A day in…Gower

By | Category: Travel destinations
a cinema in a railway wagon

the smallest cinema in the Uk – La Charrette

The Gower peninsular near Swansea in South Wales is a very popular holiday destination and, perhaps, for one over all others. There are wide and sandy beaches, spectacular walks, heritage sites, raptor viewing and it is all contained in quite a small area making it possible to combine a variety of types of holiday in one trip.

All of the Gower has been designated an area of oustanding natural beauty but as I drove behind more than one tractor pulling a silage wagon behind it I began to wonder whether natural beauty extended to smells as well. But that’s nitpicking and just reminds you that the Gower is an important agricultural area as well as a tourist magnet.

Even disregarding the attractions of nearby Swansea and Mumbles which provide attractions on a wet and windy day and it is easy to fill a weekend, let alone a day.

On my day out I concentrated on just three attractions and, although I missed others in my defence, I had more than enough to fill the day.

I started at the privately owned, Gower Heritage Centre which is slightly misnamed. Many of the exhibits on show aren’t really connected with the Gower but with our general heritage. Yes the woollen mill, the smithy and the farming museum could be from around the Gower but most of the twenty plus exhibits have been gathered by the owner from anywhere in our countries.

a cider press, farm equipment and a wagon - just some of the exhibits on display

a cider press, farm equipment and a wagon – just some of the exhibits on display

Founded twenty-five years ago on the site of an old water mill, the water flows over the road and cars – urged on by the children inside them – still drive through the inch deep water to create a big a splash as possible. The owner of the centre has bought what takes his fancy and still does. When I bumped into him at the car park, he was just reaching his pick-up to head off home but he stopped, and viewing me as another punter, brought out files of old photographs showing me where he had collected items and telling me stories of how far he had travelled to acquire them. His latest interest was in carved wooden statues and he has a bear near the shop. He now wanted to persuade the sculptor/chain saw enthusiast to create more for him.

He said that I had to see La Charrette. This is the smallest cinema in the UK and is, in truth, an old railway wagon which had stood in a garden until in 20018 when it was up for sale after the death of its owner. Seating just twenty three people, he transported it to the heritage centre and there, outside near the car park, it sits hosting shows a couple of times a day for visitors.

One minute the owner talked of how he was getting older and perhaps, it was time to take it easier and the next he was on about his hunt for something to add to his collection. And that is what this place is – a man’s giant toy cupboard. It’s just that his toys are life sized but he shares his toys with all who come. If a small bald, elderly man using a stick is wandering around, grab the chance for a conversation. He should be just as much on show as his collection!

Oxwich Castle - closed from November till March

Oxwich Castle – closed from November till March

Nearby is one of the most well-known beaches on the Gower, Three Cliffs Bay. Sometimes called Britain’s best beach, it is sandy and, at low tide, links with others so that you can almost get to Oxwich in the south. But I was set on getting to Rhossili and Worm’s Head which can only be reached a few times a day when the tide is out so on I went, regretting the fact that I didn’t have as much time as I needed to see the ruins of Pennard Castle better known to some as the castle destroyed by fairies who objected to be attacked as the danced on the beach by the castle owner! From the ruins there are as scenic a view over the beach to delight almost any photographer.

I still had Oxwich Castle to see. The castle is operated by Cadw – the Welsh heritage organisation. Part of it, the white painted section, survives intact, and is tenanted. The rest is open from April until October only. Time for just a cursory look and then on to my main target – the path across the rocks to Worm’s Head.

I was too late. I had spent too long at the heritage centre, at Three Bays and Oxwich Castle. The tide was turning and although I could see the path leading across, I had no time to walk, scramble around, view and get back before the path became submerged. The signs went up warning visitors and I could only watch and curse and list it to be done on another visit.

the slender neck and head of a dragon - or a worm - in the afternoon haze

the slender neck and head of a dragon – or a worm – in the afternoon haze

How typical you might think, that this area is called Worm’s Head because the pathway and the head itself is shaped like a long neck and head of a serpent. When you find out that “wurm” means dragon it all seems to find. Except that “wurm” is a Viking word for dragon and that this part of the Gower is the English part!

The walk from Worm’s Head back to the car park at Rhossili is along the cliff top. No health and safety signs and no barriers and just your sense to stay away from the cliff edge. Ans sheep. Lots of sheep grazed on the rocky banks of the cliff edges, occasionally giving you a look of disdain as they munched another clump of grass. It’s all rather innocent and gives a sense of freedom that you don’t get in more regimented areas.

Below the cliffs is the beach. At low tide it stretches way out into the remains of Swansea Bay. On my visit there were dogs (they are allowed on many Gower beaches throughout the year) and surfers, walkers and hardy bathers although the waters can hardly have warmed up from winter. Come summer and August and how busy would it get? But there is such a huge beach that thousands could visit and there would still be room. Looking across the beach there was a solitary farmhouse perched half way up the hills behind and the owners must have some of the best views in all of our countries.

Rhossili Beach in the afternoon shadows

Rhossili Beach in the afternoon shadows

You can easily walk for hours along the beaches without getting your feet wet. In fact time went far too quickly and in the late afternoon, the urge for a cuppa persuaded me back to the car park area where there are four restaurants/pub hotels and cafes, two of which overlook the beach and have outside tables and chairs. Why one, the Worms Head Hotel has a Helvetia (Switzerland) Bar I never did find out although Rhossili is about as far removed from Switzerland as you could find.

The day was done. I hadn’t seen a quarter of what the Gower had to offer. No wonder people take a cottage for a week or more.

For more about Swansea Bay and the Gower go to www.visitswanseabay.com or click here

 

 

 

 

 

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