Gower Landmarks http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks Mon, 16 Jan 2017 10:42:37 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Cefn Bryn http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/gower-geology/cefn-bryn http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/gower-geology/cefn-bryn

Cefn Bryn, a 5-mile long Old Red Sandstone ridge commonly called the 'backbone of Gower', is a dominant feature of the Gower landscape being the second highest point in the peninsula (186m). The name Cefn Bryn is Welsh, literally meaning ridge hill. Crossing the ridge of the hill, banked by common land either side and a large pool called Broad Pool, is the road from Cilibion to Reynoldston (once known as Old Coal Road or Red Road). This road is locally reknowned for its wandering sheep, wild ponies and cows, and its stretch of thrilling swells and dips in the tarmac caused by swallets and sink-holes in the limestone.

Cefn Bryn

The highest point of the road intersects with the ridge summit, where an unmarked grassy carpark provides car travellers a place to stop safely, admire the views or take a walk along the footpaths across the commons. One of these footpaths, a well-beaten track, leads northwards towards the main attraction of Cefn Bryn, a large Neolithic monument called Arthur's Stone. Another well-known footpath can be accessed from the south side of the carpark and follows the summit of the ridge itself. Named Talbot's Road, this pathway was cut by the wealthy Talbot family of Penrice in the last century.

During the Bronze Age, Cefn Bryn was once again used extensively for ceremonies and rituals. Over sixty small cairns have been found beneath the bracken on the hill, although many of these mounds may be nothing more than a collection of stones cleared by farmers. However, three prominent cairns, north-west of Arthur's Stone, were excavated between 1981 and 1984 proving their role in ancient history.

The largest is Great Carn, a circular heap of stones raised above a central grave.

Great Carn

stella.elphick@gmail.com (Stella Elphick) Landmarks Wed, 15 Aug 2012 15:40:47 +0000
Cilifor Top http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/gower-geology/cilifor-top http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/gower-geology/cilifor-top


Dominating most views from the village of Llanrhidian is the mighty millstone grit summit of Cilifor Hill (cil meaning retreat in Welsh). Such prominent land features were well favoured during the Iron Age for building hill forts and earthworks and, occupying eight acres of land, this site is the largest such fortification ever developed in Gower.

Cilifor Top from Cefn Bryn

This early community at Cilifor was well defended by the construction of three enormous banks. These can still be seen today following the natural contours of the hill. Within these banks, upon the summit of Cilifor, there is evidence that there were probably three or more large hut sites. Further investigations have also revealed that this prime spot, overlooking North Gower, faced quite heated battles and was seized during the Middle Ages when a ringwork castle was built on the hill's South-East corner.

stella.elphick@gmail.com (Stella Elphick) Landmarks Wed, 15 Aug 2012 15:53:44 +0000
Gower Geology http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/gower-geology http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/gower-geology

“Beauty is only skin deep," the old saying goes. But in viewing the spectacular Gower scenery: the sweeping bays of golden sand, the mighty cliffs rising from white-crested sea and the swathes of rare and beautiful flowers which decorate the diverse landscape; it must be remembered that these topographical riches result from the geology that lies deep below its surface.

The Great Tor

The various underlying rock foundations of the Gower Peninsula, not only structure the great variety of coastlines, hills, valleys and bays; they are also one of the major decisive factors in what vegetation grows here.

Underlying Coal or Millstone Grit shales, for instance, give rise to impoverished soils, as does Old Red Sandstone. Limestone beds, on the other hand yield richer soils, affording a greater wealth of flora and, in turn, fauna.


Devonian Old Red Sandstone

The geological events that were to give rise to Gower's famed landscapes began before Carboniferous times, more than 350,000,000 years ago. Britain, then lying close to the equator, was experiencing a tropical monsoonal climate and the area that is now Gower was a vast estuary. This was the Devonian Period and the Old Red Sandstone that formed during that era provides Gower with its oldest rock base.

Rhossili Down

The estuarine river here was rich with sediment washed down from immense mountains by the monsoon rains. Coarser material was also washed down from these bordering mountains and this built up into mini islands that broke the river into many channels. These islands can now be seen as the conglomerates that rise at certain points from Gower's Old Red Sandstone hills.  As the Devonian period came to a close, intense earth movements buckled the Old Red Sandstone into curving hills and valleys.

Carboniferous Limestone

With a further change of climate, the landscape became submerged and brought less sediment to the area.  Warmer and clearer water with coral reef masses were created and limestone began to form from the shells and skeletons from the populated marine life. Particles of lime became more concentrated with the lack of other detritus and sediment.


