Whiteford

Whiteford (pronounced Witford), its name being corrupted from the Viking word Hvit Fford, is a large expanse of sand (Whiteford Sands), and dune, forest and estuary (Whiteford Burrows). Owned by The National Trust, this peninsula-in-miniature is a Nature Reserve and provides the walker with an excellent opportunity of witnessing how the environment transforms naturally from one habitat to another.

The whole area, however, is quite difficult to access - the nearest cars can get to the site is by using the lane near Cwm Ivy Woods or the road which passes Llanmadoc Church, each a good hours walk away.

Before the estuary was dredged, it is believed that huge stepping stones lay across the divide between Whiteford Point and the coastline of Dyfed, allowing access across the quicksand and mudflats at low tide. These have long been swallowed in the long history of the Burry Estuary, but another causeway, from Whiteford Lighthouse to Burry Port remains partially intact (but totally impossible to follow for any distance).

The three kilometre stretch of sand that curves gently from the cliffs of Broughton Bay towards the poetically isolated Whiteford Lighthouse is one of the quietest spots on the Gower Peninsula . Even during the height of summer, scarcely a dozen people take the hour plus walk required to reach this lonely beach. However, for those intrepid enough to endure the long trek, especially amidst the blaze of an August sun, lies the reward of a wild and virtually empty expanse of glittering sand, enclosed from the rest of the world by the tide and the high dune systems of Whiteford Burrows. In these times of burgeoning tourism, where nearly every beach within the ever encroaching reach of the motor car has become more and more crowded, Whiteford Sands must surely be a treasured find indeed.

Whilst the bay now basks in its quiet reputation, the history of Whiteford Sands proves that its past is a dark and savage one. With the dangerous estuarine currents of the Burry Estuary running against the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the area was treacherous to shipping and many of sea vessels have been wrecked on this lonely and wild beach (some of these are still visible to this day). January 1868, for example, found the entire beach strewn with the dead bodies and wreckage of no less than sixteen coal-laden ships, wrecked here after only the shortest of voyages from Llanelli after a sudden ground swell left them floundering off the point of Whiteford. The bodies of the crew from all sixteen vessels were laid to rest locally in the neighbouring graveyards of Llangennith Church and Llanmadoc Church , from which there is a ghost story linked to the incident.

A number of whales have also been washed ashore here. In the 1700's quite a large whale was discovered on the sands, the locals - ever ready to find gain amongst whatever the sea gave up to them - made quite a considerable sum of money from selling the oil they reaped from its body. 1934 also brought a school of twelve small whales to the beach. Little could be done to aid the struggling animals and their bodies eventually had to be buried on the bay.

During World War II, the Burry Estuary was used by the army as a shelling and mining range, and Whiteford Sands, especially, is notorious for harbouring dangerous vestiges of those more turbulent years. From time to time unexploded bombs have surfaced here, sometimes in great number. The area has been regularly cleared of these weapons, however, and with each passing year, fewer and fewer of these wartime relics remain to alarm the visitor.

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