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Casting light on haunting sands

Martin Aaron

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Some of you may remember Derek Brockway visiting Worm's Head and Whiteford lighthouse in series two of Weatherman Walking back in 2008.

The name Whiteford actually derives from the Viking - 'Hvit Fjord' meaning 'white fjord' and the dune system at the back of the beach known as Whiteford Burrows is owned by the National Trust.

Located in the Burry Estuary off the coast at Whiteford Point on the north west of the Gower Peninsula, this 61 foot tall, cast-iron lighthouse tower is the only one of its kind left in Britain.

It was built in 1865 by Llanelli Harbour and Burry Navigation Commissioners to indicate the location of Whiteford Point and its dangerous sandbanks to shipping.

Various maritime disasters have occurred here over the years - the worst being in January 1868, when the entire beach was littered with dead bodies and the wreckage from 16 coal ships after a short trip from nearby Llanelli went horribly wrong.

In lighthouse terms the tower is described as being 'wave-washed' which conjures up sorts of romantic imagery but in reality means it's surrounded by the sea at high tide and battered by storm surf - unlike it's softer relatives, located up on the cliff tops.

It must have been a scary two week shift for any lighthouse keeper placed there during the winter months.

Old keepers used to report it swaying and it had various 'improvements' done to it over the years to shore up the foundations and strengthen the metal work.

The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1920 when a new beacon was established at Burry Holmes but had a brief comeback when local yachtsmen petitioned for its return in the 1980s.

Money was raised and for a while the now fully automated lighthouse shone once again but not for long as one of the solar units failed and was never replaced, leaving the lighthouse to stand silent.

Nowadays this Grade II listed building and Scheduled Ancient Monument still serves as a navigational aid but only during daylight hours.

It's a stunning part of the world but take care if venturing down there as the tide can change quickly so always check the tide times and remember to add one hour during British summer time.

Whiteford Sands is also renowned for its ghosts. The most famous is the 'phantom galloping' - a terrifying noise, so loud to the ears that it has long been associated with a woolly mammoth - an animal not seen since the last Ice Age but one that certainly existed in the area.

The loud thundering sound of hooves originates in the direction of Broughton beach, before making its way along the beach to Whiteford Sands where it abruptly ends.

Others believe it is the sound of ancient Celts running across the sands to meet Roman soldiers in battle. The noise has been well documented over the years so let me know in the comments box below if you've ever heard anything.

If you wish to visit the lighthouse then the nearest car park is at Cwm Ivy near Llanmadoc. From there it's around a two mile walk to the lighthouse at the north end of the beach.

Check out a panoramic view of the lighthouse.


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