hurts terribly to admit this but yesterday, in Wales, it rained.
It was quite torrential and I was on the morning watch with
John, our second watch together. We knew the causeway would
be flooded until 1.00pm, that and the fact that it was a wet
and misty day meant there was no likelihood of any great excitement.
As we were carrying a new supply of drinking water with us we
had permission to take the car all the way to the lookout and
for that, considering the weather, we were very grateful.
But we didn’t stay dry for long. My first job was to hoist
the station flag which is not a long job but nevertheless was
of sufficient duration to render me totally soaked. Needless
to say I did not pause for the customary salute, I plead for
forgiveness! John didn’t get away with it either for his
job was to prepare the outdoor sign that displays the safe times
for crossing. By the time he returned he was in much the same
state as I was. So there we were, soaking wet, in a lookout
embracing us in a rather chillier atmosphere than we had been
enjoying of late. I did not argue when John suggested that we
should light the stove, mid-August it may well be but we were
being reminded of winter!
Soon the atmosphere became mildly Turkish with the interior
of the lookout assuming the same condition as the misty world
outside. I looked from the doorway towards the village and saw
not one human being and decided that the world indeed does contain
sensible people after all. The station log had its first entry,
it said “10.00 – Station opened” we didn’t
expect, nor as it transpired did we get, a full page. Then he
appeared. Walking towards us through the mist and the rain was
a fisherman who wanted to know the best places to fish. We had
a brief conversation which included my comment that today was
not the best kind of day for fishing. His reply was that, even
in this weather, fishing is more enjoyable than watching 17
different soaps a day on television. I did not mention it but
I thought if I were to have been in his shoes I would quickly
have realised that there were other options available!
Anyway he disappeared down the path.
We had few visitors, a couple from abroad who seemed totally
undeterred by the weather, a young family all sensibly dressed
with wellingtons and waterproofs and smiling. They were staying
in a caravan at Three Cliffs and stated that even this was better
than being in a caravan all day – well done that family!
The next group were greater in number and U3A members from Radnorshire
studying Geology with an expert – also unfazed by the
weather. We had to admire them all.
It was about mid-day when the fisherman reappeared and we had
a second conversation. He had caught a bass, but only temporarily,
he said he was reeling it in and could see that it was a good
size when suddenly a black head popped out of the water and
soon his prize was slipping down the throat of a seal. Clearly
a cad and a bounder! Where else could he fish, somewhere more
sheltered? he asked. I tried to explain to him where the Ledges
were but in order to do that properly I had to leave the shelter
of the doorway. Soaked again – but ‘If you can help
somebody’ as they say.
The causeway cleared at 1.10pm but we doubted that anyone would
be much interested, anyway all that would be the responsibility
of the next watch who would be relieving us at 2.00pm. I must
admit I was looking forward to getting back home to some warmth
and comfort, it had been an unusually uneventful watch. At least
that is what I thought.
At 1.40pm a head bobbed into view over at the top of the path
and a split second later a pair of handlebars, then a front
wheel and then a whole bike with panniers. We hadn’t seen
him going down and I began to feel guilty that we had not been
paying enough attention. I went to the doorway to greet him.
In jest I asked him:-
“Have you just cycled over from the island?”
“Yes,” he said “they told me yesterday that
I could stay overnight if I was fishing, so I caught a crab.
That’s alright isn’t it?”
“Oh yes,” I said “are you really serious,
did you take the bike over?” The causeway is quite difficult
to cross with the surface rocky and involving a bit of scrambling
“Yes,” he said “there are a lot of edible
plants over there and I had the crab, of course. Are there wild
animals over there?”
“Not much apart from birds, I don’t think,”
I said “why?”
“Well, at half past one in the morning I heard this tremendous
roar, a bit like a lion.” He said.
“There are no lions, were you anywhere near the blowhole?”
I asked, suddenly inspired.
“I was on the green, near the bell.” He said
“No, that’s far away from the blowhole.” I
“Well it frightened the life out of me, can you imagine
it, being woken up in the middle of the night like that, I was
He then asked for directions back to Swansea which surprised
me because there is only one way in and one way out of Rhossili.
I began to wonder how he had got here, was he an alien from
another planet maybe. No, I doubted that really because he had
already told me that he was from Aberdare and surely Aberdare
is not familiar to visitors from outer space – or is it?
I pointed his way towards the village and off he went and as
I watched him go I saw a little blue car approaching. The cavalry
was arriving and our watch would soon be over. It had been eventful
I was still worried about the lion though.
Christine and Penny arrive and they want to know if we’d
had a good watch and we told them about our cyclist and the
“Oh, that would have been the Helwick buoy.” They
said “The fog horn would have sounded automatically.”
Well, of course, I should have thought of that - no doubt I
would have done had my brain not been waterlogged!
Just one last thing. Yesterday’s watch was John’s
last and today is the first day of his retirement, no pension
rights I’m afraid but I hope he takes with him many happy
memories of his work at Worms Head. His service goes back to
the very beginning having volunteered within the first few months
of the station being established. His presence on watch over
these long years has transmitted a very responsible attitude
into the minds of our sightseers, only twice did his power fail
resulting in incidents. A brilliant record, quite unlike mine
– I just seem to have a youthful irresponsibility and
attract trouble a little bit too often. Still, it gives me something
to write about! I have enjoyed my two watches with John, he
has a lovely, quiet sense of humour and I’m sure that
all our watchkeepers join me in wishing him well for the future
and hope he will ‘come up and see us again sometime!’