was a dull, misty day and I had decided to take a walk along the
Gower coastal path. As I was not very familiar with the part between
Port Eynon and Mewslade I decided that this day was a good one to
correct that deficiency. I parked in Port Eynon and was delighted
to see that there is no charge for the car park during the winter
months – surely an oversight by the ever strapped council
so, don’t let this get any further! Next week is Easter weekend
and last minute work was going on at the adjoining caravan park
building a secure fence to keep the happy campers safely enclosed.
The path goes
through the caravan site and then skirts the bottom of the wood
that covers the headland. Soon I was walking uphill and was staring
at Overton Bay, the tide was out with good waves, not huge but enough
to tempt a few surfers. I walked down the path to the edge of the
shore and my mind started conjuring images, there is no sandy beach
here and the rock formation points directly south. As it was misty
it was not possible to see the West Country but it was there, somewhere.
I was reminded of the lines of a Billy Fury song – “So
near, yet so far away”. The song was, of course Halfway to
Paradise and, naturally I could only sing it with conviction if
I was standing on the other coast!
of that, what I am trying to get at in my roundabout way is that
Ilfracombe, due south as the seagull flies is a mere 38 miles away.
However, to get there involves a journey of some 180 miles, a significant
cost in fuel and an even greater cost to return. You see the Severn
bridges allow you to get out of Wales free of charge but we charge
you to get back in!
But it was not
always so, if you should sometime take the oportunity to stand where
I was standing and were lucky enough to have a clear day then here
is a little exercise for you. Look due south, the coast you are
seeing is Devon and, as I said, 38 miles away, what separates the
two lands is the clear, blue sea you are staring at, but it was
not always so. Let your mind take you back in time. How far back?
No, further than that! And further than that too! I’m asking
you to go back 29,000 years, give or take a few months. The ice
was gradually melting but you would still be aware of it all around.
In front of you and stretching as far as Ilfracombe was a vast,
flat plain populated by lions, rhinos, deer, sabre-toothed tigers
and screeching hyenas. And, of course, man.
This area has
an old human story. We became aware of the story in 1822 when a
surgeon and a curate exploring the coast discovered animal bones
in Goat’s Hole, not too far from where you are standing. They
probably happened to mention it down at the local hostelry that
evening and word got round to Miss Mary Talbot of Penrice castle
who popped round to have a look for herself. She then mentioned
it in passing to a Mr William Buckland, professor of geology at
Oxford University who then hopped a ride on a passing stagecoach
and began exploring the cave on the 18th January 1823. He uncovered
human remains, the remains of the Red Lady of Paviland. She was
rather old, in fact she went back the whole of 29,000 years so it
was little wonder that she was dead.
We can know
very little about her but we can surmise that she was the ‘Widow
Twankie’ of her time because it turns out that she was actually
What a pantomime!