boats, perched high and dry amongst the bracken on the cliffside. Anyone know whose they are and why they're there?

As I turned in the direction of Rhossili Down, I was awestruck by the swathe of golden flowers carpeting this field. Closer inspection revealed the humble ragwort as the source of this stunning effect.

Does this amazing-looking rocky outcrop have a name? It must have been one hell of a volcanic eruption that formed this jagged peak, all those eons ago.

I became aware of a couple sat on the jagged cliff, but I was more watchful of their restless red setters. The dogs kept making little forays across to where I was sitting, and I was getting more and more uncomfortable. Moments after I took these pics, the hounds suddenly tore towards me with great purpose, eyes blazing and tongues lolling, like something from the Hound of the Baskervilles.

I was mightily relieved when they sped right past, just a couple of feet from where I was sitting. However, my relief was shortlived. To my horror, they began worrying the fleecy ladies I'd conversed with earlier, snapping at them and driving them closer and closer to the edge of a sheer cliff. I immediately made the owners aware, pointing out that if the farmer came along, he would probably shoot the dogs first, and ask questions later. Fortunately, they were nice, reasonable people, who immediately brought the dogs under control. Having said that, I felt so unnerved by the dogs' show of aggression, I decided to head back in the direction of the wooden gate and public footpath I mentioned earlier, taking one last shot of Fall.

En route to the wooden gate, I spotted this curious little nook set in the dry stone wall. It isn't an open-ended gap - it's just a hollow chamber in the wall, essentially. Anyone have any idea what it's for?

As I neared the gate, I passed a couple of hikers, and the man said to me, "you must be Little Bo Peep". Eh? I thought. Then, I looked behind me, in the direction the hikers indicated. They informed me that since they'd seen me approaching, my fleecy friends had been tailing me. Whenever I stopped, they stopped. When I moved on, so did they.

When I reached the gate, I had no idea where the path would lead me, but I decided to follow it anyway. I guessed I'd either end up in Rhossili or Middleton. As I closed the gate behind me, I heard a chorus of baas. Yep, my little friends were all gathered at the gate, begging me to let them in, but the path skirted a field of oats, so I didn't think the farmer would be too impressed if I let the super-munchers in amongst his crops. I followed all the yellow arrows I came across, seeing no living soul for about a mile, except for a multitude of butterflies and a few stonechats.

The gale died to a stiff breeze as I got further inland, and the only sounds I heard were birds twittering and singing, and the swishing, soft rattle of oats being kissed by the breeze. It was so peaceful, for once I forgot to be nervous of would-be flashers and serial killers lurking in the bushes. I finally emerged from the lane, and realised I'd exited onto the main road through Rhossili, passing Ashtree Farm in the process. I was just a stone's throw from the bus stop, and there was a bus due in five minutes - perfect.

When I reached town, I thought my walking was done for the day. However, without warning, First Cymru have stopped accepting Pullman tickets on all routes except Swansea West routes, i.e. Uplands, Sketty, Killay and such places. I refused to pay extra to get home, having already forked out on a £3.50 day ticket. I ended up having to walk the 2 or 3km home, straight uphill, and was utterly knackered as a result. Today, I discovered that Pullman have just taken over a bus route that goes straight past my house, so First Cymru can get stuffed. Fortunately, Pullman still accept First Cymru tickets, and will continue to do so as their routes are all council-funded, not commercial.


Jeremy said...

I find cloudy days with wind are the best for landscape photography: those Constable-esque clouds you have captured so well are so much more interesting than bland blue skies. Bloody nuisance when my cap keeps blowing off, though!

The Pig's Lip said...

You have some fantastic pics there - especially the first shot of Fall Bay and the shot overlooking the fields - one of which is yellow - back towards Rhossili Downs.
Looks like the weather back home has been better that the torrential thunderstorms we have had every day over here in Norfolk.

Leon West said...

Hi Sian,
I am a large format photographer that is currently 'documenting' Kitchen Corner. I wonder if you have any information whatsoever about it, and whether or not you'd be kind enough to drop me a line if you do. Thanks so much in advance.

Leon West