It feels deliciously decadent to be out walking on a Monday morning, instead of working. I could catch a bus to Llanmadoc, but my B&B landlady offers me a lift instead. Double decadence! She drops me off by the church, from where there is a lovely view across Whiteford Sands and the Loughor estuary.
Walking down the lane in Llanmadoc, I recognise the holiday cottage we stayed in when we were students. It’s strange: I couldn’t remember Rhossili beach, but I can remember this house.
I come across a sign. A section of the coast path is closed. I’m not worried by this because there is a clear diversion marked, but I am a little disappointed because I was hoping to walk across the causeway and link up with yesterday’s route.
I follow a lovely path through woodland. This is Cwm Ivy Woods and a nature reserve owned by the ‘Naturalist Trust’. (Not the Naturist Trust, as I first read it, and so no danger of stumbling across nudists.)
Cwm Ivy is a tiny hamlet just below Llanmadoc. But it seems to have given its name to many of the features in this area. Yesterday I climbed to the top of Cwm Ivy Tor – a gruelling trek up a steep path of very soft sand. Today my woodland path takes me past Cwm Ivy Marsh.
I was admiring the colour of the trees, until I realise there is something wrong about the autumnal leaves. First of all they are pine trees, and shouldn’t turn brown. Secondly, it is April, not autumn. How weird. They must have some horrible tree-disease.
I reach the point where the raised causeway meets the mainland, and I find more signs warning me the path over the causeway is closed. I’ve come across such signs before and there is usually a way through if you try hard enough to find one, so I decide to walk along it anyway.
But this time, the signs are correct. Halfway across and I find the causeway has a great gap ripped through its central section. Impossible to go any further, unless I was wearing Wellingtons, and even then I might get stuck in the mud.
I stand there for a moment, feeling sorry I can’t complete the final 100 yards of this route. And then I realise what has happened.
To my right is a lush area of green grassland threaded with waterways. This is Landimore Marsh. Healthy and thriving.
I realise the land to my right is a seawater marsh, but the land to my left was a freshwater marsh. The breach in the causeway must have happened during the winter storms. It has allowed salty water to flood in and kill off the freshwater vegetation.
What a shame. I wonder what the plan is. Will the Naturalist Trust repair the break and restore the freshwater marshland? Or will they allow the sea to reclaim the area?
I walk back to the beginning of the causeway and resume my walk along the Wales Coast Path.
I haven’t gone far when I come across another obstruction. This one has four legs. I really do need to get through that gate, but this cow – with sharp horns – refuses to move.
Eventually, I climb over the fence, giving myself a host of splinters in the process. On the other side is a stream with stepping-stones.
When I look back, the cow is still guarding the route.
The rest of today’s walk turns out to be pretty boring. After the thrill of Rhossili beach, Whiteford Sands, and their associated burrows, this landscape is tediously monotonous. The path follows the edge of the marsh. It’s flat. Very flat. The sea is a long way away.
I don’t meet any other walkers on this section, but I do see horses.
And sheep. And abandoned boats.
But I make fast progress and soon reach the hamlet of Landimore, where I stop for a drink and a self-portrait.
It is here that I discover my water bottle has been leaking, because I didn’t tighten the cap sufficiently. A stupid mistake, but one that causes me some discomfort later on when I run out of fluid.
I seem to have left the sea behind completely and this no longer feels like a coastal walk. I pass through fields of sheep.
And along wooded paths…
.. until I reach the village of Llanrhidian. It is not yet 12 o’clock and, although I think there is a pub somewhere, it’s too early to stop for lunch. My water bottle is nearly empty, but I can’t see any sign of a village shop and don’t want to waste time trying to find one.
I continue onwards… along a road that skirts the marshes. Signs warn me of the risk of both unexploded armaments on the marsh (once used by the MoD as a firing range, as so many of these areas were) and of the danger of flooding. There is nothing much I can do about unexploded armaments, but I wish I’d checked the tide times before I set off this morning.
