StormWatch Surf Bulldog, Caswell Bay, March 29th 2015

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It has been a pretty dark, wet and windy weekend, culminating in 50 to 60 mph winds today.  With my swaying fence looking like it won’t make it to April and the scafolding groaning on the roof, I decided ignorance is bliss and headed down to a dark Caswell Bay with Molly and Sharon.

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The Gower Live Website was saying Caswell had head to overhead surf, but with this wind it was a nasty mess. If you could get out through the punishing white water there was a head high face, but it was looking dark and mean.

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Several surfers were giving it a try, and fair play some serious waves were getting ridden. We on the other hand we staying with playing stick in the shallows.

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Two surfers decided to brave it with short boards. Molly ran down to give them some heavy swell pointers.

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Before focusing back on her stick.

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People tell you French bulldogs don’t swim, but Molly says different.

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And if she is not in the sea she is in the river.

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Looking majestic as always.

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This is one surf bulldog looking forward to the end of StormWatch and for a spring to emerge.

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One thing is sure, whatever the weather we will be down the Gower beaches, DimExcuses.

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Darth Mannion 2015 Part 3, Return of the Jedi.

The Final Leg

Just like the for the runners themselves it has been a long hard haul to get to the end of my original trilogy of posts on the Darth Mannion 2015 Beach & Swamp Run Challenge. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here. But all things must come to an end and I better press on or be caught up by the dreaded Silent Sweeper, the official back marker.

The Dreaded Silent Sweeper

The Silent Sweeper wasn’t catching these runners as they took the coast path from Pwll Du to Brandy Cove.

Wales Coast Path

Chris Kent was looking relieved to be nearing the finish as he climbed the final hill out of Brandy Cove.

Chris Kent

Pausing to only take the wonder of nature under a massive tree.

Under Darthwood

Robin Benton was also in good spirits bringing his peloton home.

The Benton Peloton

From the climb out of Brandy Cove it is a quick and much needed flat run across Pwll Du Head under the watchful eye of the hardworking volunteer Marshals and official Darth Mannion Saftey Lead Chris Bidder. Spectators were few and far between, but their cheering support was welcome relief. After cheering everyone in, one spectator was a little horse.

Darth Horse

It was all smiles coming in, and the runners were now starting to enjoy the race.

Big Smiles

With the stunning scenery of South Gower behind them, runners finish in South Gower Rugby Club for a heroes welcome and a lap around the field over hay bails before crossing the prestigious finish line.

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So the 6th year of the Darth Mannion was a massive success. A full gallery of the final stages of the race is below (click on images to open), and with over a hundred runners getting involved it can only be bigger and better next year.  Maybe you should enter, DimExcuses.

Darth Mannion 2015 Part 2, Join the Darkside.

River Run

The first post in this set of three was just a taste of the Darth Mannion Beach & Swamp Run Challenge. This second post goes from the full sea immersions and into the deep river run at Pwll Du Bay.  The runners looked like ants as they ran into Pwll Du Bay having quite a trek to the sea on the low tide.

Darth Mannion Pwll Du

The warm weather was no escape from the punishingly cold sea and the joint sapping chest deep river wading. Now with the sea dip complete the runners had to climb up the massive pebble storm beach and into the river to make their way to the ford.

Pebble Run

The water was cold and very muddy. It came up to upper chest height…

Wading

…on the taller runners.

Deep River

Charles Phillips was looking a bit more chipper.

Charles Phillips

Robin Benton was looking a bit more course weary.

Robin Benton

While Clyne Riders was represented by a very wet Dom, without his mountain-bike for once.

Dom Clyne Riders Represent

I was pleased to see Chris Kent turn up at Pwll Du. Swansea Running / Fitness Guru and general twitter nuisance (@itsakentthing). we adopted him as the official DimExcuses team runner. Chris has been in the blog before, running a much more hospitable Swansea Bay 10k.

Chris Kent

The river corner in Pwll Du was a real wading challenge with one or two opting to swim.

In the Drink

It was a bit easier going towards the ford.

Towards the Ford

With all the runners through the river it was a run around the cliff path to Brandy Cove and then a final climb up onto Pwll Du Head, but that is in the last blog entry: Darth Mannion 2015 Part 3, ‘Return of the Jedi’.  There is a gallery of all the images from the darkside river run below, and Part 1 can be read here, DimExcuses.

 

Darth Mannion 2015 Part 1, The Castle Run in Less Than Twelve Parsecs.

Darth Mannion Part 1

Called the darkside of running, the Darth Mannion Beach & Swamp Run Challenge is a half marathon on South Gower over challenging terrain and including four river runs, three sea entries and one sheep dip! You can go to the official Darth Mannion website here. It is such a spectacle that I have split it into three separate blog posts.

