Mark Rowe's walk in the Gower: Day one

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Mark Rowe, travel journalist, takes on the super challenge walk on the Gower peninsula in South Wales as part of the National Trust walking festival. Read on to find out how Mark got on during the first day of the challenge.

Day One - Crofty to Rhossili

The horses were out on Llanrhidian Marsh as I headed west out of the village of Crofty. They tend to stay there, even when the tide sweeps in, nibbling at the edges of the coastal paved road I was following. It’s quite a sight: the horses have learned that water never comes high enough to envelop them, so they simply stand patiently, waiting for it to ebb away once more.

Tidal flows play a large role in a walk around the north of Gower, with the height of the water heavily influencing where you can walk. Today, though, the road from Crofty to Llanrhidian was clear and allowed for a restful, easy-paced stroll along the River Loughor estuary. The hedges on the landward side were packed with brambles, with hazel and hawthorn knitted together, separated from the coast by a bank of reedbeds.

Castles, graveyards and lighthouses

Passing through Llanrhidian - the church’s ancient graveyard with its lean-to tombstones is worth nosing around in - the path jumped back and forth between fields and woodlands, passing under Weobley Castle. Beyond Llanmadoc I headed out along the medieval sea wall known as The Groose. This linear, elevated grassy path, striking out from the mainland, creates an ethereal atmosphere which many walkers compare to that of Lindisfarne, far away in Northumbria.

Where the wall finished, I made for the coppices of conifers to reach Whiteford Point. Emerging from woodland I found myself staring across a stark sandy landscape to the UK’s only cast-iron lighthouse.

World class beaches

There then followed what must be one of the best beach walks anywhere in the world. Time your walk for low tide and Whiteford Sands, Broughton Bay and Rhossili Bay seem to stretch to infinity. When the wind blows, streams of multi-coloured shimmering sand tumble towards you, as if across a desert. What seem from a distance to be seals turn out on closer inspection to be logs, piles of seaweed and other flotsam.

Thousands of years of history

Halfway along the superb rectangle of Rhossili bay, it was time for one last heave up Rhossili Down. It’s a steep, breathless climb but the views are wonderful. Worm’s Head, the signature landscape feature of Gower, is close by (the word is a corruption of the Old English “wurm”, or serpent - at high tide the island looks like a Welsh version of the Loch Ness Monster) while behind you are the concave dips and folds of Broughton and Langennith Burrows. On the way you pass the concrete remnants of a World War Two radar station. Giving the trig point by the Bronze Age cairn – at 193m the highest point on Gower – a pat as I passed, I plodded down the southern ridge to Rhossili.

Download the trail for day one of the Gower Super Challenge walk