177pm East Cliff to Oxwich Bay

After lunch in West Cliff, my walk continues along open land above the sea. The sun is shining, the gorse is golden, and I’m filled with joy. This is turning into a wonderful day’s walking – one of the best I’ve ever experienced.

Ruth Livingstone on her coastal walk, leaving West Cliff behind

Ahead the ground falls away to reveal Three Cliffs Bay. Here a great expanse of beach is cut into two sections by a meandering stream, and an attractive outcrop of rocks sits in the middle of the sand. I see tiny figures walking across the beach below.

Three Cliffs Bay, Pennard, Gower, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

At this point the path comes down from the cliffs and into the valley. This means walking through the dunes of Pennard Burrows. It’s a popular spot and I meet other walkers, most of them casual strollers rather than long-distance trekkers.

 Pennard Burrows, Ruth walking through Gower, Wales

Dune walking is tough. The slopes are steep and the sand too soft to offer much resistance, making each step an effort. I follow the Coast Path signs, but try to walk on the grass wherever possible.

I’m disappointed to find the path veers inland as it descends. I was looking forward to walking along the beach. But, after pulling out my map, I realise the path is heading towards a crossing point over the stream (Pennard Pill) that cuts across the beach.

 down to Pennard Pill, Ruth walking the Wales Coast, Gower

As I emerge onto the valley floor, I disturb a couple of young lovers, who thought they had found a secluded spot among the dunes, not realising they were sitting slap in the middle of the Wales Coast Path! I resist taking their photo and hurry on.

Half way across the valley, I look back and see more walkers disturbing the young lovers. Above are the vegetated slopes of Pennard Burrows – another extensive dune system that has reclaimed old settlements. Somewhere among the sand sits the ruins of a submerged church (which I never saw). My photo shows the more impressive ruins of Pennard Castle.

Pennard Castle, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

The path becomes a little vague at this stage. I look around, expecting to find a bridge over the stream. Instead, I see stepping-stones.

 stepping stones across Pennard Pill, Ruth walking in Gower

Later I learn the stones are only passable either side of low tide. By sheer chance, I’ve arrived at the right time! This makes a nice change. Most of my experiences with stepping stone have left me defeated because of high water.

Warning signs would deter me from trying to cross the stream if the stones were submerged. Today, when the stream looks shallow and calm, it’s hard to believe this crossing could ever be dangerous.

Danger signs, Pennard Burrows, Ruth Livingstone

The path leads me along the other side of the valley, through sparse woodland, back towards the beach. My excitement at regaining the sands changes to horror. The sand is so wonderfully fine and deep, my boots sink down and every step is a supreme effort.

staggering through sand dunes, Ruth in Three Cliffs Bay, Gower

I think it should be possible to follow the beach from this point all the way to Oxwich Burrows, to where another stream interrupts the sand. But I’m worried about finding my way blocked by the tide, by rocks, or by some other obstruction, and I don’t want to have to retrace my steps in these impossible dunes. I’ve only covered a few hundred feet, but am sweating and puffing with exhaustion.

So I never make it as far as the beach, but stick to the official Wales Coast Path, following its finger-post signs as I slip and slide my way upwards and over the dunes.

When I reach the top of the incline I’m rewarded by finding firm ground again, and a great view back across the  valley. There is the meandering stream of Pennard Pill, with its oxbow curves. And Pennard Burrows on the other side. Beautiful.

Pennard Pill valley, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path, Gower

A little further on, and I have another wonderful view – looking down onto Three Cliffs Bay again and its impressive beach.

Three Cliff Bay, Ruth walking in Gower, Wales Coast Path

While ahead of me lies the vast expanse of Oxwich Bay. Here a wide strip of unmarked sand stretches into the hazy distance, the beach only broken by the blue smear of a stream, just visible at the apex of the bay.

Oxwich Bay, Ruth hiking in The Gower, Wales Coast Path

What follows is an hour and a half of magical walking – through some very varied, wild and interesting terrain – where, amazingly, I don’t meet another soul until I reach Oxwich.

But at this stage I don’t realise how enjoyable the rest of my walk is going to be. And the first thing I notice, from my high viewpoint, is another set of sand dunes. Nicholaston Burrows. My heart sinks. More soft sand. I should have tried harder to regain the beach.

Nicholaston Burrows, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path, hiking through Gower

Traipsing through the dunes has slowed my pace. And I’m beginning to worry about missing the last bus from Oxwich. I make a resolution to head to the beach as soon as I can find a reasonable way through the dunes. The path, however, has other ideas. It keeps to high ground and takes me through woodland. The going is soft underfoot, but firm enough to make rapid progress.

 through Nicholaston Woods, Ruth following Wales Coast Path, Gower

After a while, I realise I am winding around the lower part of the cliffs just inland of the Nicholaston Burrows, avoiding the sand altogether. Surrounded by trees, I relax and really enjoy this section of the walk. It’s a relief to be out of the sun and walking in the green shade.

When I emerge from the trees, I find myself on a flat area running behind a low ridge of dunes. Off to the left, somewhere out of sight, must be the sea. I could head off in search of the beach, but I decide to stick to the path instead. It’s well trodden and easy walking. In fact, it’s lovely.

