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The Gower Way a rookies first mapped adventure

I spent a lot of time as a kid down Gower, or more specifically, Tor Bay, with my parents. Getting up before sunrise, grabbing the tent, bodyboards and packed breakfast and heading down to the beach before the sand was tainted by anyone else's footprints. But despite frequent trips to the coastline, we never really explored anything else around Gower. It had never really crossed my mind until I came across some photos of a piece of beautiful coastline, which I instantly assumed to be abroad, somewhere like Spain it looked. But after a bit of searching, I was shocked to find out that it was only a few hours from me, down on the Pembrokeshire coast. This then got me thinking, what else was right under my nose?

After growing up in swansea and having Gower on my doorstep, I kind of just took it for granted, I naively thought that I had seen everything there was to see. Fast forward to January 2018 and i’m sat at home trying to come up with plans for this year, or rather, some plans for the immediate future so I don’t go stir crazy sat in my office until we have longer evenings and drier days. I’m looking at flights to try and gain some notorious ‘winter sun’, but the further I planned, the higher the budget got. I felt a little beaten and trapped, but desperate to get away and seek some form of adventure.

In place of actual travel, I headed to Go Outdoors just to get out of the house (no irony intended). When I headed to the till with some climbing tape and chalk in hand, preparing to spend the winter months indoors climbing walls, I passed the OS Maps section and remembered my thought of what else was out there that I didn’t know about, what else is out there that I was overlooking and instead escaping to another country in hope of fresh views when plenty lay just on my doorstep?

The last time I had used a map was probably in comprehensive school, and by that, I mean a proper terrain map, not just using Google Maps to navigate me to the nearest fuel station. Since then, the only run ins i’d had with map planning was during the 2017 St.Moritz Womens week where Emily Horridge (owner and guide at The Inside Line MTB) gave a workshop, sharing her experience, skills and advice with us all. I must admit, I was and have been inspired by her natural love for adventure and her ability to plot a brand new route, blind straight from the map and create some awesome experiences from it. So I decided to give it a go, I racked my brain to remember the tips and advice she gave, laid out my new map on the office floor, pencil in hand and cup of tea by my side and learnt and re-learnt map legends and skills.

We planned a route that would take us to the highest point of the Gower, then head over to Rhossili down, and follow the coast path back along to Oxwich where we’d climb back up onto the South Gower road. What followed would be a fresh view of Gowers coastline, a cardio workout and a hatred of Gowers lack of bridleways.

The day started out pretty perfect, a little too perfect.

We headed out following a path called “The Gower Way”. Starting from Penmaen and ascending up some very muddy fireroads, then pedalling across the top of Gower over to Cefn Bryn. Along the way we were greeted with a 360 view of Gower, being able to look down to Three Cliffs Bay, Oxwich, over to back side of Rhossili down and round to Penclawdd. The day started out pretty perfect, a little too perfect. After the first hour we then descended down to continue to follow “the Gower Way” over to Rhossili down, however this is where we quickly learnt our first lesson; check the map for farm boundaries.

It turned out that the Gower Way turned from a Bridleway and into a walkers path, meaning that we were hiking our bikes over countless fences and walking through mud and sheep faeces filled farms. Due to the amount of time we had spent walking rather than cycling, and being conscious of the early sunset times of January we decided to cut out Rhossili and head straight from Scurlage down to Port Eynon. After our experience with bridleways turned walkers paths, we ensured that the rest of trip was explicitly bridleways, not wanting to waste anymore time.

However, given the amount of rainfall South Wales had received over the week prior to our outing, it could be said that the bridleways were no better, as they has turned into streams/rivers with deep mud that was too think to be able to pedal through, which yet again, left us on two feet rather than 2 wheels. We finally arrived at Port Eynon bay, but after having yet another setback on the way there we decided to try and keep to the roads for the majority of the journey back as we didn’t have much sunlight left. This resulted in a few steep hill climbs and sprints along the South Gower road back to the car.

Left: Descending down from Cefn Bryn before encountering endless farms. Right: Port Eynon Bay in sunny January

So after that outing I can confirm that I learnt a number of things, which I have noted below, probably more as a reference for myself for whatever trip I try to make next:

  • When planning your route, take advantage of the Aerial view on OS Maps online to get a better idea of the terrain and surrounding areas, and to try and pre-empt any hiccups you may face (like farm boudnaries!)
  • Pack enough food to not only keep you sustained for the time you plan to be out, but a little extra if you find yourself delayed.
  • On that note, when totalling up an estimated time for the route, allow some (or quite a bit) extra time for mistakes.
  • Take into account the wind! We had quite the headwind on top of the Gower Way which also slowed us down more than usual.

Before heading anywhere else I want to finish what I started! I’m planning to head back out and successfully complete riding Rhossili down and then follow the coastal path back inland.

From that, next on my list is to do a little van roadtrip to Snowdonia and try and plan a few little loops and adventures with my camera. If anyone has any recommendations or must see location advice for Snowdonia, then give me a shout, or if you fancy heading out and giving it a go, feel free to join and get lost together!

Created By
Samantha Saskia Dugon
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