This layer of limestone rock, which grew 800 metres thick in places, was forcefully shaped around the contours of the Old Red Sandstone backbone beneath it, which created structural weaknesses in the Limestone strata. The more the Limestone strata was moulded, the weaker and more prone to erosion it became. Thus, the Carboniferous Limestone that covered the steepest and highest Old Red Sandstone hills soon eroded to reveal the older rock structure beneath it, explaining why all of Gower's higher ground (Rhossili Downs, Cefn Bryn, Ryer's Down and Harding Down) are created from the more ancient Devonian Old Red Sandstone.

Rock diversity

One interesting feature of Gower is that instead of following it, Gower's coastline cuts across this folded bed of Carboniferous Limestone and the traced landscape of Old Red Sandstone beneath it. This reveals various sections and intersections of the rock strata and it is this that gives rise to the great variety of rock formation present on the peninsula.

Where the exposed limestone strata lies vertical on the surface, the cliff appears flat and featureless. Such formations can easily be identified at Thurba Head and the Knave, near Rhossili. Here the cliffs present the blank, sheer rock faces preferred by nesting sea birds. Similarly smooth cliff faces are evidenced when the Limestone strata lie exposed at an angle of 45 degrees towards the sea, for example in the coastline east of Pennard.

Brandy Cove

However, when the strata are inclined inland to such a degree, it is the edges of the strata that are exposed, not its surface, and here cliffs present themselves as a series of sloping ledges. As these ledges can both gather soil and hold rain water, vegetation is readily established, resulting in the quite colourful stretches of coastline such as those near Port-Eynon.

Namurian Millstone Grit and Coal Measures

During the following Namurian period, the sea retreated and the earth's crust bent further. This created heavy erosion that filled the rivers that now flowed over Gower with new detritus (Millstone Grit). Upon this grew an immense forested swampland of mosses, horsetails and ferns.

With upfolding rock pressures, these forests subsided into the rivers. Soil formed upon this new river bed and, in time, further forests grew. This cycle continued time after time to form one of the richest coal seams in the UK.

With the sea level now rising again, much erosion now set in. This erosion created what is now the Burry Estuary and Swansea Bay whilst the harder Upper Measure of this coal seam, Pennant Sandstone, resisted erosion and now form the range of high ground spanning Townhill in Swansea to Penclawdd. This harder Pennant Sandstone was deposited by rivers flowing northwards from huge mountains over south-west England.  Originally blue-grey in colour, the iron content of these rocks soon turned them a rust colour when exposed to the climate.

At the end of this period, some 280 million years ago, much of Gower's shape as we know it today had been formed.

Later geological strata have virtually been eroded completely save for the small outcrop of Triassic rock near Port-Eynon and the greatest geological changes to the area after this date have arisen from sea level changes between the various Ice Ages.

Gower Geology

Ipswichian Raised Beaches

Varying historical sea levels left several raised beaches along Gower's southern coastline, perhaps best evidenced at Foxhole, near Southgate and Brandy Cove. Known as a Patella Beach, these raised Ipswichian-dated beaches can be seen in the fault gully of the rock here as a concrete-like mixture of shell and pebble over a more gravel like substance. The beach takes its name from the fact that Limpets (Patella) are the more common shell found amongst this deposit.

Future change

The erosion of Gower's landscape continues to this day and whilst savage climatic change is held responsible for the shaping and reshaping the peninsula in the past, it is predicted that further rising sea levels and climate change will continue to threaten life on the peninsula and the rest of the world.

stella.elphick@gmail.com (Stella Elphick) Landmarks Sat, 01 Dec 2012 18:48:46 +0000
Mumbles Lifeboat http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/mumbles-lifeboat http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/mumbles-lifeboat

During the 19th Century, Swansea became an ever increasingly busy port, frequented by trading ships from all over the world. However, vessels entering Swansea Bay's harbour needed to navigate the dangerous sandbanks - the Mixon Sands, south-west of Mumbles Head and Scarweather Sands to the south of the bay. A lighthouse had been established at Mumbles Head since 1794, to help mariners find a safe path into the bay, however, many ships would succumb to the torrents of the sea and wind, especially during stormy conditions. Often in these situations, the pilots, coastguards and tugs of Swansea Harbour would attempt to rescue the crews of stricken vessels, sometimes quite successfully.  However, dedicated lifeboat operations were springing up along the Welsh coast and following a number of dramatic lifeboat rescues by the crews of both Holyhead and Caernarvon, the local newspaper, The Cambrian reported in October 1834:

There cannot be afforded a stronger proof of the vast utility of lifeboats than in the preservation of the crews of the above vessels and we take the opportunity of again urging on the consideration of the influential gentlemen connected with our harbour, the necessity of procuring one, for the protection of the poor mariner when threatened by the danger of shipwreck and loss of life.