I could be anywhere. Spain, maybe. Or Mexico. I feel I am on the edge of a desert in a dry and foreign country. Grass. Birdsong. No buildings. Nobody in sight.

through Nicholaston Burrows, Ruth Livingstone on the Wales Coast Path

A short time later and grassland gives way to sand. I have reached the banks of the little river that cuts across Oxwich Beach. It’s nameless on my map. And here is the bridge.

footbridge over stream, Ruth walking across Oxwich Bay

Beyond the bridge the path follows the edge of another dune system, Oxwich Burrows. But I’ve had enough of dune walking and I stick to the flat sand of the beach. In the distance, hazy blue in the light of the afternoon sun, is my destination today, the village of Oxwich.

 endless Oxwich Beach, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

I’m walking with the sun in my eyes. The beach is wide and featureless, so I get the illusion I’m walking endlessly along some sandy treadmill.

As  I near the end of the beach I begin to see a few other strollers. A couple out on the wet sands are looking for bait. Behind them, across the bay, are the cliffs I’ve recently walked across, near Pennard – West Cliff, East Cliff, High Tor, Pwildu Head.

Oxwich, looking back to Pennard and Three Cliffs Bay, Ruth Livingstone

At the far limit of Oxwich beach is a concrete slipway. Nearby is a large but deserted car park. I walk into the village, past a hotel and find the bus stop.

After my slow struggle through the dunes, I realise I’ve made rapid progress across the beach – flat walking and with few distractions. Now there’s time to buy a cold drink and snack from the village shop and catch an earlier bus than I had planned. Worryingly, the woman in the shop seems very vague about the times of buses and says the operator has changed recently.

I checked my homeward journey on the internet with Traveline Cymru before I set out this morning from my B&B. But the buses were few and their timing seemed very erratic. So, I found it hard to believe the information given was correct.  I’d also downloaded a timetable from the internet and printed it out before I left home, but the times on my download bear little relationship to the times on the Traveline website. And I have lost my mobile phone signal, so am unable to phone for a taxi.

It’s a relief, therefore, to see someone else waiting there in the bus shelter. Turns out she is a local girl, who works in one of the cafes. We have a good chat.

 bus-stop at Oxwich, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

Yes, there is definitely a bus due soon, she tells me. She catches it every day. And yes, the bus times changed recently because a new company took over this bus route. It’s better now. The new company runs its buses on time.

The girl greets the bus driver like an old friend. We are the only passengers. I find out her father works on the buses too, but on a different route. This bus does not go directly to Swansea, so we have to change buses in the middle of nowhere, but our driver phones up the connecting bus driver and checks he is on his way, and waits with us until the second bus arrives. The second bus driver is the son of the first bus driver. He conducts a loud telephone conversation with someone (his wife, I think) for the duration of our journey into Swansea, something about putting his mother into a home, or not. It’s all rather incestuous, but rather fun too.

I decide I love Wales. Not as much as Cornwall (yet), but it comes a close second.

Miles walked today = 15 miles
Total distance round the coast = 1,766.5 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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16 Responses to 177pm East Cliff to Oxwich Bay

  1. Tony says:

    “I decide I love Wales. Not as much as Cornwall (yet), but it comes a close second.” See how you feel after Pembrokeshire!

  2. JohnBoy says:

    I can see the South Wales Coast being added to my wish list. It looks wonderful. 15 miles too, are your walks getting longer.

  3. Rita Bower says:

    Sounds like a fantastic day’s walking…..how I imagined coastal walking to be, before I actually did it!! I’m currently walking Minehead to LandsEnd (this year’s target) & I love it, (even in the mist)! Enjoy the rest of Wales….

    • I think it was one of the best days ever – varied scenery and wonderful sunshine. I know you will enjoy walking the SWCP. I think the northern shore of Cornwall and Devon was incredible. Tough going though, so good luck!

  4. Helena says:

    What an amazing selection of beaches! I would not have been able to resist taking a dip in the sea and would most likely have missed the last bus!

  5. Marie Keates says:

    Sounds like a perfect days walking to me. Rural buses are always a worry but I’m glad yours turned up on time. Traveline is one of the tools I use all day at work. It always surprises me when people find it difficult to understand. You’d be amazed the number of calls we get from coastal walkers, especially in Cornwall, who didn’t check bus times before they set out.

    • Traveliine has been a great help, Marie, and easy to use as long as you’re clear about your stop and start points. I just wish all the bus companies had clear route maps online, so you can see exactly where the bus routes run tand how they connect the villages. Eg like the railway maps. Having to search by village/bus stop name is very time consuming and makes iit difficult to plan a series of walks.

  6. Di Iles says:

    Did this walk today Ruth in the opposite direction, I’d been informed it was 12 miles but like you I did 15 miles. It’s beautiful but those sand dunes were killers weren’t they? Bad day for unfriendly walkers too !!!

    • I think Three Cliffs is the most spectacular beach I’ve come across so far. (Prettier than Rhossili, in my opinion.) Yes, those dunes were tough. Sorry to hear you met unfriendly walkers. Bah boo, to them 😣

  7. Karen White says:

    I remember Three Cliffs bay from my holidays there so many years ago. Some places just stay in you mind and heart forever. Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos.

  8. Hi Ruth. I really enjoy your hiking posts. They are also very handy to read before attempting a stretch of coastline. Thanks – they are the best I have come across…

    • Ruth says:

      Oh, thank you for your kind words Stephen. I know you’ll enjoy this part of the coast. Excellent walking!

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