Pennard Castle

The first part is based at Pennard Castle and involves the steep decent into Three Cliffs Valley.  I got their early at 9:30am on Saturday morning. The weather was glorious, and the valley as always looked spectacular.

Three Cliffs Valley

Remember winter? Me neither. The second day of equinox spring and it felt like summer. Pennard locals Katy & Jane had seen my post on facebook and bringing their children with them formed the first crowd to greet the brave Darth Mannion runners.

Darth Mannion 'Crowd'

Now in its sixth year the race is its biggest and most organised (pity the victims of previous years). Yet some runners looked in real pain even at the 5km mark passing Pennard Castle.

Darth Runners

I chose Pennard Castle as the kamikaze steep decent over sand and rock was never going to disappoint.

Going downhill fast

Fairplay some runners were charging down the slope.

Charge

Lead by Darth himself.

Darth Mannion

It is a paced peleton system, with runners in groups led by a guide who controls the pace. There are no winners or losers. Robin Benton below lead one of the groups. It is all about the challenge of taking in part…

Robin Benton

…and the fun of it. Here Charles Phillips show a grimace that is literally flying the flag ‘of the fun of it’.

Darth Mannion 'The fun of it'

With all runners safely down the slope and into the valley, they were now going on to Pobbles Bay for the first sea dip, and I was of to Pwll Du Bay to gets some photos of the river run, which you can read in my next post Darth Mannion Part 2 ‘Join The Darkside’. Below is a gallery of all the images from Pennard Castle, DimExcuses.

Pobbles Bay, Gower, DimExcuses Beach Guide.

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Pobbles Bay is one of Gower’s lesser known beaches, but has a very fond following from locals and visitors. It is the home beach of Pennard Village and it is an important part of the village activities.

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It is a South Gower beach that is immediately east of Three Cliffs Bay. The two beaches form one massive expanse of sand as the tides fall and can form a great big super beach with Tor Bay and Oxwich in the west on a particularly low tide. That can make for an epic walk from Oxwich Bay to Pobbles and is a major section of the DimExcuses Big Gower Walk.

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Pobbles can accessed from Pennard Cliffs if you park at the National Trust car park in Southgate. It can also be accessed by a small path running down from Pennard Golf Club, but then there is the issue of no parking. Pobbles can be accessed by clambering over the rocks through the cave in Three Cliffs itself but that takes a little dexterity. Even rock scrambler Molly needs some help through.

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All routes to Pobbles require walking over uneven terrain and would be difficult for a push chair or wheel chair.

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Pobbles Bay is a rugged Gower bay with no facilities at all, but once loaded up with supplies it is a perfect family summer day out.

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It is surrounded by limestone cliffs and limestone is pretty much the only rock type in the Bay, apart from the odd mudstone layer. There is a substantial storm beach at the top of the beach. This is made up of again mainly limestone pebbles, but you can find local Old Red Sandstone and Millstone Grit with a bit of rock hound hunting.

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There are a wealth of rockpools and a rockpool safari will find velvet swimming crabs, hermit crabs, goby fish, shrimps and even sea mice if you are very lucky.

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Further down the beach are rock gullies covered in seaweed. These form a sort of reef to the west of the bay under a very imposing cliff headland called Shirecoombe. The very impressive last house on the walk down from the golf club is also called Shirecoombe. Molly is standing in front of Shirecoombe headland in this photo.

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As well as the rock pools Pobbles Bay has plenty of yellow Gower sand for building sandcastles or more elaborate sand sculptures. If the tide is right you can build a sand boat to face the incoming tide, reinforcing the walls with frantic digging as the water levels rise. You won’t win.

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Pobbles is often calm and ideal for sea swimming. As as always respect the sea, know your limits and be aware that the water will be pretty cold even in summer. Swimming out past Three Cliffs when the tide is in is not recommended as the river still runs under the water and will quickly take you out to sea. It can be a beach for surfing if conditions are right, but that is another story.

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As my home beach growing up I am very fond of Pobbles Bay. I walk the dog there regularly (there are no restrictions all year) and still spend the odd sunny day there in the Summer. It is a great beach and will keep the whole family amused for the day, so pack a rucksack and discover it yourself, DimExcuses.

The National Trust Buy Rhossili Car Park.

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After months of speculation and years of trying, it is official the National Trust have bought the car park above Rhossili Bay, Gower.  They have invested £3 million to acquire prime parking and access to my favourite surf beach. Read the guide to Rhossili Bay here.

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To cover the cost they are putting parking up to £4 for the day, but also introduce a £2 two hour short stay charge.