The very next month bore witness to the Maltese barque, 'Margaret' and nine days later, the schooner 'Mary Ann', becoming stranded upon Mixon Sands. Although there was no loss to life on these occasions, it was enough to ignite a petition for a lifeboat amongst local citizens. With the added support of The Cambrian, the petition succeeded in establishing a lifeboat service for Swansea Bay. Costing £120, the lifeboat was finally supplied in 1835, but did not entirely live up to everybody's expectations being very poorly utilised. In 1851 the lifeboat was admonished in the Northumberland report saying, "It has not been used. Unserviceable."

Dissatisfaction with the first lifeboat led the cautious authorities to seek a replacement and altogether better lifeboat in August 1855. The new lifeboat, stored within a shed adjoining Swansea's Harbour Offices, was built by Forrestt & Co. of Limehouse and could carry a crew of thirteen pulling ten oars. However, it was pertinently noted many times that most rescues in the bay, in common with the past, were at the hands of the steam tugs and pilots, rather than the lifeboat itself!

Royal National Lifeboat Institution

Clearly some direction and expertise was needed in order to develop a successful and reliable lifeboat service. Therefore, the Harbour Trust consulted with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), who recommended placing a lifeboat station near Mumbles Head. With the promise of an immediate grant of £100 and an annual grant of £30, the RNLI agreed to form a new establishment and run the lifeboat service.

A new lifeboat, 'Martha and Anne' was purchased in 1863, but stayed in Swansea until a boathouse and slipway was built at Mumbles. Work started at Mumbles to construct a boathouse under the cliffs and this was duly completed in 1865, however it was not until September 1866 and the introduction of yet another new lifeboat, presented to the RNLI by the people of Wolverhampton and thusly named the 'Wolverhampton', that the Mumbles lifeboat station was finally established, complete with its own slipway.

Lifeboat House Developments

The foundation stone for a larger boathouse was laid on 17th October 1883, and completed in 1884 at the cost of £361. The boathouse still stands and is known as the Old Lifeboat Cottage. It was, at one time, the home of the coxswain, but recent years has seen it used by Mumbles Pier's management, Amusement Equipment Co. Ltd. (AMECO).

Old Boathouse, Mumbles

By 1898, the Mumbles Railway was extended to the head, with the newly built Mumbles Pier to act as the rail terminus. With steam trains passing immediately in front of the doors, the boathouse and slipway situation was far from ideal. Subsequent lifeboats were kept on moorings in front of the boathouse using a smaller vessel as a boarding boat, but the crew found this method of getting afloat time-consuming and substandard, initiating plans in 1905 to build a new boathouse alongside the pier.

A new slipway was built, joined to the pier at right-angles, by the summer of 1916 after construction was delayed due to the war. However, the lifeboat was stored with a simple covering of tarpaulin for six years, until the boathouse was finally erected in 1922.

Mumbles Lifeboathouse

2012-2013 Restoration and Construction

Mumbles' Pier has reached the end of its maintainable life and now requires a total rebuild.  

Broken pier

The RNLI have a larger Tamar class lifeboat which also requires a larger modern lifeboathouse.  Work commenced in 2012 to rebuild the 113 year old pier and construct the new boathouse.

The Tamar is the most technologically advanced lifeboat ever produced by the RNLI, we owe it to our volunteer crews to provide them with the very best lifeboats.  Being able to provide this fantastic new lifeboat is thanks to the continued generosity of the public for which we are continuously grateful. 

- Colin Williams, RNLI

Mumbles Lifeboat Disasters

One of the great challenges to the lifeboat crew came Saturday 27th January 1883, when gales dramatically turned to storm force winds. The 'Wolverhampton' was launched at 10am to attempt a rescue of the four-masted German barque 'Admiral Prinz Adalbert of Danzig', which had stranded off Mumbles Head rocks. The lifeboat crew managed to pull aboard two of the German crew from the barque, but during the rescue of the third man, the sea flipped the lifeboat over and over again throwing the men overboard. Only the two Germans managed to remain clinging aboard, whilst the lifeboat men battled against the sea to save their own lives. Ten of the lifeboat crew managed to grab the lifelines of the 'Wolverhampton' and at least one of these men was dragged ashore by the lighthouse keeper's daughter, as immortalised in Clement Scott's 'The Women of Mumbles Head!'. Others managed to save themselves by dragging themselves onto Mumbles' middle head, whilst one man, Bob Jenkins, was found alive two days later sheltering in Mumbles Head's cave, now known locally as Bob's Cave. Sadly, four of the lifeboat crew were drowned. A stained glass window in Oystermouth Parish Church commemorates the tragedy.

The lifeboat was understandably damaged beyond repair and was replaced with a new, slightly larger boat, also named 'Wolverhampton'. This replacement was too large for the old boathouse, so this was demolished and a larger boathouse was built in its place.

