Travel: August 13, 2018: Battling the Dragon of Rhossili

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The next day we were off to one of the most highly rated beaches in Wales: Rhossili.

Our bus (about an hour either way) took us along narrow roads lined with hedges and through some adorable small towns where sheep grazed freely on the roadsides. There were even some free-grazing sheep on the green town square in Reynoldston.

Right around the time that we reached Rhossili, the weather cleared.  Now that we were going home to Swansea every day, we could plan our outings a bit more by the predicted weather than just by the itinerary.  We got a great beach day!

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But we never actually went down to the beach, though the sweep of golden sand was stunning from up top of the cliffs. We were too distracted by the challenge of Worm’s Head.

We finally had good weather on a day that we intended to climb a mountain! If anything, it was maybe even a little hot.

Worm’s Head is a series of tidal islands accessible for 2.5 hours on either side of low tide. The islands look vaguely like a dragon rising out of the sea.

The islands are reached by a walk along the clifftops, which descends steeply along first stone steps, then a well-worn dirt track before the grassy slope ends abruptly in a short ledge maybe 2-4 feet high, dropping to the jagged rocks and tidal pools that form the temporary land bridge known as the Causeway.

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Early in our trek across the Causeway, we heard one father warn his children not to get distracted. My sister took up the motto, and I tried to keep up with her.  There’s no path across the Causeway.  It seemed best to watch others’ paths and imitate them if they seemed successful.  Some of the rocks were narrow and sharp.  Some of the tide pools were deep.  This is a walk that requires good footwear.  I did alright in my trekking shoes and my sister managed in her flat-soled sneakers.  I have fewer photos of the Causeway because we were hurrying but also because I was nervous about balancing and dropping the camera.  I was glad to have a cord that kept it around my neck, but if I fell, that would not protect the camera.  We passed a foundered anchor, maybe from the nearby wreck of the Helvetia that lies on the beach.

It took us nearer to a half hour to cross the land bridge. We scrambled up a short cliff and onto the Inner Head, where we sat down and enjoyed our lunch overlooking the land bridge, Rhossili Bay on one side with its sweep of golden sand and the crashing waves of (I think) the Bristol Channel (it’s hard to say where one water feature becomes another).

I decided to set out to explore towards the farther end of the peninsula while my sister again waited for me.

I found a narrow dirt path through the bracken to the left of the head, which curved around the seaward side of the landmass, and eventually let out into short-cropped grass.

I didn’t make it out to the Outer Head, but instead climbed the backside of the Inner Head, gaining the altitude up a steep incline, which was despite being steep, a fairly easy climb.

I opted to take the shorter way down, which was little more than a goat’s trail. While we had been lunching, we’d watched several hikers take this way to the top of the Inner Head. I think in retrospect, that path might have been easier going up than down.

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My sister while she waited spotted our only semi-aquatic or aquatic mammal of the trip: a sea lion who bobbed fairly far below us in the bay.

I took her by my easier trail around the backside of the Inner Head to see the end of the peninsula and the Devil’s Bridge (an odd name that I am only discovering now for a land bridge that looks from a distance like its bridge forms a heart).

We didn’t climb the head again, but I wanted her to see the far end of the peninsula.

We climbed then back across the Causeway, with a little more urgency this time, and hiked back along the clifftops towards the town and the bus stop. We did get to marvel at a hovering bird of prey. I eyed the Vile, a medieval system of agriculture involving long, narrow divisions of the fields, about which I had read, and about which I was curious for the setup of one of the towns in my WIP.

The area around Rhossili is a treasure trove of history for someone who knows how to look and what to look for.

There is also on the walk from Rhossili to Worm’s Head the remnants an Iron Age fort called Old Castle Camp. The fort looks more like unnatural rises and falls in the fairly flat ground, and I think we actually passed it without a thought, remaining on the more prominent, kept, gravel path.

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You can see the Vile fairly well in this view from Google Maps.  I used the coordinates from Ancient Monuments to locate Old Castle Camp, the red marker.

St. Mary’s Church still has elements of the original Norman construction from the late 12th century. We passed it on the way into town, and it isn’t far from the bus stop, so with a little time to spare, maybe I should have stepped away to explore.  Instead we chatted with another pair of young women waiting for the bus, a native Welshwoman who reveled in the sunshine and her friend from Australia.  We connected over our Harry Potter merchandise.

Then there’s the wreck of the Helvetia on the beach at Rhossili that I already mentioned. She wrecked in 1887.

Back in Swansea, we went to the Pub by the Pond, one of the favorite haunts of the Swansea University students, if only because there is an entrance to the pub directly from campus. We drank ciders and ate our meals out on the back deck beneath a willow overlooking the pond, known more formally as Singleton Boating Lake. I smiled to sea dragon boats beside the swan boats. We could have done without the falling willow flowers, but the view was fantastic, and the walk back to the dormitory for the night after having a drink was difficult to beat.

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All photos are mine.  Those without a frame can be viewed more largely by clicking upon them.

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About Kathryn

My love of books has been carefully cultivated by the adults who raised me and also by the friends who love to share. My life has led me down long library shelves, to online forums, fanfiction sites, the front of a lecture hall, and into the desks of college classrooms. With an English degree and a couple master’s classes in Children’s Literature, I am now a bookseller for Barnes & Noble. I have been an editor for Wizarding Life Networks (the people who brought you Wizarding Life, Panem October, and MyHogwarts now HogwartsIsHere).

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