Caswell Bay


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Walk Synopsis

This was a circular walk starting and ending on the beach at Caswell Bay with National Trust Gower warden, Sarah Stevens as our guide.

For the first mile, the route followed the coastal path from Caswell Bay to Pwll Du.

It's then on to Pwll Du Head, High Pennard and Bishopston Valley, stopping at 'Guzzle Hole' to glimpse and listen to a guzzling underground river. Start the walk from the car park behind Caswell Bay where there are toilets available.

1. Caswell Bay

A very popular award-winning blue flag beach, with plenty of sand, waves to surf and rock pools to explore at low tide.

The bay here is perfect for learning to surf with simple access, small easy waves for most of the year and no rocks to contend with. Life guards also patrol the beach during the summer months.

Derek and Sarah Stevens

There's also a café and kiosks, so buying an ice cream or a bucket and spade is very convenient.

Head in a westerly direction across the beach, past the lifeguard hut to steep steps in the far corner of the bay beyond the pebbles and below the Redcliffe Apartment block.

The path up the steep steps is rather hidden but signposted for Brandy Cove and Pwll Du Bay.

At high tide it may be necessary to walk up the road from the car park until you reach the path for Brandy Cove behind and beyond Redcliffe Apartments.

Follow the cliff top path, taking great care at a rather exposed rocky corner not far from the start of the path. The path is easier and less exposed beyond this point.

2. Brandy Cove

As the name suggests - the bay gets its name from the smuggling which took place here.

The quiet bay was used to unload illegal tobacco and alcohol during the eighteenth century.

Brandy Cove

The bay was also used for legitimate work. Small boats used to load ore here from the lead mines that were once worked nearby.

The sandy stretches of this beach are only exposed at low tide as it is a Pleistocene raised beach and there is evidence that the sea level was once 30 feet higher than it is today.

Murder & mystery

The beach also has a couple of supernatural legends associated with it. One involves a local witch who lived in caves near the beach.

Legend has it that a witch called 'Old Moll' once haunted Brandy Cove and villagers claimed that they could often hear screams coming from the caves at night.

It was near Brandy Cove, in South Wales, on Sunday 5 November 1961, that three pot-holers began exploring a disused lead mine and found an old skeleton.

Upon examination, it was found to have been cut into three pieces. As the police trawled through their old missing person's files, one name stood out - Mamie Stuart.

Mamie was an attractive chorus girl who had disappeared suddenly, just before Christmas in 1919. Her husband was suspected of the crime but died three years before the gruesome discovery was made.

All Slade Mine

The All Slade Mine also known as Bishopston Mine was a small lead mine that was worked in the late 18th century.

It reopened as the Bishopston Silver-Lead Mine from 1850-1853 but the pump was never able to cope with the amount of water flowing through here.

Continue along the cliff top path until you reach Pwll Du Bay. Drop down from the path and along over uneven rocks and pebbles onto the large shingle bank.

Alternatively you can continue on the main path along the back of the bay, behind the shingle bank joining a vehicle track then over a footbridge and past isolated houses to reach the beach at the far end.

3. Pwll Du Bay

Pwll Du or Wales' very own "Black Pool" is a firm favourite amongst many Gower residents as it is one of the most inaccessible bays on Gower so remains unknown to the majority of visitors.

Pwll Du Bay

The poem 'Ballad of the Equinox' by Vernon Watkins hints at the atmosphere found here.

Pwll Du means 'black pool' in English. The pool is caused by a shingle bank blocking the river flowing into Pwll Du bay and thus forming a pool.

Pwll Du headland guided smuggling boats to the bay at its foot and the 300 foot high headland provided a very convenient vantage point for keeping an eye out for customs officers.

Smuggling on Gower

Smuggling first began in the 1200s and so great was the flow of smuggled goods to Gower beaches that the Swansea Customs House estimated that during a six month period in1795 - no fewer than 5,000 kegs of liquor were brought ashore between the Burry River and Mumbles!

Many of the locals would have been involved and the Highway Farm in Pennard played host to a well known smuggler - William Arthur in the early 1800s.

Beer barrels

The contraband would have been landed at Brandy Cove and Pwll Du and hauled by pack horses up Bishopston Valley and along Smugglers Lane to Highway.

Custom officers trying to disrupt the trade were hopelessly outnumbered and ugly fights often broke out.

The 1820s marked the beginning of the end for smuggling on Gower. The Royal Navy turned their attention to blockading the smuggler's ships and by 1830 Coastguards had begun their operations.

Pwll Du limestone quarry

Limestone quarrying was big business along the south Gower coast, both for local use and for trading with Devon and Cornwall.

There were probably around two hundred people employed at the time, slowly drilling (taking up to 2 days to drill 50cm), chiselling and dragging the stones down to the waiting boats and lime kilns.

Leave Pwll Du bay at the far, western end of the pebble bank and follow the path leading between the houses.