On 1 February 1903, the service of the lifeboat, 'James Stevens No. 12' was prematurely cut short when it was capsized during the rescue of a coaster, 'Christina', that had run ashore off Port Talbot in strong westerly gales. Out of fourteen lifeboat crew members, six lost their lives, including the coxswain. The eight survivors were washed into Port Talbot pier.

The single most significant disaster in the history of Mumbles Lifeboat came, however, on the 23 April 1947, when all eight lifeboat men of 'Edward, Prince of Wales' were lost to the sea attempting to rescue the thirty-nine crew of the Newport-bound 'Samtampa'. 'Edward, Prince of Wales' was Mumbles' first motorised lifeboat and had been in service since May 1924 and was also the first of its type to be capsized. The lifeboat crew left Mumbles at 7.10pm to aid the stricken 'Samtampa' which had blown onto Scarweather Sands, and this was the last time they were seen alive. A total of forty-seven men from both boats lost their lives that fateful night, their bodies found the next morning upon the sands, smothered in the thick fuel oil of the 'Samtampa'.

Since the Mumbles station was established, eighteen lifeboatmen have lost their lives to their commitment to others, many of whom are buried at Oystermouth Cemetery.

The Women of Mumbles Head! - 1883

Bring, novelists, your note-book! Bring, dramatists, your pen!
And I'll tell you a simple story of what women do for men.
It's only a tale of a lifeboat, of the dying and the dead,
Of a terrible storm and shipwreck that happened off Mumbles Head,
Maybe you have travelled in Wales, sir, and know it north to south;
Maybe you are friends with the "natives" that dwell at Oystermouth;
It happens, no doubt, that from Bristol you've crossed in a casual way,
And have sailed your yacht in the summer in the blue of Swansea Bay.

Well! It isn't like that in the winter, when the lighthouse stands alone,
In the teeth of Atlantic breakers that foam on its face of stone;
It wasn't like that when the hurricane blew, and the storm-bell tolled, or when
There was news of a wreck, and the lifeboat launch'd, and a desperate cry for men.
When in the world did the coxswain shirk? A brave old salt was he!
Proud to the bone of as four strong lads as ever had tasted sea,
Welshmen all to the lungs and loins, who, about the coast, 'twas said,
Had saved some hundred lives a piece - at a shilling or so a head!

It didn't go well for the lifeboat! 'Twas a terrible storm that blew!
And it snapped the rope in a second that was flung to the drowning crew;
And then the anchor parted - 'twas a tussle to keep afloat!
But the father stuck to the rudder, and the boys to the brave old boat.
Then at last on the poor doom'd lifeboat a wave broke, mountains high!
"God help us now!" said the father. "It's over, my lads. Good-bye."
Half of the crew swam shoreward, half to the sheltered caves,
But father and sons were fighting death in the foam of the angry waves.

Up at a lighthouse window two women beheld the storm,
And saw in the boiling breakers a figure - a fighting form,
It might be a grey-haired father, then the women held their breath,
It might be a fair-haired brother, who was having a round with death;
It might be a lover, a husband, whose kisses were on the lips
Of the women whose love is the life of men going down to the sea in ships.
They had seen the launch of the lifeboat, they had seen the worst and more,
Then, kissing each other, these women went down from the lighthouse, straight to shore.

There by the rocks on the breakers these sisters, hand in hand,
Beheld once more that desperate man who struggle to reach the land.
'Twas only aid he wanted to help him across the wave,
But what are a couple of women with only a man to save?
What are a couple of women? Well more then three craven men
Who stood by the shore with chattering teeth refusing to stir - and then
Off went the women's shawls, sir: in a second they're torn and rent,
Then knotting them into a rope of love, straight into the sea they went!

"Come back!" cried the lighthouse-keeper, "for God's sake, girls, come back!"
As they caught the waves on their foreheads, resisting the fierce attack.
"Come back!" said the three strong soldiers, who still stood faint and pale,
"You will drown if you face the breakers! You will fall if you brave the gale!"
"Come back!" said the girls, "we will not, go tell it to all the town,
We'll lose our lives, God willing, before that man shall drown!"

"Give one more knot to the shawls, Bess! Give one strong clutch of your hand!
Just follow me, brave, to the shingle, and we'll bring him safe to land!
Wait for the next wave, darling! Only a minute more,
And we'll have him safe in my arms, dear, and we'll drag him safe to shore."
Up to the arms in water, fighting it breast to breast,
They caught and saved a brother alive! God bless us, you know the rest -
Well, many a heart beat stronger, and many a tear was shed,
And many a glass was toss'd right off to "The Women of Mumbles Head!"

- Clement Scott, a poem based on the tragic events of January 1883.


"History of Mumbles Lifeboat" 2nd Edition by Capt. Jack Williams.

"Wreck and Rescue in the Bristol Channel" by Grahame Farr. 

