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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Hell at Three Cliffs Bay

Had a bit of a strange day. Went out at lunchtime, intending to head for Langland. I stopped at West Cross to grab some chips from Dick Barton's. When I got there, it was heaving, with droves of kids everywhere. Then the penny dropped - school's out for Easter. So I hastily revised my plans and decided to get a bus back to Blackpill, so I could connect with the Pennard service.

When I reached Pennard, it was sunny but not overly warm. I normally walk along Eastcliff when I visit Pennard, but I decided to head west for a change, where I came across this pretty flowering tree - a hawthorn, I think.

Despite large groups of people present on the cliffs, it was very peaceful, apart from this noisy craft roaring overhead. I've always assumed the two large yellow and white aircraft I've seen sitting on the runway at Fairwood, were some kind of passenger aircraft. However, this particular one kept flying over Pennard and Oxwich.

I was thoroughly enjoying the walk. It was cold enough for a jumper, up on the cliffs, but fairly calm, and pleasant. I always forget just how stunning the views are from Pennard Cliffs, and took my time meandering along in a westward direction.

Large clumps of these gorgeous, sunny-looking celandines, brought a splash of welcome spring colour to the cliffs, as well as the golden thickets of gorse.

For some reason, I always prefer the view to the east, at Pennard Cliffs, looking back towards Pwlldu Head. I think it's because the cliffs look a lot more dramatic, and there are more geological features to be seen.

But the view to the west is not to be sniffed at, as it includes Cefn Bryn and Oxwich Bay.

After walking up a slight incline, to a level spot on the cliffs, I suddenly found myself looking down on Three Cliffs bay. Despite my health problems, and a total unfamiliarity with the terrain, I became possessed with the urge to find my way down on to the beach. And thereby began a total nightmare.

Had this bench been free, I would have contented myself with sitting there a while, before heading back. But it wasn't, and neither was the one a few metres away.

So I kept walking until I had three choices - I could walk off the edge of the cliff, turn back towards Southgate, or start scrambling down some vicious-looking, sheer sand hills and risk breaking my neck. Only one of those options made any sense. So what did I do? Yep, I started skidding down the sand hills, often plunging so deep into the sand, I felt like I was caught in quicksand rather than ordinary, loose sand

I think the spirit of an evil donkey possessed me, as I stubbornly refused to listen to the sensible side of my brain, and ignored all medical advice, as I foundered around in the sand, each step jarring my poor spine more and more. By the time I reached this spot, I was in acute agony, the worst pain I've endured with my stupid arthritis. I really had no idea trudging through deep sand was such hard work.

The next obstacle I encountered was a load of slippery, wet rocks at the entrance to the beach. By now, my pain levels were excruciating, and I realised that I had yet to make the return journey.

To make matters even worse, I thought, if this is Three Cliffs, where the hell are they? My only views of Three Cliffs, have been from the South Gower road, so I was expecting to see some rocks about 10-12 feet high, in the centre of the beach. But I saw only sand, backed by dunes and some very tall, nondescript cliffs.

I trudged on in a westerly direction, utterly bemused as to where Three Cliffs Bay had gone. Then, as I rounded the cliffs, I realised the little rocks I'd seen from the Sooth Gower road, were in fact the three massive formations I saw ahead of me. I also realised I was probably on Pobbles beach, rather than Three Cliffs.

I spotted a huge, cathedral-like, natural arch in the cliffs, and remembered this was the passageway between Three Cliffs and Pobbles. As I approached, I spotted some people climbing the cliffs, thankfully with what looked like appropriate safety gear.

I checked the time on my phone, and to my horror, I saw I'd taken almost two hours to get to this point, from Southgate. I'd stopped many times along the way to take some pics, and also, had to backtrack a few times, after taking wrong turns and coming up against impassible gorse thickets. I panicked, because it was 16.30, and I had a delivery due from Asda between 19.00 and 21.00. I didn't anticipate being back in Southgate until at least 18.30, and knew there wasn't a bus until 19.30. And I was in such excruciating pain, from the top of my neck to my hips, I was scared I wouldn't make it off the beach at all. So I had nightmare visions of having to be airlifted off there by the RAF or the coastguard.

In a hell of a state of panic, I scrambled back off the beach, and decided to find an easier way back to Southgate. I took one last shot on the beach, of this curious rock formation. Is this the honeycomb worm or something else?

I then followed a boardwalk up a sand hill, and felt a pang of regret at not being able to follow a sign that directed me towards Pennard Castle. I turned east and followed what I thought was the path back to Southgate. I quickly realised I was on unfamiliar ground. Looking to my right, I spotted Pennard Cliffs in the distance, with a great big ravine between them and me. 'Oh shit', I thought, 'what now?' But despite being in utter agony, and feeling quite scared, because I was lost, I managed to take this shot of a pretty, lichen-encrusted tree, just starting to burst into spring life.

I decided to keep going east, assuming I'd eventually rejoin the cliff path. Then I found my way barricaded by a house fence and trees. So I skirted the side of the house, and found myself on a proper path. I was a bit puzzled by the well-kept grass and peculiar little painted stones lying everywhere. I was even more bemused when I saw the words 'no trolleys' painted in white on the grass. Trolleys? A supermarket on Gower? I was very bewildered. As I progressed, I came up against what looked like a large farm storage shed. Then, to the left of it, I saw a few people swinging clubs, and the penny finally dropped. I was trespassing on Pennard golf course.

Feeling guilty for trespassing, I apologised and explained that I'd got utterly lost on the cliffs. A gentleman kindly gave me directions to the nearest bus stop, outside Southgate pharmacy. To my surprise, I'd arrived at the bus stop just twenty five minutes after deciding to exit the beach and find my way back to Southgate. However, I had 45 minutes to spare, so I headed to the pub for a Guinness. I was surprised to find I'd blundered into a private club, not a pub. However, they do serve non-members, but I had to sign a guest book and leave my name and address.
After a well-earned, medicinal Guinness, I got my bus home, and arrived at my house at 18.20, well in time for Asda. But I think it will be a long time before I head in the direction of Three Cliffs again. And when I do, I'll be admiring it from the cliffs above. No more galumphing over sandhills for me, with my fragile spine.

1 comment:

The Pig's Lip said...

Hi Sian,
I was just round the corner from you on this day - at Tor Bay. Those shells were old barnacles rather than a honeycomb worm colony - they are very gingery and occur ciefly at Rotherslade and Fall Bay.
Found the sand down on Three Cliffs and Tor Bay very, very soft this week and not a joy to walk on at all - btw - great blackthorn pic - I took one myself but mine was rubbish.