Luck runs out. DimExcuses End of Summer Walk 2017.

The DimExcuses End of Summer Walk is in its ninth year, and this is my 6th time on this epic big Gower walk. We have always been lucky. This 19 mile, 9 hour end of summer ritual has generally been great weather, and our irresponsible approach to never checking the tide times has never stung us too badly…

The start of this years walk was no exception. It hasn’t been the best summer, but as we waited by the bus stop in Killay, to get the first Gower bus to Rhossili, the sun was starting to sneak out.

There were eleven of us on the bus, and we got over the first hurdle of getting the driver to let our massive wolf on! Technically a Husky, German Shepard cross, Oakley is definitely quite dire wolf in appearance.

Arriving at Rhossili we were met with End of Summer Walk first timer Lauren, bringing us up to twelve walkers. Lauren wasn’t the only new feet, we were also joined by Ellie, Ben, Ian, Ffion and Harry, all who had never undertaken this epic effort before. A quick team picture with the famous Rhossili Bay in the background and we were off!

A forced march cross-country taking in the amazing South Gower cliffs and we were soon in Port Eynon.

The fantastic staff at the Captains Table had reserved us a table and bent the breakfast deadline to sort us out with breakfasts of varying size. Obviously I had a big breakfast as it was a big walk. After thoroughly enjoying our breakfasts, it was team photo two, before making the sheltered coastal walk to Oxwich. The weather was fantastic, we couldn’t believe how lucky we were (at this point).

We were soon sitting at the Oxwich Bay Hotel enjoying a pint in the sunshine. At that point friends and relatives were ringing us to say the rain was coming down in sheets in Swansea and heading our way.

We were still in buoyant mood, we could see the rainfall in the distance but we seemed to be skirting past it.

It was at this point we realised that it was almost high tide and Tor Bay was totally cut off by the tide.  This meant we have to do a huge sandy climb over Little Tor. The view was quite spectacular back to Oxwich Bay.

It was then that that rain hit us. Right when we were most exposed on Penmaen Cliffs…

…and we still had the problem that it was high tide at Three Cliffs Bay and we had another hard sandy climb ahead of us. Our luck had well and truly run out. This was the hardest the End of Summer Walk has ever been. I even thought we would not make it to Southgate.

We made it to the Southgate Club like drowned rats. There was talk of abandoning the walk there, but that was quickly dismissed as not the DimExcuses way. The new walkers were some of the most keen to press on to the end! My girlfriend Sharon and our dog Molly came to our rescue bringing some dry clothes to the Southgate Club and taking our drenched ones. Apologies to the football crowd in the Southgate who suddenly had eleven soaking walkers changing around them in the busy pub.

As we changed the weather opened up again and we continued on to Pwll Du Bay before the final climb to Bishopston and the Joiners Arms. Sharon came to our rescue again ferrying people back to their cars in Killay.

Next year we will change the end of the walk to double back to the Gower Inn which is on the bus route back to the cars.

So our luck did finally run out, but we took it in our stride and completed the ninth DimExcuses End of Summer Walk.  A full gallery of images is below. Next year is the tenth anniversary walk, so you need to be on it with us, DimExcuses.

 

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Summer Finally Turns Up. Pwll Du Bay. August Bank Holiday 2017.

It hasn’t been the greatest summer, but finally on the last August Bank Holiday the sun decided to put his hat on. So with some family visiting and a french bulldog looking for a good beach walk we headed to the most enigmatic Gower beach, Pwll Du.

It is not easy to find or get to, but all you need to know about Pwll Du Bay can be found in the DimExcuses Pwll Du Beach Guide.

At last some sun, sea and Gower beach fun. So warm that we all went swimming, even Molly! You can see all the pictures in the gallery below. They might tempt you to visit this secret Gower beach yourself, DimExcuses.

Take the High Road, Pobbles & Pennard Cliffs. 19th August 2017.

Sometimes you have to change your perspective on things. Usually a quick straight walk down Pobbles Bay, Gower is my go to quick walk for taking my dog Molly to the beach. But I fancied a change and a different view of Pobbles for once.

Pobbles is my favourite beach. You can read my DimExcuses Pobbles Beach Guide here. It is also a beach visited on my classic 5km Pennard Castle, Three Cliffs Bay and Pobbles circular walk. Sometimes it even gets surf!

This was one of those days when it had a surf-able swell. It has been a hit and miss summer, so we decided to make the most of this Sunny Saturday.

We did our usual walk down from Pennard, past Pennard Golf Club, but then climbed out of the bay up to the plateau of Pennard Cliffs to get a different view of the famous Three Cliffs.

Molly is as happy on the limestone rocks of Pobbles as she is on the beach.

Looking back you get a great view of the west side of Three Cliffs and Pobbles Bay in front of it. Just as to get to the top and onto Pennard Cliffs you can also see across to the greens of Pennard Golf Course. Molly stopped for a pose with course behind her…

..before a quick drop and roll.

Molly is always happiest on the Gower Coast. Total adventure french bulldog.

Once the cliffs were climbed we headed back through Southgate village to complete our Pobbles, Pennard Cliffs loop, and as we were passing the Southgate Club, it would be rude not to stop for a pint of Gower Power!