"The Wreck of the Samtampa and the Mumbles Lifeboat Disaster" by William John Lewis 

"Oystermouth Parish Church Magazine" - 1899-1960. 

"A Swansea Anthology" edited by James A. Davies.

"Swansea and Mumbles Railway - Over 155 Years of Service" by the South Wales Transport Company.

stella.elphick@gmail.com (Stella Elphick) Landmarks Thu, 25 Apr 2013 18:34:29 +0000
Mumbles Lighthouse http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/mumbles-lighthouse http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/mumbles-lighthouse

A stone lighthouse has stood on the outer islet at Mumbles Head since 1794. Originally a twin platform construction with a coal fired beacon on each, it was designed to alert passing ships of the dangerous Mixon Sands and Cherry Stone Rock - two massive undersea sand banks that have caused the destruction of countless ships and taken the lives of hundreds of seamen over the centuries.

Mumbles Lighthouse

In 1799, the twin coal-fired beacons were replaced by a single oil lantern and in 1905, this was made to flash at regular and precise intervals. With the retirement of the last lighthouse keeper in 1934, a modern automatic light was added to the structure of the original lighthouse.

The running of Mumbles Lighthouse is now the responsibility of Trinity House.

The collection of buildings that surround the lighthouse were a coastal defense fort that was built in 1861.

stella.elphick@gmail.com (Stella Elphick) Landmarks Wed, 15 Aug 2012 16:09:43 +0000
Mumbles Pier http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/mumbles-pier http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/mumbles-pier

Mumbles Pier was originally built and opened in 1898 to extend the Swansea to Mumbles railway and serve as the new terminus. Costing around £17,000, the construction of the pier was a relatively late addition to Britain's popular Victorian seaside architectural ideal. Designed by W. Sutcliffe Marsh, the construction of the pitch pine deck, upon lattice steelwork and cast iron piles was styled as a simple landing jetty. The pier seemed unusually devoid of the typical ornate entertainment buildings fashionable with other period piers.

Mumbles Pier

Nevertheless, the pier proved very popular with local people, attracted by the small bandstand, amusement stalls and the regular steamer excursions to nearby North Devon and Somerset. 'The Pier Hotel' was built alongside the pier during the same period.

The RNLI lifeboat slipway was added to the pier in the summer of 1916 and the boathouse was finally built upon it in 1922; these are still used to this day. The association, Amusement Equipment Co. Ltd. (AMECO) gained a licence from the Mumbles Railway to operate the pier from 1st October 1937 and currently continues to run and successfully maintain the pier and its amusements.

Similar to other significantly placed piers, during the Second World War, Mumbles Pier was employed as a defence measure from 1940. The pier did not re-open until 9th June 1956 after substantial repair work and a three-tiered landing stage was added to the pier head (currently used by anglers). The following year, AMECO gained freehold of the pier. Sadly, the grand re-opening of the pier was quickly followed by the closure of the Swansea to Mumbles railway in 1960.

AMECO built a new amusement complex at the land end of the pier in 1966. This proved to be an invaluable attraction to visitors, whilst much-needed restoration work was completed between 1975 and 1985. During these years, £25,000 to £30,000 per annum was spent on the maintenance and replacement of the pier's structural steelwork. The pier was closed on 1st October 1987 but later re-opened on Good Friday 1988, after another £40,000 was spent on renewing steelwork at the entrance end of the pier.

Since the building of the original 1960s amusement pavilion, this has been redeveloped and redesigned, in keeping with the Victorian period detail of the pier and the nearby 'Pier Hotel'. The pavilion now houses a bowling alley, arcades, bar, shops, restaurant and ice-skating rink (formerly Cinder's nightclub).

Many of Britain's piers have suffered the ravages of time, by way of fires, war, corrosion and storms; but Mumbles is fortunate to have retained its claim to this piece of Victorian antiquity, mainly due to the endeavours of AMECO. Mumbles Pier is, however, far from in mint condition. Today's visitor will note the need for, and the progress of, continual restoration work. Currently, the old pine wood planks, suffering from rot, are being replaced section by section with new timber. The pier remains fully open except for a small section of deck that is still undergoing the restoration work that has ensured Mumbles Pier's long history.

stella.elphick@gmail.com (Stella Elphick) Landmarks Wed, 15 Aug 2012 16:17:41 +0000
Swansea Airport, Fairwood http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/swansea-airport-fairwood http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/swansea-airport-fairwood

Maes Awyr Abertawe


Airport History

During the Second World War, local defences required an aerodrome that could be used as an R.A.F. fighter station. The construction of the basic runway, which took the better part of a year, involved extensive levelling and filling of the boggy land at Fairwood Common, using copious industrial refuse. Unfortunately, two Bronze Age barrows were destroyed in the process, though a cinerary urn was retrieved from one of the barrows, known as 'Bishopston Burch' (SS 5718 9098), and is currently owned by Swansea Museum.

