176 Swansea Bay

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.

01 Swansea Marina, Ruth walking the coast in Wales

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.

lighthouse ship in Swansea Marina, Ruth LivingstoneI’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.

03 Dylan Thomas, Ruth LivingstoneDotted around are reminders of Dylan Thomas.

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.

04 bridge across Marina, Ruth in Swansea

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.

05 Swansea Beach, Ruth on her coastal walk through Wales

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.

06 modern buildings, Ruth walking along Swansea Beach

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!

07 University, Swansea Beach, Ruth walking the coast

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.

08 golf practice, Ruth walking along Swansea Beach

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.

09 let's find the sea, Swansea Bay, Ruth in Wales

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.

Ruth walking through Swansea Bay, Port Talbot in the distance

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.

10 shells on Swansea Bay, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

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..

11 parkland, Black Pill, Swansea Bay, Ruth Livingstone

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.

12 metal bird sculpture, Black Pill, Ruth walking around Swansea Bay

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.

13 roller-skating mum, Swansea Bay, Ruth's coastal walk

Meanwhile, I’m steadily getting closer to The Mumbles.

14 Mumbles drawing closer, Ruth walking Swansea Bay

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…

15 The Mumbles, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path
I’m glad I’ve chosen this area as my base. It’s lovely in the evening light. And I discover my room has a sea view… perfect.

Miles walked today = 8.5 miles
Total distance = 1,751.5 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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21 Responses to 176 Swansea Bay

  1. gillthorley says:

    Hope the weather stays fine for you for the next leg. My favourite beaches in the world. Oxwich bay and Rhosilli home of many many happy childhood holidays.

  2. Gerald says:

    Congratulations on another leg, Ruth. BTW I always really enjoy your photos. And the woman on the roller blades has made me think…..when you complete the whole coast, for your next challenge perhaps you could rollerblade round anti-clockwise…

  3. Colourful photos. Good stuff.

    I hope you are a Dylan Thomas fan. If so YOU MUST visit his house and hut at Laugharne when you get there.

    From my journal:

    “The connection with Dylan had been palpable and I was looking forward to more next day. Dylan died in 1953 and I left school in 1956 at which time Dylan was topical and his work had great influence on me. I knew large sections of Under Milk Wood by heart…”

    Re the house:

    “…There were only a few other people and the atmosphere was low key with nothing overdone and I must say I was moved by the experience”.

    • I shall look out for it. Thank you for giving me the heads-up. I was actually hoping for a rainy day on this trip, so that I had an excuse to spend a day looking round the Dylan Thomas exhibition. And, go back to Cardiff for the Dr Who experience! Of course it was sunny every day… 🙂

  4. Jean says:

    Hi-I stumbled across your blog -I’m in Canada and doing a regular 3 miles a day, but want to do some longer walks. I visit the UK about once a year but having done any long walks there–I wanted to ask how safe you feel? Its the one thing that worries me about setting off by myself—any input would be appreciated. Jean/Winnipeg

  5. Jean says:

    haven’t not having!

    • Hi Jean, the UK is great for walking. Not as wild as Canada, but plenty of well-marked footpaths and trails to follow. The only time I’ve felt uneasy is while walking through cities or in the wastelands of industrial estates. If you stick to some of our wonderful National Trails, there is no need to worry. I recommend any section of the South West Coast Path. Or you could try the Norfolk Coast Path. Or the South Downs Way. Visit: http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/ for details of the National Trails.

      • Jean says:

        Thank you Ruth — I’ll include a walk in my next visit – thank you for the encouraging words and the link to the national trail page.
        I really like your blog -I love the photos and the descriptions -I also like the artist rendition of some of the photos – what great collaboration, and so striking to see the view you have photographed from another perspective.

  6. Misha says:

    Looks like a lovely walk. It’s strange to see the buildings so very miss-matched, though.

  7. Marie Keates says:

    Swansea was not as I imagined. My visits to Wales have always been the mountains but the coast is far more built up.

  8. I’ve just returned from a weekend of camping in Neath. We didn’t do much walking away from the Brecon Beacons but on the long drive to the campsite, the towers, the cimineys, industrialisation lining the coast… It was impossible to ignore. But I’m glad to see that Swansea offers some respite for your walking. 🙂

    • What a coincidence Olly. Hubby and I have just returned from a long weekend in Wales – walking (me) and cycling (him) and we stayed at a B&B in the hills above Cadoxton, very close to Neath.

  9. Karen White says:

    I’d have been as annoyed as you thinking that the child was damaging a piece of public art – but how nice to find you were wrong, What a good idea to make a sound sculpture.

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