I’d had a bit of trouble finding a suitable hotel near Bridgend and eventually plumped for the Greenacres Motel in North Cornelly. Frankly it was a mistake: lacking Miss Diane and Benny it was a soulless experience. The room had obviously once housed a smoker and the fish, inside quite good batter, was watery and textureless, though the chips were OK. The strawberry shortcake just about made up for it but all in all not a good experience at a cost only marginally less than in Chepstow
I’d been looking forward to today, leaving the motel and making my way through Port Talbot and Swansea to the Gower peninsula. I have vague memories of a childhood excursion to Wales in my parents’ camper van in the early 1960s. This was a preparatory journey before they took my sister and I across to Europe, tackling the St Gotthard Pass before introducing us to a bit of Italian culture: incredibly brave in a vehicle that was about 1600cc and boiled up, necessitating frequent stops in the Alps.
Unfortunately the day dawned with a thick fog that hung around most of the day. The sun occasionally showed a watery face but all the lovely views of Swansea Bay and the Gower eluded me. I left at about 915 and made my way to Margam where I crossed over the motorway before passing the huge Tata steelworks.
and making for the centre of Swansea. Much of this journey was on the National Cycle Network route 4 which I had followed, on and off, since Chepstow and which I continued to follow for much of this day. It varies between excellent surface, totally off road, to a hard shoulder to busy roads but is certainly a great asset to cycling. At Briton Ferry I crossed the river Neath on a bridge high over the water with a good cycle lane.
I took a picture, in the murk, of the bridge carrying the Motorway, before heading south to the centre of Swansea. Like most cities in the UK Swansea has undergone major redevelopment and gentrification and I recrossed the river by way of the elegant Sail Bridge in somewhat improved weather.
It did not last and seaward views during my journey to Mumbles, along Swansea Bay were non-existent. I passed St Helen’s cricket and Rugby ground where I played for Bedford against Swansea in my youth and where Sir Gary Sobers hit the first televised six sixes in an over 52 years ago. When you see how short the boundaries are you can quite see how he did it in an era when sixes were unusual, unlike today.
I stopped just short of Mumbles for a cup of tea and a chocolate brownie in the hope that the sun would break through but no such luck. There were lots of walkers, runners and cyclists making use of the promenade between Swansea and Mumbles Head. The iconic Lifeboat launching ramp on Mumbles Head was so shrouded in mist that I didn’t bother with a picture. To get back on route I had to climb a slope so extreme that I had to get off and push for about 50 metres. I made my way round Mumbles Head with a fierce climb from Caswell Bay which I managed. The fog continued, clearing occasionally as I climbed above the sea but never disappearing. My navigators gave me a bum steer around Bishopston and I had to consult the map to get me back on course.
At Pennard the road deteriorated into the appropriately named Sandy Lane, ending in a very steep descent on unmade road to Parkmill where I picked up the main South Gower road which roller coasted its way to Rhossili. The village was busy, the National Trust carpark about half full and plenty of people with ice creams in hand wandering along the clifftop. I joined them with an ice cream but did not venture further than the carpark despite a good hard road that takes you to Worm’s Head. I was, once again, tired and saddle sore so kept cycling to a minimum.
The murky view of Rhossili sands gives an idea of how far below the village one has to walk to reach the sea. The pristine sands extend north for about three miles and the difficult access means they are seldom crowded. The journey back to Scurlage was harder for knowing the ups and downs I’d experienced on the way to Rhossili and I stopped at the village store for some water to keep me going.
My maternal Grandmother came from an army family, her Grandfather General Benson commanded the 17th Lancers in the Crimea and her father, Richard, was sadly killed in the First World War. Great Grandfather Starling Benson, Mayor of Swansea bought Fairyhill house near Reynoldstown which the family held until just after the Second World War when the last of the maiden aunts moved out. The house has a well developed ornamental park and is now an exclusive Wedding Venue. I could not miss the opportunity of passing by, though it was slightly out of my way and involved quite a bit of climbing
I was now getting very weary and decided against visiting Llanmadoc, the most northerly settlement on the peninsula turning east at Cheriton above which was a spectacular view of the Loughor river and its surrounding marshes.
The climbing was over for the day but I still had 15 miles to travel to Llanelli and it was a hard slog across the marsh road, common land with sheep and horses grazing and, I’m sure, a lot of wildfowl though not much evidence on my journey. The pretty village of Crofty rises above the marsh far enough to avoid inundation
and at Pen-Clawdd I met the evening traffic before getting onto a cycle path that took me most of the way to the bridge crossing the River Loughor, with the tide now in full flood, racing up the river.
I joined the main A484, knowing that it would take me directly to my destination alongside the Parc y Scarlets, home of one of the four professional Welsh Rugby Union teams. As at Swansea I played for Bedford against Llanelli, the basis the Scarlets team, when their home was Stradey Park, now a housing estate, but the ground is commemorated on a roundabout on the A484 by a set of rugby posts topped with scarlet “sosbans” as at Stradey.
I arrived at Marston’s Sessile Oak hotel and restaurant at about 6pm after another gruelling day.