The airbase finally opened on June 15th 1941. On October 25th 1941 Fairwood Common became a Sector Station. The first wartime success for 125 Sqn at Fairwood came on June 27th 1942, when a Beaufighter IIf shot down a Junkers Ju 88 off the Pembrokeshire coast. Then again in April 1942 the 125 Sqn successfully battled against the German 'Baedeker' night raids upon Bath, bringing down an enemy aircraft and damaging another.

On 23rd June 1942, one of Germany's latest and prized fighter aircraft, a Focke-WuIf FW 190, was mistakenly landed at Pembrey by a disorientated pilot after involvement in a dogfight with Spitfires over southwest England. The Commanding Officer at Fairwood, Group Captain David Atcherley drove to Pembrey to fetch the German pilot, Oberleutnant Armin Faber. During the journey, the prisoner narrowly escaped being shot, when Atcherley accidently squeezed the trigger of his service revolver when the car hit a particularly bad pothole in the road. The discharged bullet hit the car door just inches away from Armin Faber! The German spent the next two days as a reluctant guest at Fairwood Common before being escorted by train from Swansea's High Street Station to London for further interrogation. The German plane proved to be an invaluable find for the British, putting the British-made Typhoons to shame, and the technology gleaned from the aircraft significantly contributed towards the 1945 design of the Hawker Sea Fury.

There were a number of accidental plane crashes during the war. On 11th January 1943 a Beaufighter VIf piloted by Sgt J. G. Crummey, with Sgt Hurst as his observer, stalled and crashed into Clyne Valley while on a daytime air test before the forthcoming night's operations. The aircraft disintegrated and burst into flame on impact, killing both crew members.

Again on March 29th 1944, a 15th Air Force B-24D Liberator based in Italy was on a hush-hush mission to St Mawgan in Cornwall to pick up some radar equipment when it was diverted to Fairwood Common because of bad weather. Low on fuel, the pilot repeatedly tried to land but had to abort each time. On its third approach to the runway, the bomber ran out of fuel and all four engines lost power. Four of the crew hastily baled out, before the plane crashed to the ground. The pilot recovered from the injuries he sustained in the crash, but the crew chief, who was not normally part of the flying crew, refused to jump and was sadly fatally injured.

Another tragic accident in May 1944 saw a Beaufighter of 68 Sqn shot down by a fellow Beaufighter during a mock dogfight above the aerodrome. The aircraft crashed into a field just off Fairwood Common killing two crew members.

In August 1944, a Wellington Bomber crashed upon landing with an engine on fire, finally coming to rest amongst the woods. The crew luckily survived and were mostly unharmed from their adventure. They were, however, slightly aghast when they were needed to help push the broken-down fire engine, that had been sent to their aid!

On the night of February 16th/17th 1943 Swansea endured a particularly heavy raid, which thankfully proved to be the last air-raid of Swansea during the war. During the raid, enemy aircraft dropped three or four bombs on the Station causing the deaths of three WAAFs. However, the 125 Sqn's Beaufighters were successful during their night-time mission, chasing the Luftwaffe back over the Bristol Channel and the West Country shooting down 3 Dornier Do 217s and possibly another two aircraft.

456 Sqn stayed at Fairwood Common from 1st March to late in June, 1944 and during this period brought down six German aircraft. Then the Station became a centre for training and retraining Squadrons from July 1944. Whiteford Burrows was used as a firing range area where the British aircraft (Spitfires and Typhoons) of 2nd TAF would practice firing ammunition and warheads against oildrums and plywood targets placed in the sands here.

After the war, on 1 November 1946, Fairwood Common was reduced to a care and maintenance basis.

Laying in the graveyard of St Hilary of Poiters' Church in Killay are the memorials of 22 RAF personnel. These include many nationalities, such as Czechs, South Africans and Canadians, who were killed whilst based at RAF Fairwood Common during the war years.

The runway and hangars at Fairwood Common were eventually re-utilised in 1956 as the commercial business, Swansea Airport. Unfortuately, the airport failed to be financially viable enough for Cambrian Airways to continue ownership and was sold to Swansea Council in 1959. As the decades past, commercial operations and passenger figures continued to wane with the airport only managing to survive from the custom of businesses and executives who ran their own private planes.

From the year 2000 onwards the future of the airport took a surprising turn of good fortune when Swansea business couple, Martin and Louisa Morgan (who currently own Morgan's Hotel in Swansea), took over the running of the airport. Managing to transform the business into an attractive, profitable asset by upgrading the site, the pair made plans to include cheap flights to Amsterdam. Very soon the airport attracted the attentions of the newly formed Air Wales, offering flights to Dublin, Cork, Jersey, London and Europe.