Is the tide coming in, or going out? What happens if I find the route ahead is covered in water? I pull out my map but can’t see an alternative footpath. The B4295 runs parallel with this track, a few hundred metres inland, but I can’t see any way to get to it. I just have to hope for the best.
My road winds across flatlands and seems to go on forever. The wind picks up. The sky clouds over and dark clouds threaten rain. I realise yesterday’s 18-mile walk has taken its toll because I feel unusually weary. My feet ache from the tarmac. Painted signs on the road warn of a 30 mph speed limit, but the road is so narrow they have to resort to odd arrangements to fit the signs onto the limited surface. There is no traffic.
I’m relieved to see a couple of walkers coming towards me. The road ahead must be clear after all.
I give them the usual nod and smile reserved for fellow hikers. But, after they’ve passed, I wish I’d asked them about the state of the road. Maybe they were forced to turn back because of flooding? Would they have told me?
It’s a relief when I see some higher ground ahead with houses. That must be the next village, Crofty. And, although I can see water lying on the marshy ground, the road itself remains dry. No sign of floods after all.
The road loses its sense of remoteness. It’s still barely wider than a track, but I pass a few houses, meet a few dog walkers and have to step onto the verge to give way to a little Post Office van. It’s always reassuring to see those iconic red vehicles going about their business.
I pass a children’s playground and join a larger road, leading up a small hill and into the village of Crofty. There’s the pub. It’s nearly 1pm and perfect timing for lunch.
But the pub is shut! What a disappointment. And I’ve run out of water. I’m tired, thirsty and hungry. I feel almost tearful.
Continuing up the road, I start looking for a shop and, just around the corner, come across the village store, which doubles as a post office. I go in and ask about the pub’s opening times, but the couple who run the place seem surprised to hear it’s shut. They advise me to walk to the next village, somewhere called Cloud. There’s a nice café there, they tell me.
My heart sinks. The next village? That must be miles away. I don’t even recognise the name.
‘I’m too tired and too thirsty to go any further,’ I tell them.
They offer to make me a cup of coffee. Such nice people! But I really need a proper sit-down and so I buy a bottle of pop and a bag of chocolate cakes and go back to the children’s playground. It’s deserted and chilly in the wind, but I make myself rest here for 20 minutes while I finish the bottle of drink and eat most of the brownies. After that I feel a little better, although slightly queasy from too much sugar.
The next village on my route is only a mile or two away by road, but slightly further away if you follow the coast path. This takes me along a gravel track, winding around the edge of the marsh.
The path ends up in a rundown industrial estate on the edge of Pen-clawdd. From here I join the B4295.
There are houses on either side of the road and more hard pavements for my poor feet. I wonder if I can walk along the grassy bank of the marsh, but a promising side-road only leads to a dead-end with more warning signs about unexploded armaments. But there is also a great view across the mouth of the River Loughor. That’s Llanelli over there. My spirits lift.
Uh-oh. It’s Japanese Knotweed. That’s an illegal, predatory plant. It looks horribly strong and healthy, and wonder if it can grow in salty conditions. I so, It might threaten the nearby marshes.
I make a note: I must report this to the authorities. [But, unfortunately, I forget all about it and only remember when I re-examine the photographs a few weeks later.]
The road continues into Pen-clawdd. It’s not a particularly pretty place, with ordinary houses and a gothic looking church.
But the estuary is pleasant, even with the tide out. Across the marshland I can see a bridge and check my map. That must be Loughor Bridge. I’ll cross that on my next day of walking. It will mark another milestone on my trek: passing from South Wales into West Wales.
Belatedly, I realise that the village of ‘Cloud’, mentioned by the friendly shopkeepers earlier, is in fact the village of Pen-clawdd. (I’ve not managed to get my head around Welsh pronunciations!) And I come across the café they recommended. My plan was to walk onwards to Gowerton, but this looks too tempting and I decide to call it a day.
So I spend an hour sitting in the café, eating a hot meal and drinking tea, before catching the local bus back to my B&B.
Miles walked today = 12 miles
Total distance = 1,812