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But this suddenly makes becoming a National Trust member an interesting proposition. At £60 for individual membership which includes free parking, it looks like the National Trust have gone into the surf season-ticket business!

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The new car park charges come in on Good Friday 2015. Bearing in mind the Trust have the car park on Pennard Cliffs too, with great access to Pobbles Bay and Three Cliffs Bay Beach Guide, I am becoming a member. Molly says it is ‘a no brainer’, DimExcuses.

My Wild Life. Any Given Sunday, Bulldog on the Beach.

Molly is the Queen of Three Cliffs

This post is mostly French Bulldog photos, some of the best I have taken of my dog Molly.  In honor of the current ‘My Wild Life‘ campaign that wants to show what wildlife and wild places mean to us all, I just wanted to show our wild life enjoying the Gower beaches all year, in all weathers.

It is all about the sticks

In not uncommon DimExcuses style, all these photos are taken at Three Cliffs Bay and Pobbles Bay on a 5 km walk route Molly and I often use.

Molly Cave Explorer

A photographer once told me that the hardest thing to photograph is a black dog. He wasn’t wrong. So it was great that we finally got some strong sun to bring out the contrast and shadows that show Molly’s features which the camera usually struggles to pick up.

French Bulldog Face

Molly was happy to model in the sunshine.

French Bulldog Molly

The tide was out this Sunday, so Molly had a great expanse to play stick…

Playing Stick

…or just get her roll on!

Molly Roll

Three Cliffs Bay is amazing on any day, but the real first sun of 2015 really made it a great walk.

Three Cliffs Sun

But mainly at the moment it is all about the sticks for Molly…

Molly at Three Cliffs

…with a few rolls in between (there is a pattern forming here).

Frenchton Roll

A ball does break the cycle a little.

Frenchton and Ball

So that is My Wild Life, making the most of the Gower beaches the wild Frenchton.

Wild Frenchton

Sometimes we see cormorants, sometimes we see seals and we always see seagulls, Molly is working on her stalk to catch one (hopefully she will never achieve that), but for the moment it is all about the sticks.

Talk to the bum cause the face ain't listening

So why not tell us about your Wild Life? Just use #MyWildLife on social media, DimExcuses.

StormWatch, Caswell Bay, Dusk 6th March 2015.

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With almost spring like conditions, I rushed from the commute train to catch the last of the light at Caswell Bay. Sharon (& Molly) grabbed me at the station and we raced down to see the dusk surf as we were quickly running out of beach and light.

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There was a rapidly rising high tide and a considerable swell. The sunny clear skies of the day, now gave no insulation, so it was real Welsh winter cold.

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There were some mad ‘ have a go heroes’ rapidly chasing every wave like the tide would never go out again and the sun would never rise once set. They looked proper stoked.

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Then, not concerned for the cold conditions, someone got their chopper out.

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In the face of cold, heavy swell, rising tide and failing light in was inspiring to these guys ‘Mentro Allan’ venture out, DimExcuses.

Three Cliffs Bay, Gower, DimExcuses Beach Guide.

Three Cliffs Bay

Britain’s first area of outstanding natural beauty, and the most painted and photographed view in the UK are two claims to fame for one of Gower’s most dramatic beaches, Three Cliffs Bay.

Three Cliffs

This is favorite beach to visit when walking my dog Molly. You can see our favorite walk to it here, it is a great circuit. Otherwise it can be accessed from the west at Penmaen and Parkmill Villages, or from the east from Pennard and Southgate Villages. It is difficult to park and the National Trust car park might be the best bet or you could try this variation on my usual route. Getting there is going to involve some walking over uneven terrain, this isn’t the best beach visit for the less able or people with wheelchairs or pushchairs.

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The limestone geology of the bay is striking and three cliffs of limestone hooking into the east of the bay give it its name.  There is a cave through Three Cliffs to Pobbles Bay, but this is only accessible at certain times of the tide.

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But sometimes it is better when the tide is in.

Molly & Sharon Three Cliffs Bay

It is the interaction of the tide (the second largest tide in the world) and Three Cliffs themselves that makes the icon view that is so painted and photographed. There is website where you can post your Three Cliffs photos – 3cliffsbay.co.uk.

Three Cliffs Bay

It is my favorite beach for walking Molly in winter, and it is an incredible place if you are looking for somewhere to do a cross country run. You will find lots of sections on strava where the regular runners have set personal bests. It is also just a great beach for summer water sports. Be careful of the Three Cliffs bit at high tide, the river is still there and can pull you out to sea even though you can’t see it.

Pobbles

Enough beach you say, where is Molly…

Three Cliffs Molly

…here she is and she says get down South Gower and discover Three Cliffs Bay, DimExcuses.