Walking & Hiking

altYou've decided to take on the challenge (great!) and you've found yourself atop Mynnydd Y Betws and stood beside Penlle'r Castell and marker No.50.  What will smack you round the face like a soggy moss is the contrast between the historical nostalgia of the13th century defensive fortification and a vision of the future provided by the immense wind turbines that adorn the hillside to the west. These turbines, not unlike their architectural predecessors, have their enemies. Understandably, there is a strong lobby that objects to the turbines and their expansion and it's not the last battle being waged by the local communities against the introduction of renewable energy projects that you'll witness along this route. 

Besides the politics, it's a place that takes your breath away. If you're shrouded in mist then the ominous feeling of isolation and exposure from the moorland around can make you feel that you're truly in a wilderness. If you're lucky enough to be here on a clear day then then you'll see the Black Mountain to the North and to the south you can see the south and north coasts of your ultimate goal- The Gower Peninsula.

Having given your first marker a friendly pat, head east for 400m to the road and then SSW on a well marked and worn trail, if you start to go steeply down, hill as many have, then you're heading too far east, follow the trail!

This leads to a mountain road, be sure to shout 'Allez! Allez!' to the hardcore cyclists who use this as a training ground.

As the forestry on the right approaches you'll be glad to get off the tarmac and reconnnect with the land again, follow your nose and don't be distracted by track junctions in the woods. Soon enough you'll be rewarded by a view of the Upper Lliw resevoiralt . This was opened in 1892 to provide water for Swansea and will provide you with a place for a well earned break and a cup of coffee watching the bird life. If you're travelling light and not carrying a flask don't worry, a cafe on the lower resevoir might be open!

Cross the dam and follow the valley southwards and as you get the first glimpse of the lower LLiw resevoir (opened in 1863) don't miss your opportunity to descend to a lower lakeside path, via a style, instead of following the access road. At the southern end of the this lovely lake is the cafe and toilets- which may come as some relief.

Cross the damn and descend through pleasant countryside and fields into the village of Felindre which has the http://www.shepherdsinn.co.uk/  if you're in need of some liquid refreshment or a light bite. About 1km of road walking follows before turning off SE towards Gelli-wern Isaf farm and (at the time of writing) numerous signs against a proposed renewable energy project. These couple of kilometres can be tricky to navigate due to a lack of signs and a never ending number of fence lines that seem to be set to confuse, the best hint we have for you is to keep the stream to your right and not too far away and as soon as you see buildings, head towards them, they'll take you onto the road and into Pontlliw via the road and on towards Gorseinon and Gowerton.

Ok, Its honesty time. We're not fans of the next section but we can see that some may be endeared to its dubious merits. The down sides? Road walking, built up areas, traffic, litter and the post industrial landcsape. Merits? The post industrial landscape from the tin plate, steel processing and mining eras also the sense of continuity as you cross the River Lliw a couple of times toward the end of the section in Gowerton PLUS the excitement of entering one of the 'Gateways to Gower'! Other than these, we cannot get inspired to tell you more sorry but feelfree to research via these wikipedia links;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gowerton

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorseinon

Relatively simple map work and signposting  should soon see you  getting onto the cycle path where this first section of the Gower Way ends, well done you!! If you're anything like us then you'll feel quite urbanised by this point and needing a fix a more rural natural environment. This should be your inspiration for starting the next section which we'llcover very soon.

If you ever wanted to experience some of the complex history between the English and the Welsh then The Gower Way long distance footpath will give you 35 miles to contemplate and cogitate just that. It disects the entire ancient Lordship of Gower that includes both the areas historically known as Gower Anglicana(English) and Gower Walicana (Welsh)  from when the English invaders drove the Welsh inland and upland from the fertile coastal lands to the more desolate moors and highlands. 

Fear not, however, If you didn't want to get bogged down in such matters, this is a fantastic walk with interests to suit all abilities. Do it in short sections, do it in one go, only do the coastal half or upland parts, the choice is yours but do it you should!

Inaugurated by the Prince of Wales in 1998, the way is marked by 50 numbered stones bearing the Gower Society crest and an arrow marking the way.....a big BUT......these cannot be relied on for navigation! Many are overgrown or difficult to notice so if you set your heart on doing a rubbing of each number with sheep poo, mud or whatever comes to hand then don't be dissapointed if the full set can't be completed. If you like a challenge, however, you can download the grid references of each stone from the swansea ramblers website http://www.swansearamblers.org.uk/Gower-Way/gower-way.php

Considering the miriad of foot and bridle paths across the terrain that could lead you in the wrong direction, an OS map (Explorer 165 for the inland part and exporer 164 for the coastal part) is a must but don't worry, a wrong turn may be frustrating but will not lead to a gaping precipice or worse. 

Here at RipnRock we can heartily recommend  that any visitor to the Swansea Bay area doing the Gower Way should do it by  starting at stone number 50 on the hills at Penlle'r Castell to number 1 on the coast at Rhossilli. Why? 1) Its downhill! 2) There's something magical about ending at a cliff edge 3) Once you get to the end, if you have any energy left then you are in the heart of our playgrounds and can join us on one of our adventures.

On the next entry in this blog, we'll describe the different sections in more detail.

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