|Rhossili Bay with Worms Head in the distance|
The Three Hills of Gower? The Gower Summits? The Gower 3 Peaks? Sounds catchy, huh? Tempting though it sounded I still couldn’t persuade Simon to do them all in the one day. I had managed to do this run starting in Llangennith and finishing in Pennard many years ago but this was in the days before I owned electronic devices, including even a camera, and so I had forgotten the details such as time and distance, exact route and just had snap shots of memories to go by, I suppose you might call it the essence of the run, still lodged in the depths of my memory and on balance that’s probably the most important thing. To be fair though it is pretty hard to forget the vast expanses of sandy beaches, the almost Mediterranean blazing hot sun shining down and the vivid contrasts of yellows, blues and greens, on a perfectly still summer afternoon.
|Heading North over Rhossili Down|
|Looking back over Rhossili down. The concrete structures are WW2 Coastal defences|
|and needless to say we had to take a quick "military history break"|
This time we parked at Rhossili (£4 per day – ouch) and immediately started the short ascent to The Beacon on Rhossili down at 193m. There were a lot fewer people on the hill than the crowded car park had suggested would be the case thus yet again proving the 90m rule (Remember the 90m rule? Tourists never venture more than 90m from their cars) which left us to explore in peace and quiet. Dropping down towards the caravan park from Rhossili Down we ran past fields of Alpacas (yes really) before venturing into a little dark shady woodland and crossing a little stream from where we popped out onto the main road in Llangennith - if indeed such a little road in such a little village can be termed “main”.
|I know where we are...!|
Once out of the shoulder height bracken (or head height if you are a short arse like me) we did manage to find the summit trig point without too much difficulty and from here the route back to Llangennith was obvious. To return to the car park we ran down the sandy track skirting the base of Rhossili Down and my tempo increased markedly at the thought of the nice cold pint waiting for me as well as the stunning views from the terrace of the pub and the lure of the beautiful warm seas.
|Beautiful warm seas|
The third hill was tackled the next day. Cefn Bryn runs like a spine along the centre of the Gower peninsular and rewards the runner with spectacular views over the whole peninsular. Again we started the run at a beach, Oxwich Bay this time, at an empty car park (£3 per day...Gower is a pricy place to get parked) and wove our way along the narrow lanes, across fields and tracks before the landscape opened up into a wide expanse of heathland.
|Heading along Cefn Bryn|
|Looking West towards Rhossili Down|
|More map reading required...|
I decided that I would like to run the length of the ridge connecting the two hills with their summit trig points but we did a little detour to visit Arthur’s stone, a Neolithic burial tomb. Mysterious legends and stories abound this monument – some say it is an ancient astrological feature, used to map the sun and the stars, others say it was thrown there by King Arthur all the way from Carmarthenshire. The stone was also supposed to have been split by the sword of St David as one story goes, in protest of the druid’s pagan worship. What is not debatable is that it is a 25 ton quartz boulder which has been attracting the tourists for a very long time! Simon was not altogether delighted with my idea to lengthen the run and so was grumbling especially as his calf muscle was giving him problems.
|Arthur's Stone marks a neolithic burial chamber|
At the trig point at the other end of Cefn Bryn many of the beaches and coves along the south coast of the Gower were visible as was our finish line, the sandy stretches of Oxwich Bay and it was all downhill, well…until we reached the coast. By now the grumbling had descended into silence which is never a good sign…
|View of Oxwich Bay from Cefn Bryn|
The final part of the run was along the delightfully named Nicolaston Burrows, a coastal path which climbs through sunny dunes, dark thickets of bramble and hawthorn, over a wooden bridge and past stunted coastal oak trees and dunes covered with marram grass.
By now Simon had resorted to hurling insults at me. I know I’m not exactly light on my feet but to be referred to as an elephant really is a bit much! I ignored him and enjoyed the last stretch of the run. It is a fairy tale place, you feel as you are really burrowing through the woodlands rather than running past them all the while following the snakelike route of the sandy path. I was rudely awakened from my dreamlike trance as I hit the tarmac of the car park and we braved the beachfront snack shack for a cup of tea but, although Oxwich Bay itself is lovely, there really is nothing quite like a beach full of British holiday makers to pull you back into a hideous reality.