It’s early afternoon by the time I arrive at Swansea bus station. Heading for Swansea Marina, I begin my walk through the Swansea Maritime Quarter. This area has been redeveloped and I tramp past rows of modern apartment houses. The ships in the water are pretty enough, but the development has a soulless look about it.
Past coffee shops and beauty parlours – which seem out of keeping next to the blue waters of the marina – and I see an old lightship. You can’t miss it. Bright red and with a prominent tower.
I’ve come across several of these distinctive ships on my hike around the coastline. They were once used as flexible lighthouses. This one was originally moored near the mouth of the Humber estuary, but later was moved to the Helwick Sandbank, 10 miles off Mumbles Head. I think of the storms and gales it must have endured, and wonder if it is enjoying its retirement.
This is his statue, outside the Dylan Thomas Theatre. The walls of theatre were decorated with trompe l’oeil
murals, but strong shadows – and parked cars – made it impossible to take a decent photograph of the paintings.
Interestingly, although the statue is pristine, the theatre looks a little battered and down-at-heel.
I am tempted to spend some time looking around the Dylan Thomas Centre, which lies close by, but decide I need to keep walking…
My goal is the pedestrian bridge where I finished my walk on Easter Monday. When I find it, everything looks very different. Why? No crowds today. It’s just an ordinary Wednesday and everyone else is at work.
I pick up the official Wales Coast Path, which follows the paving around the marina, and heads towards the sea, soon reaching the sands of Swansea Bay.
The sea is a long way out. Across the water is Mumbles Head. I’m staying in a B&B over there. It looks deceptively near.
I walk along the beach, enjoying the wide space and the firm sand. Dylan once described Swansea as an “ugly, lovely, town”. I see what he means. The shore is lined by a motley collection of new high-rise apartments. There is nothing unpleasant about it, but neither is there anything particularly attractive.
A little further on I pass this sleek modern building. Groups of young people are lounging about near the beach. This must be Swansea University. What fantastic views!
The sea has receded even further, leaving a muddy stretch of rocks and shingle beyond the soft sands. Walking near the edge of the sand, I come across two young men hitting golf balls. I suppose it’s a good way to practise your swing, but you must be resigned to losing all the balls.
During my bus journey earlier, I passed playing fields crowded with young people playing a variety of sports, wearing brightly coloured tee shirts. Now I begin to come across groups of these same young people, who have abandoned the playing fields for the beach.
These three girls seem determined to reach the sea.
Some twenty minutes later, I look back and discover they have made good progress – just small specks now at the edge of the sands, in front of a sweeping view of Port Talbot.
The soft sand has turned crunchy under my feet. I look down. Walking on shells. For the first time since leaving Devon I feel I’ve finally left the estuary behind me, and I’m truly at the proper seaside.
This area is called, somewhat unromantically, Black Pill. Here I must leave the beach to cross a stream – the Clyne River – via a footbridge, dodging the cyclists. Beyond this point, the sandy beach turns increasingly muddy, so I stick to the footpath as it runs through a strip of parkland bordering the beach..
And come across this bird sculpture. It looks good from every angle. A remarkable piece of art. I love it. I sit down on a bench, near the sculpture, for a rest and a drink.
While enjoying the view, I’m slightly irritated to see a young child with a bat taking swipes at the metal tubes that form the wings. His mother is helping him balance. Cheeky brat! And why doesn’t his mother stop him?
[Only later do I realise this is a sound sculpture: The Musical Osprey. You’re allowed to hit it. If only I’d known, I’d have had a go too!]
My pathway is crowded with mothers walking children home from school. This mum is pushing a pram – on roller blades. She has two other children with her, each on a little scooter.
Meanwhile, I’m steadily getting closer to The Mumbles.
It’s nearly time to check into my B&B. But first I stop and have an ice cream on the sea front. After a morning of travelling and an afternoon of walking I’m feeling unusually tired. Just a few more yards to go…
Miles walked today = 8.5 miles
Total distance = 1,751.5 miles