As we drove from the main road to the car park ½ mile north of the Heritage Centre just past Parkmill, the heavens opened. Luckily it stopped as we parked and remained sunny for the rest of the day. We walked south down the road and across the main road to pick up a footpath following the valley to Three Cliffs Bay. Sandy paths meander along a stream, passing the ruins of Pennard castle and Pennard Burrows. Rather than go onto the beach we turned west through the dune system and saw lovely views of the Bay.
Heading northeast we crossed the road again and walked over a grassy area towards Long Oaks. The footpath here wasn’t signed and we checked with a local that it was where we thought, as it goes through a garden. A lovely garden too with a homemade dolmen, large pond and weeping copper beech tree as well as a ladder stile into the farm next door. This stile had obviously not been used for some time, the rungs were in good order but the top was rotten and the other side was totally overgrown. Having successfully beaten our way clear, we soon arrived in a field damp underfoot and containing a small herd of horses. Soon the countryside was very similar to the Vale of Glamorgan; we commented that you’d never know you were in the Gower – it could be anywhere in South Wales. We continued north and joined the Gower Way before reaching Cillibion.
The Gower Way is a 35 mile route inaugurated in 1998 by the prince of Wales. It runs from Rhosilli covering the length of the ancient lordship of Gower and ending inland at Penlle’rcastell. 50 way stone markers, inscribed with the Gower Society logo and individually numbered line the route.
We stayed on the Gower way until we turned east about ½ mile north of Cillibion through Cillibion plantation and onto a road at Llethrid bridge. A London bus bedecked for a wedding passed by as we crossed the road and took a footpath through Park Woods. This proved heavy going at times and we were relieved when we joined the main track. Emerging into a more open space we found a restored burial chamber. Now we walked into the campsite near which we had parked. At 10.30am there was hardly anyone around but now there was a substantial scout camp with lots of other people spread around the site which seemed to have very limited facilities.
We changed out of our boots and drove down to the Heritage Centre for welcome refreshment. At the end we had completed 8.5miles and 800ft. Map OL13.
We parked in the National Trust car park at the foot of Skirrid and as we set off the first few drops of rain started to fall. A well defined footpath leads in north and north easterly directions up Skirrid, the last outcrop of the Black mountains. You pass through Caer wood and skirt Pant Skirrid wood coming out onto the open hillside. Climbing along Beacons Way, we separated as the fitter people got ahead, and before long were drenched by torrential rain, hitting any bare skin like needles.
A lady wearing trainers, T-shirt and trousers (no waterproofs) passed us at a good speed, followed not long after by a man, similarly clad, and a dog. The rain plastering their clothes to their bodies. Having donned our waterproof trousers we continued and met the lady coming down with the man’s dog. That’s strange we thought! The lady had had a hip replacement 6 months earlier and walked up Skirrid daily as rehabilitation! Her husband and dog were accompanying her at a slower pace.
Looking back we could see the sun over the Bristol Channel and crossed our fingers that it would catch up with us by the time we got to the top. It did. In glorious sunshine we walked through the stone jambs that mark the entrance to St Michael’s Chapel on the summit (the chapel has totally disappeared). We had 360o views of the surrounding hills bathed in threatening black clouds, heavy rain (in England) and a scattering of sunshine. Dramatic! And definitely worth the climb.
Our route now took us east towards the Arwallt, a steep drop and then we were crossing moor land, the remainder of the walk being generally flat. We turned south east towards ’The West’ (of England presumably) and south west towards Llandewi court. On the lower slopes of the Skirrid we could see ‘LIONS‘ cut into the landscape. A road sign on a lane stated ’Wrong Way for Walnut Tree’. I guess there had been a few mishaps.
Continuing south we turned east at Pen-y-flos-goch, towards The Court, then south to Great Blaen-coed. We spent some time on this stretch trying to find our footpath which had been blocked and diverted but with no new signposts, the stiles were not maintained very well either and we got frustrated at times. There was a good example of a gypsy caravan though. Now we turned west towards Green Moors and northeast towards Pontgarreg farm and hence along the road to Brynygwenin, back to the cars. A 6.9miles walk and 1300ft. Map OL13