Things certainly seemed to be expanding quickly with the announcements of plans to build new hangars, however, the new-look airport and its enterprise soon suffered from negative criticisms by environmental groups and local residents and the Welsh Assembly withdrew the planning applications from Swansea Council. A local coalition group against the airport, called SANE (Swansea Airport no Expansion) was organised to petition against the proposals to increase the number of flights and Council funding from community tax, highlighting the false economy and environmental damage caused by aviation. Malcolm Ridge, Chairman of the Gower Society has also pointed out that it is time the city stopped throwing good money after bad and should give the common land back to the people to enjoy as an open space of environmental significance.

Criticisms aside, the airport seemed to have greater obstacles in its way. Despite the ambitious plans of expansion, the demand for an airport in Swansea was very poor, taking only one tenth of the number of passengers needed to make its operation viable. It then emerged that Air Wales' owner, Swansea millionnaire Roy Thomas, had ploughed more than £3.25 million of his own money into the airport in 18 months of operation. After being given the demand by the Civil Aviation Authority to overhaul the airport's landing lights at the cost of £75,000, Roy Thomas decided to pull Air Wales out of Swansea Airport to concentrate the company's resources at Cardiff International Airport.

Although Swansea Council owns the airport they are bound by the 99-year lease held by Roy Thomas's company, Swansea Airport Ltd, allowing Fairwood to continue as an airport.

At this time, Swansea Airport Ltd plans to keep the airport open for general aviation and charter flights, police helicopter and Welsh Air Ambulance services.

Swansea Airport, Fairwood, Swansea, SA2 7JU
stella.elphick@gmail.com (Stella Elphick) Landmarks Wed, 15 Aug 2012 16:23:59 +0000
The Bristol Channel http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/the-bristol-channel http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/the-bristol-channel

The shipping traffic of the Bristol Channel is never far from view, whether you are viewing Swansea Bay from an elevated viewpoint such as Kilvey Hill, the Townhill/Northill/Mount Pleasant areas of the city, or Mumbles Hill; or if you are looking out to sea from many beaches or cliffs of South Gower.

Live Marine Traffic Map

Below is a map that provides free real-time information to the public, about ship movements, covering a section of the Bristol Channel close to the Port of Swansea.

Passenger Vessels
Cargo Vessels
High Speed Craft
Tug, Pilot, etc
Yachts & Others
Navigation Aids
Unspecified Ships
Ships Underway

The Bristol Channel has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world (the vertical difference between high and low water).

Tide warning

Spring Tides are those that occur 1½ days after both the New and Full Moon (roughly every fortnight).  Spring Tides give the highest and the lowest waters.

Neap Tides occur halfway between each Spring Tide (a little after the first and last quarters of the Moon).  Neap Tides give relatively low high waters and high low waters.

The shape and contour of the coast will affect the tidal rates, and there is an increase in the rate at such places as Oxwich Point, Port Eynon Point, Mumbles Head, Worm's Head and Burry Holmes.  Remember outgoing tides are the strongest and most dangerous and that the current is strongest approximately 3 - 4 hours after high or low water.

Nearly all of Gower's bays are safe for bathing, with the exception of Three Cliffs Bay and the coast from Burry Holmes to Whiteford - these should be avoided.

stella.elphick@gmail.com (Stella Elphick) Landmarks Fri, 12 Apr 2013 15:29:01 +0000
Whiteford http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/whiteford http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/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.{pgslideshow id=62|height=400|delay=500|image=L}

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.

stella.elphick@gmail.com (Stella Elphick) Landmarks Fri, 17 Aug 2012 23:01:36 +0000
Worm's Head http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/gower-geology/worm-s-head http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/gower-landmarks/gower-geology/worm-s-head

Historically named 'Wurm' meaning 'dragon' by Viking invaders, the promontory, Worm's Head, is shaped like a giant sea-serpent and marks the most westerly tip of Gower. The island is joined to the mainland by a rocky causeway and features an large flat-topped 'Inner Head', towards a natural rock bridge called 'Devil's Bridge', a 'Low Neck' leading further out to the 'Outer Head'. The headland is one mile long and the highest point is approximately 150 feet.

Worm's Head

The Causeway

The rocky, jagged causeway leading out to the 'Worm' is only exposed for two and a half hours before and after low tide, so walkers should always carefully check the tide times before they set off over the causeway. Being trapped on Worm's Head for half the day, waiting for low tide again, is both inconvenient and desolate to say the least, but so easily done by the inexperienced. Even the young Dylan Thomas made the mistake of falling asleep on the Inner Head and missing his tide:

I stayed on that Worm from dusk to midnight, sitting on that top grass, frightened to go further in because of the rats and because of things I am ashamed to be frightened of. Then the tips of the reef began to poke out of the water and, perilously, I climbed along them to the shore.

