The morning is drizzly-dull, and the BBC predicts a rainy afternoon. I try to avoid walking in pouring rain if I can, so I decide to park in Oxwich and walk the short distance to Port-Eynon, from where I hope to catch a bus back to my car.
The walk starts from the beach, following a wooded slope and rising slowly towards Oxwich Point. I soon come across St. Illtyd’s Church. What a beautiful setting! The church stonework looks very new to my untrained eyes, but later I discover the tower dates from the 14th century and was added to the original 13th century church. A few yards further along, and as the path begins to climb steeply, I hear sounds of chatter behind me. On this dull Friday, I wasn’t anticipating having to share my path with others, and I feel strangely resentful. The younger couple are walking faster than me, so I step aside to let them pass. I’m ashamed to say it gives me an uncharitable sense of satisfaction to see them making hard work of climbing the steps.
When I reach the top they have disappeared, and I think must have returned to Oxwich along a different footpath. Glad to be alone, I continue along the Wales Coast Path, enjoying the silence of the woods. The path sometimes runs along the edge of farmland. In the fields I see young lambs – lovely. And a trig point. On my left, and below, is the sea. I can hear waves crashing. But trees interrupt the view until I come to a gap and can look across Oxwich Bay. In the dull light I can just make out the beach and dunes of yesterday’s walk. Sadly I can’t take a decent photograph. A little further on and I reach the tip of the peninsula, Oxwich Point. The path leaves the woods and I walk through vibrant gorse, stopping to take a self-portrait photo. And then onwards. Ahead is Port-Eynon Bay. Somewhere in all that dull mist is Port-Eynon village – I can just make out the beach in the distance. Below me is a foreshore of jumbled grey rocks. Holy’s Wash, according to my map. And I come across this pretty little cove – called, fittingly, The Sands. The bright red sign is unmissable on this dull day. DANGER! FOOTPATH CLOSED. The cliff ahead has crumbled. Oh, no. What a shame. It’s the first footpath closure sign I’ve seen for a long time. Luckily, there is a well signposted diversion in place.
This is an excellent sign, unlike many I come across. It’s waterproof and readable. And, for once, I can actually locate the proposed new route on my Ordnance Survey Map. Although I do notice the map on the sign calls the little cove ‘Slade Bay’, not ‘The Sands’.
I also notice the signs says ‘TEMPORARY FOOTPATH DIVERSION’. Judging from the rusty nails, I think the diversion may have become rather more permanent than first intended.
After heading inland, the diverted path makes an almost 360 degree turn. It’s an oddly shaped route. I work it out and realise the diverted path goes around the borders of a triangular field – a very long and thin triangle of a field. I can only think the farmer declined to allow the footpath to take the shorter, and more logical route, straight across his land – despite the fact I can see no crops growing and no livestock on the grass. Onwards. And I come across the first human being I’ve seen since the walkers in the woods by the church. A fisherman is perched on the rocks below me. Ahead are the sands of Port-Eynon beach. I leave the path as soon as I can, to walk along the shore. In the distance I see a group of people. As I get closer, I realise they are youngsters. What they’re doing isn’t clear, because they aren’t wearing swimming or surfing kit. Neither are they playing games. Some of them seem to be holding clipboards. I walk past them and reach the far end of the beach. Sand gives way to rocks. One of the houses ahead is a Youth Hostel. What a lovely place to stay. I’ve already decided to extend my trip by a few days and am tempted to enquire if they have a free room. But I’m a little old for communal living and will try to find a B&B instead.
With 1/2 hour to wait before the bus arrives, I head back into Port-Eynon to find a café. And discover the group of young people have left the beach and are waiting for a bus too. They must have been staying here for a few days, because they’re lugging huge cases and heavy rucksacks. I begin to worry there won’t be room for all of us on the bus. The first café doesn’t do proper coffee, only instant. What??!! The second one offers ground coffee from a machine. That’s fine by me and it tastes good too. A cup with two Welsh cakes costs me £2.00. Great value.
The online BBC weather forecast is usually pin-point accurate. And so it proves to be today. As I finish my coffee, the rain begins to fall. I find the official bus stop. It has a shelter decorated with cheerful murals. As usual I’m worrying about bus times. Traveline Cymru shows very few buses serving Port-Eynon, but there was one due to arrive at 13:12pm. The first bus to pass by is a private coach. It doesn’t stop at my bus stop, but returns a few minutes later and passes by again, laden with the children that I saw waiting by the café. Oh. I’m relieved to see they’re not catching my bus, after all.
When my bus arrives, shortly after 13:15, it is empty. And I remain the only passenger for the entire journey back to Oxwich.
Walked today = 5.5 miles
Total distance = 1,772 miles