Times reduced to tears making breakfast: 1
Section: Pwll to the Mumbles
Favourite stretch: Port Eynon to Oxwich Bay
Don’t let people tell you that the start of a trip like this is miserable. It’s not.
It’s just extremely painful.
The first day I walked from Pwll to Penclawdd, with a lovely send-off at Llanelli beach (thanks guys!). The walk was fairly uneventful. I had lunch just before crossing the Loughor Bridge. Partly because I was hungry, and partly being more of a Llanelli girl than I’d realised, crossing the Loughor Bridge felt like a big step.* There was mud and sore shoulders. I sat in a swing and ate fish and chips. I fell asleep by 7pm.
*sorry for the very insular Llanelli based banter there.
My dad came to join me for my second day of walking, a long stretch along the North Gower between Penclawdd and Llangennith, rounding Whitford Point. If these place names mean very little, this is the part of the Gower you see across the estuary from where I live in Llanelli, with Whitford Point sitting right across from my home.
From my house, the saltmarshes look like a thin stripe at the base of the Gower. But they are vast and expansive. Whitford Point itself is gorgeous. It’s peaceful and tucked away from attention. The path to it winds through pines, and you hear the sound of waves long before you see the water. How often have I looked over at that beach and assumed I knew what it was like? It’s always been there and I see it every day. I’ve been to cafés and landmarks named after it, but I’d never taken time to experience it for myself. I wonder how many people are the same way with God.
Dad and I enjoyed a pint together in Llangennith before parting ways. The tide and sunset times seemed to be in cahoots that evening, planning a spectacular display at Rhossili a few miles on. So I stretched my tired legs and strolled off to soak up the remnant of the day.
I’m so glad I managed to summon the energy to get there.
This is apparently one of the most photographed beaches in the world. I don’t know how you measure that, but I can believe it because I’ve personally taken this picture hundreds of times. The view for me holds so many memories and so many dreams. It’s a summary of summery evenings from childhood to now. No wonder the cliffs at Rhossili feel so much like home.
Sitting there as the sun went down, I could see where I’d started my walk two days ago, and the stretch of coast where my walk would be ending in just over two months’ time. I couldn’t help but think of the new favourite places I might find on this trip. This view was only the beginning.
Wednesday was a day of absolute revelation: just how much food I’m going to need to eat on this trip. My metabolism must’ve clicked into overdrive sometime in the first two days of walking. By day 3, as soon as I had food the energy was there. Then just as suddenly as it had come, it would vanish. If you imagine a hoover when you’ve taken it too far from the plug socket. Without warning it cuts out with a whimper. That was me. And I wish I was lying about the whimpering.
I had to leave my camping spot before sunrise, and so I hiked about an hour before making breakfast. The simple process of making porridge reduced me inexplicably to tears. But after eating I immediately felt great, and went on my way. A few hours later I bumped into a lovely man called Ken, walking the whole coast of Britain (!!!). Just talking about the weather, I started to cry. That was embarrassing. Sorry Ken.
I couldn’t get any momentum going, and started to think I’d made a terrible mistake taking this challenge on. I pulled off my boots, calling them several mean names. My relationship with my boots at this point was like that of a stroppy teenager with their parents. I shouted at them for being oppressive and restrictive when they were only trying to protect and support me. I slumped at the side of the path, and pretty much shut down.
Eventually something stirred me to stop lying on the path as if I was going to give up. I put lavender on my sore spots, put my boots back on and, just as an afterthought, I had a snack.
Suddenly I was striding off towards Port Eynon, promising myself a rest in a café when I got there and attributing the change of pace to the power of positive thinking.
Sadly I managed to walk past Port Eynon.
After realising my mistake, and walking backwards from another village, I found a tiny café and sat down. Sobbing.
I sat and ate a sandwich feeling bleak. Then, yet again, as soon as I’d eaten I was in the best mood ever. I reflected on my day, trying to figure out why it has been so full of severe highs and lows. Then I realised. All the high points had followed a snack.
Because of the constant exercise, I never actually felt hungry, so my emotions were my body’s way of telling me it needed food. I knew this was true about myself. “Sorry for being hangry” is a common phrase in our family. But this was extreme. Lesson learned: not enough food = really bad mood.
It’s been tough in parts, but I’ve had an amazing four days. I’ve always known the Gower was beautiful. I brag about it all the time. I’ve always felt very privileged to grow up so close to a treasure chest of stunning places. But I’d only really experienced its gems as individual beauties. On day trips it’s so easy to miss how it all fits together; the pines between the beaches and the hideaways between the highlights. Walking the whole way around, you see how the gems are arranged like an intricate necklace (with a matching bracelet).
Between two bays I thought I knew, there’s wide, vibrant green paths along rugged shores. Great cliffs tower above you like weather-worn cathedrals and remind you how small you are. Eventually you’re turning corners and laughing at the absurdity of how stunning the scene is before you. That impossible blue of the French Riviera against the impossible green of Ireland, with smatterings of gorse just to be different. Just to remind you where you are.
Today’s been a rest day and a chance to take what I’ve learned the last few days and improve. I have some company for the restart which is wonderful, and I’m excited to get going. From here, everything is new.
As it turns out, walking over 1,000 miles is going to be quite hard. The thought that this might make a difference in communities somewhere across the world is such a strengthening thought. If you haven’t seen my donation page, please do take a look.