4. Old houses behind Pwll Du

When the quarry was operational, there were five pubs in Pwll Du Bay, but now only two remain as private houses - Ship Cottage (Ship Inn) and Beaufort House (Beaufort Arms).

The cellar here was used by local smugglers who never took out of the cellar quite as many barrels as they rolled in - keeping the landlord happy.

The location was perfect for smuggling though with a sheltered bay and the wooded Bishopston Valley providing plenty of cover.

Smugglers houses

Continue past the houses heading briefly inland towards Bishopston Valley, but shortly after passing the footbridge over the stream on the right, turn left uphill, signposted for Pwll Du Head.

Follow the path steeply uphill and after a short section of tarmac turn left through trees. Then walk through a gate, a field and another gate to reach a high viewpoint on the left.

This is the highest headland in Gower and offers wonderful views back towards Mumbles Head, Swansea Bay and beyond.

Drop steeply down and right from Pwll Du Head and as the path begins to rise again look down to the left to see a few white stones arranged in a circle amongst the bracken about a hundred feet below the path.

5. Grave's End & the Caesar shipwreck

Near the headland is a gully called Grave's End, marked by a circle of limestone rocks.

A ship called the Caesar was wrecked on the beach in 1760 and the dead were buried here.

The Caesar was carrying a large number of men press ganged into serving in the Navy. When a storm blew up it foundered off the rocks at Pwll Du Head and the 68 men imprisoned below decks, drowned.

Grave's End

Continue up the path to a magnificent view point above Pennard Cliffs looking towards Three Cliffs and Oxwich Bay.

Follow the cliff-top path to reach a tarmac road. Turn right along the tarmac road and, at a right-hand bend, go over a stile next to a gate on the left, and into a field.

Walk down along the line of the hedge on the right until eventually you can see the edge of Bishopton woods. Bear left, into a dip in the field on the edge of the woods.

Cross over a stile into the woods and down a narrow path downhill through the woods until reaching the path next to the stream on the valley floor.

6. Bishopston Valley

The valley is two and a half miles long and at one time would have been much more open and divided into fields by stone boundaries - some of which can still be seen.

Much of the valley is common land and cattle can regularly be seen grazing in meadows and amongst the trees.

The valley is home to ancient woodland and includes rare trees such as the wild service tree and small leaved lime, as well as rare mosses.

Bishopston Valley

Continue along the valley floor, keeping the stream on your right, through an open meadow and back into enclosed woodland.

Pass the point where the stream resurfaces from under ground and continue along the valley floor through an awkward rocky section of dry river bed.

After heavy rain this section may not in fact be dry with the swollen river flowing above ground.

In these conditions follow a path through the trees on the right or leave the valley over a bridge further downstream.

On the right hand side (facing up the valley) and set back in the trees is the barred entrance to an old silver lead mine.

7. Long Ash Mine

This old silver lead mine was never extensively worked, probably due to the fact that it was prone to flooding.

It may well have been worked alongside the more successful All-Slade mine in the valley to the east which runs down into Brandy Cove.

The mine is now a roost for a number of different bat species including greater, lesser horseshoe, daubentons, pipistrelle and brown long eared bats.

Long Ash Mine

Near the mine lies the remains of the 'old miner's house' which looks to pre-date the mine and may have been a simple shelter or barn but was used by miners when the mine was active.

A little further on, down on the dry floor of the valley once again, is the entrance to a shallow limestone cave.

As you approach the entrance to the cave you will hear the guzzling noise of an underground river that gives it its name.

The cave is about 5 feet high at its entrance but after a short distance becomes much lower. It's safe to enter a short way into the cave but watch out for slippery rocks and mind your head!

With the aid of a torch, you can clearly see part of the stream running underneath the rocks.

8. Guzzle Hole

At Guzzle Hole (near Long Ash Mine) you can enter a small cavern and hear the river running underground. Its name comes from the guzzling sound that the water makes.

Guzzle Hole

Turn right from the path on the river bed, up the side of the valley. At the top take a right out into an open meadow.

Continue along the top of the valley until the paths meet. Then bear left up some steps, and head out into a field, walking along the side of the field to the track.

Turn right onto Pwll Du Lane and after a few hundred yards turn left onto a public footpath through a small field.

Bear left and follow the hedgerow passing sports fields and clubhouse on the right until you reach Pwll Du Lane again.

Go straight across Pwll Du Lane onto another short section of footpath until you reach Brandy Cove Road.

Turn right and follow the road which leads to a path and on to Brandy Cove. From here retrace your steps along the cliff-top path back to Caswell Bay.

  • See some photos taken on location during this walk.

    BBC Disclaimer: The Weatherman Walking routes and maps are intended as a guide to the TV programme only. Routes and conditions may have changed since the programme was made. The BBC takes no responsibility for any accident or injury that may occur while following the route. Always wear appropriate clothing and footwear and check weather conditions before heading out.

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