Power of the Gower

Middleton Guardian - - TRAVEL -

SOUTH Wales is known for its beaches, rugged coast­line and wa­ter­sports – but along­side the coun­try lanes and scenic view­points of the Gower Penin­sula there are more un­usual ways to get wet.

On a sunny, warm Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon I find my­self zipped into a wet­suit to try out some­thing I con­fess I had to Google to find out what it was – coas­t­eer­ing.

Add a hel­met, buoy­ancy vest, shorts and old train­ers and I am in the ca­pa­ble hands of Sam and Ceri from Oxwich Wa­ter­sports in a boat head­ing out across Oxwich Bay to the cliffs on the west­ern edge.

Once they are tow­er­ing up high above us, it’s time to get into the water and swim.

It takes me a minute to get used to swim­ming with shoes on and by that time we’re at the cliff face be­ing told what to do next.

Ba­si­cally, that is climb­ing up from the water, tim­ing it so the waves help me up onto the rock face. I get it wrong first time and have to hold on un­til the next wave comes and gives me some mo­men­tum and then sud­denly I’m clear of the water.

Next we are shown how to jump in, with arms folded, and get a feel for rock climb­ing at a low level.

That done, it’s time for more of a climb and we clam­ber out at another spot and work our way up the rock and out onto a ledge to take it in turns to jump.

This is our first proper jump and I don’t know what to ex­pect but step­ping off isn’t too bad and in seem­ingly the blink of an eye I’m sub­merged and bob­bing back up to the sur­face.

That safely done, we spend a bit of time in the water ex­plor­ing the nearby rocks and it’s time for one last jump – and it’s a big­gie.

We scram­ble up onto a flat area – the high­est we’ve been so far – and down slightly to a ridge where there is a choice of jump points. I choose one. This feels se­ri­ously high and I have to tell my­self I will re­gret it if I back out.

In­stead of look­ing down, I stare straight ahead and it takes me a few mo­ments to work my­self up to jump­ing off.

In mid air and wait­ing for the im­pact, it felt like for­ever and it was a re­lief to hit the sur­face and feel the rush of water around my face.

Then it was all over apart from a short swim to the wait­ing boat for the ride back to the beach.

If you think about the ba­sics of coas­t­eer­ing – climb­ing up cliffs and throw­ing your­self off – it sounds, well, crazy. But ac­tu­ally it’s strangely rather fun.

The next day I was get­ting wet again, this time to take part in an even more un­usual pas­time – cor­a­cling.

I had heard of the prim­i­tive cir­cu­lar boats but never thought I would set foot in one.

When the task said ‘river walk’ I did at first think we might be walk­ing along­side it – but no.

Another day, another wet­suit, and a meet­ing with bearded and friendly Bar­ney from so­cial en­ter­prise Down To Earth.

From Gower Her­itage Cen­tre, he took us a short dis­tance through wood­land to the river, which flows lazily down to the sea at Three Cliffs Bay and pro­vides a to­tally dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment to the ex­er­tions and adren­a­line rush of coas­t­eer­ing.

Swimmable in places and only knee deep in others, we pad­dled and swam our way to a wide bend in the river and Bar­ney set down the cor­a­cle be­fore giv­ing us a quick demo.

Sit­ting on a bench in the cen­tre of the craft, the idea is to keep the sin­gle-bladed pad­dle up­right in the water ahead of you and use a fig­ure-ofeight move­ment to pro­pel you along.

The un­usual stroke is be­cause cor­a­cles are tra­di­tion­ally used by fish­er­men and it al­lows them to pad­dle one­handed while hold­ing a net in the other.

Tak­ing the pad­dle, I found steer­ing dif­fi­cult but once I got used to the fig­ure-of-eight ac­tion I could move for­ward quite well, al­beit slowly.

We then con­tin­ued down­river to the beau­ti­ful de­serted beach at Three Cliffs Bay to swim in the surf be­fore scram­bling up to the ru­ins of Pen­nard Cas­tle for breath­tak­ing views of where we’d been.

To­tally dif­fer­ent to any­thing else I had ever done, I found it a re­lax­ing way to spend a cou­ple of hours ex­plor­ing out­doors. WHERE to stay We stayed in the Se­cret Gar­den at The Oxwich Bay Ho­tel, which oc­cu­pies a peace­ful cor­ner of Oxwich Bay over­look­ing the beach. The Se­cret Gar­den con­sists of six modern ac­com­mo­da­tion ‘pods’ with a dou­ble bed that con­verts into a sofa dur­ing the day and pri­vate pa­tio.

It was small but com­fort­able and func­tional, and it was fun to stay in some­thing dif­fer­ent to a con­ven­tional ho­tel room.

As well as break­fast, the ho­tel also of­fers a lunchtime bar menu and evening meals, and it is also a short stroll across the road to the beach, where Oxwich Wa­ter­sports is based, and also the Beach House res­tau­rant.

Come here to get away from it all, though, as I found the mo­bile phone re­cep­tion very patchy. WHERE to eat For con­tem­po­rary food in re­laxed sur­round­ings, head for the Beach House, Oxwich, which uses lo­cal pro­duce and a Welsh head chef to con­jure up cre­ations such as roe deer with pars­ley, can­died beetroot, blue­berry and nas­tur­tium, and lob­ster with crispy sweet­bread, fon­dant potato and grape­fruit but­ter sauce.

There’s a com­pre­hen­sive se­lec­tion of wines and they also have a cock­tail menu.

A five-minute drive in­land to Reynold­ston will take you to the King Arthur Ho­tel, a tra­di­tional coun­try inn serv­ing tra­di­tional ales and home cooked food, with a fo­cus on lo­cal in­gre­di­ents. There’s pub favourites as well as veg­e­tar­ian spe­cials and sal­ads. Out­side are land­scaped gar­dens com­plete with wa­ter­fall and lily pond.

Or if you fancy go­ing fur­ther afield, try the Grape and Olive in nearby Swansea, which is housed at the top of Wales’s tallest build­ing with mag­nif­i­cent views across Swansea Bay. WALK your heart out Walk­ing is one of the big things to do in the area, thanks to the Gower Coast Path and nu­mer­ous other foot­paths. Among the high­lights are Rhos­sili Bay – voted among the top four of Bri­tain’s best beaches – and the ad­ja­cent tidal is­land of Worms Head, with spec­tac­u­lar views across to the At­lantic.

We also took the short walk from the King Arthur Ho­tel to the an­cient burial cham­ber of Arthur’s Stone at sun­set to en­joy the views from the moor­land high above the vil­lage.

The Gower coast­line and, be­low, Oxwich Bay Ho­tel

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.