Leaving the car in the carpark next to Llanridian Church we take a taxi back to Broughton caravan site – it’s a bit of a grey day but not raining.Walking through the caravan park, all closed up for the winter, a robin decides to come and say hello.Everyone loves a robin – the “gardener’s friend” and here are a few facts…….
Robins have adapted to noisy urban environments by singing at night so their song is often mistaken for that of a nightingale. In towns and cities their song during the day has also changed, becoming louder and consequently harsher, trying to block out the noise of modern life. Sadly, this has an effect on their breeding, as the female is not quite so entranced by the punk version. Another quite moving piece of information is that in the winter robins live separately and this has an effect on the way they sing, the tone becomes more plaintive ….bless.
Dropping out of the dunes onto the beach we are faced with a vast expanse of sand and some encouraging signage…Undaunted we trudge off across the sand, crunching through thick layers of sea shells – there are some beautiful razor clam shells but the photographs do not do them justice – more to learn.This is Broughton Bay, a long sandy plain, flanked by high dunes on the right which make it difficult to know where you are. We do however have a helpful landmark and that is Whiteford lighthouse, which can be reached when the tide is out – we can see it in the distance.Built in 1865, this is the only wave-swept cast iron tower of this size in the UK – there are only two in the world, this one and another in Barbados! Discontinued in 1926 the tower had space for a keeper or two in a room at the top and some sources say the rota was three weeks here and three in the lighthouse at Llanelli. The romantic in me thinks how lovely it would be to go to sleep to the sound of the waves but I’m sure the reality was quite different.
After a while we reach Whiteford Point and the landscape begins to change. The path takes us into the hushed soothing atmosphere of a pinewood with lots of narrow trails heading off in different directions. The path gets gradually muddier and to our left Llandimore Marsh rolls out to the silvery ribbon of the River Loughor in the distance These are salt marshes, home to samphire, sorrel, sea lavender and thrift – plants which give the Gower salt marsh lamb its distinctive flavour.The ones who escaped follow our progress with what almost looks like interest….By this time we are more than ready for a cup of tea so when we discover that the path off to our left is closed due to flooding, we head off down a tarmac road following a sign to Cym Ivy which will eventually take us on to Llamnmadoc. To our right some ponies are grazing and once more I find myself wondering if I will ever find myself on the back of a horse again. Riding the trekking ponies my parents organised for me each winter was a huge part of my childhood and it surely has to be something you don’t forget to do – it’s just that falling off may have more serious consequences than it used to ……yes I’m chicken.Cwm Ivy looks like a prosperous little hamlet with almost all the houses and farm buildings showing signs of refurbishment – I have a feeling there are not many Welsh accents here but I may be wrong. Following the road we meet a couple who give us the disappointing news that the tea shop had just closed but that there is a pub at the bottom of the hill. We walk down and in five minutes are comfortably installed in a busy little bar serving Sunday lunches. We go for the tea and toasted teacakes but soon a group of about fifteen jolly walkers squeeze through the door with the same idea as us. They stand looking longingly at our seats but I refuse to gobble my tea cake or scald my tongue on the tea.
Ten minutes later, rejuvenated by the food and cheery warmth of the pub we head off down the road looking for a footpath off to the left which will take us up to Llanridian Marshes. It is now a straight run along a cobbled track, through fields and woods until we finally emerge next to the church where our car awaits. At this point we feel obliged to go in to the pub having used their car park all day – so we do, and regret it, they have no local ale and we are the only ones in the pub.
But no worries we’re now off to spend New Year’s Eve in a hotel in Llanelli – the strangest New Year I have ever experienced. We are the youngest people in the place and the men are all in Tuxedos, the women in cocktail dresses and sparkly earrings, the welcome drink tastes like a green fruit pastille and we are in bed long before the fireworks. Happy New Year!