- Dylan Thomas.

Dylan Thomas used to regularly visit Worm's Head and in his short story, 'Who Do You Wish Was With Us?', he wrote:

... Laughing on the cliff above the very long golden beach, we pointed out to each other, as though the other were blind, the great rock of the Worm's Head. The sea was out. We crossed over on slipping stones and stood, at last, triumphantly on the windy top. There was montrous, thick grass there that made us spring-heeled and we laughed and bounced on it, scaring the sheep who ran up and down the battered sides like goats. Even on this calmest day a wind blew on the Worm.

- Dylan Thomas

Breeding Seabirds

The Outer Head is a breeding ground for birds such as Herring Gulls, Guillemots, Razorbills, and Kittiwakes, with the occasional appearance of Puffins.

At the end of the humped and serpentine body, more gulls than I had ever seen before cried over their new dead and the droppings of ages.

- Dylan Thomas

Walkers are requested not to climb to the top of Outer Head between 1 March and 31 August, to avoid disturbing these nesting birds.

Worm's Head Cave and Blow Hole

The Outer Head is also home to Worm's Head Cave and on the north side, a natural blow hole. William Camden in the 1586 published 'Britannia' describes the blow hole thus:

Toward the head itself, or that part which is farthest out in the sea, there is a small cleft or crevice in the ground, into which if you throw a handful of dust or sand, it will be blown back again into the air. But if you kneel or lie down, and lay your ears to it, you will then hear distinctly the deep noise of a prodigious large bellows. The reason is obvious; for the reciprocal motion of the sea, under the arch'd and rocky hollow of this headland, or promontory, makes an inspiration and expiration of the air, through the cleft, and that alternately; and consequently the noise, as of a pair of bellows in motion.

- William Camden

During the right conditions the blow hole is heard to emit noisy, impressive boomings and hissing; in fact, there is an old Gower saying - "The old Worm's blowing, time for a boat to be going".


The land on Worm's Head is very fertile and despite its hazards and rare accessibility, people in the past have attempted to utilise its resources. One Rhossili man decided to grow a crop of potatoes on the south side of the Inner Head, the potatoes grew very successful here and his early crop was earlier than anyone else's, but others were deterred from following his example when the problem of getting the crop over the razor-like rocks, back to the mainland was illustrated.

Sheep farmers, in the past, have utilised the rich grazing ground on 'The Worm'. For example the Talbot family at Penrice Castle used to graze their flock of wethers on the Inner Head of Worm's Head from September to March. It has been said that Worm's Head mutton is the tastiest in Gower. However, the sheep are so fond of the seclusion and good grass growing there that they are loathed to return to mainland pastures. One Rhossili farmer, Wilfred Beynon, reported that his whole flock of sheep escaped from their mainland field in the summer of 1932 and attempted to cross the treacherous causeway leading to the Worm. They were caught by the rising tide and all seventy of them drowned.

I don't know what it is, but once you put a sheep out on Worm's Head, it can't be kept away from there ... Once they've had a taste of the grass out there, they'll never be safe again - that's a bit of family wisdom, now.

- Wilfred Beynon in 'Yesterday's Gower' by J. Mansel Thomas, 1982.

{pgslideshow id=68|height=400|delay=500|image=L}

Walking The Worm

Owned and protected as a National Nature Reserve by the National Trust and the Countryside Council for Wales, the varied plant life on Worm's Head is governed by the high winds, tidal spray and sun. The Outer Head is a very rare, ungrazed grassland, whereas the Inner Head, which has been grazed over the centuries, shows a large variation of plant colonies. Therefore, visitors are advised to keep to the well-worn dirt trail rather than trample on these species.

The best route for walkers to follow is down the wide path past National Trust Information Centre and shop, through the gate and follow the track for 1 mile until the former coastguard lookout hut is reached (it is now the Countryside Council for Wales Information Centre). From here start the decent to cross the causeway. It takes about 15 minutes to scramble across the wet, jagged rocks of the causeway. When the Inner Head is reached follow the dirt track round the south side (bear left), then across Devil's Bridge, around the south side (bear left again) of Low Neck, and on to the Outer Head. Remember not to climb to the top of the Outer Head between 1 March and 31 August so the nesting birds there are not disturbed and if the journey outwards is proving too long and laborious do not venture too far out and take the same route back.

Royal Mint - Coastline of Britain

In August 2009 the Royal Mint released a silver £5 coin depicting Worm's Head to commemorate the London 2012 Olympics and the places, people and history of Britain.  The collectable coin was released again in 2012 as part of a 6-coin set representing the 'body' of Britain, capturing the land’s natural wonders and beauty.

Worm's Head Coin


stella.elphick@gmail.com (Stella Elphick) Landmarks Wed, 15 Aug 2012 19:18:29 +0000