We are definitely making the most of this Gower summer, no matter what the weather, DimExcuses.

Almost Summer. Three Cliffs Bay, 28th May 2017.

Finally summer is nearly upon us, leap frogging over a cool but dry start to spring in South Wales. So as we head into the second bank holiday in May 2017 there was no where else to go but Three Cliffs Bay, Gower.

This time Molly, Sharon and I brought along some family and friends.

We took our regular Pennard Castle, Three Cliffs and Pobbles Bay loop. Pennard Golf Club have done some path work over spring that has improved the walk past the water tower. Molly knows the way like the back of her paw, so she was soon at Pennard Castle.

Suns out, tongues out!

Everyone else wasn’t far behind. The view at Pennard Castle is one of the highlights of Gower.

We were there on a massive low tide, so we could drop into the valley and walk into Three Cliffs Bay. It was one of those low tides where you could have walked all the way from Oxwich on the sand if you wanted.

Perfect conditions for the DimExcuses end of summer walk. But seeing as summer is almost upon us it is not even near the time of year for that walk. Not that Molly was bothered she loves our Three Cliffs Walks.

So spring has almost gone and it is almost summer, plenty of time to get down the beach, DimExcuses.

Spring has Sprung. Three Cliffs Bay March 2017.

Spring has sprung. After a relatively cold snap to end winter in Gower, we have bounced into a cracking spring at the end of March 2017.

So it was back to business for Sharon, Molly and me as we headed out in the sun on our classic Pennard Castle, Three Cliffs loop in South Gower. We were joined by Molly’s newest friend Max and his family.

Max is a Jack Russell puppy. He seemed totally un-phased by the walk and was soon tearing it up with Molly.

Three Cliffs Valley was looking fantastic in the spring sun as we approached Three Cliffs Bay itself.

The key thing with Three Cliffs is to watch the tide, and we demonstrated that by getting through the famous cave that separates the bay from Pobbles just in time. Max left it to the very last second before the tide cut us off.

Molly was soon showing Max the fun that can be had on a trip to the beach.

We finished of the wak with a stop in Onboard Surf & Coffee Shop on the way home. It is a great place for a coffee and a cake, and totally dog friendly. Alas we missed the fresh Gower doughnuts again. One day I shall have one, it is a mission now.

Molly was totally shattered, it is hard work keeping up with a puppy!

A cracking day and a great start to Spring. Hopefully we will have a lot more of these walks this year, DimExcuses.

Darth Mannion 2017. Gallery 4.

This is the forth gallery from the Darth Mannion Beach and Swamp Run Challenge 2017. You can find an index of all four galleries here. Click on any of the thumbnails below to open and view the gallery, DimExcuses.

Riders on the Snow Storm. Les Arcs 2017.

This winter we decided to stop riding waves and start riding mountains instead. Gathering a group of 22 from Wild West Wales, including the Totally Minged and Big Lush crews, we flew to Chambrey, France.

From there it was a two hour transfer up into the Alps at Les Arcs.

In Les Arcs the villages are named after their altitude in meters, Les Arcs 1600 and Les Arcs 1800 for example. We had to go to the top, didn’t we? We got a fantastic Chalet in Les Arcs 2000.

Living at that altitude was surprisingly challenging. Climbing a flight of steps will take your breath away even before you start skiing. The air was also very dry, and with unusually sunny weather when we were there, the Chalet was boiling hot.

Exploring the mountain was great and Sharon and I really enjoyed the mountain villages.

Though we had days of glorious sunshine these were interspersed with massive blizzards and snow dumps. We weren’t short of fresh snow. Folksey here taking a breather from riding powder.

We skied everyday, even in the snow storms. Though sometimes we did have to retreat from the whiteout…

…or just face it head on.

Snowboarding and skiing is really grueling but massively rewarding. You really appreciate the rest you get on the chairlifts, and Les Arcs is full of great chairlifts.

Not content with living at 2000m, we tried to ski as high as we could. The Totally Minged guys made it to 2700m, but bad weather stopped skiers going any further.

Before snowboarding down Ben found probably the highest altitude toilet in Europe.

They did allow Donna, Sharon and I up to Aiguille Rouge at 3200m on foot which put us at the top of the alps. Donna’s phone even welcomed her to Italy! Sharon insisted on getting a photo at the top with her Onboard Surf & Coffee Shop T-shirt, as we had started our holiday week with a bacon and cream cheese bagel there back in Swansea, days ago.

There is something very calming about being at the top of the Alps.

The views were fantastic, almost as breathtaking as the altitude. We skied the whole mountain from 2700m all the way down to 1800m. It was great to be in a big group of fun characters, from the flying dragons…

…to the relentless energy teenagers Ben and Ellie.

And it is good to be with your mates when you have to do that hard climb out of a wrong turn.

We should have read the sign.

I took a wrong turn off piste that left me a long way from the path,chest deep in a snow drift that took 15 breathless minutes to climb out of. Oh well, bad decisions make good stories and Folksey is still laughing.

It was not the only time that I was reminded that you have to respect the mountain and respect the weather, and that if you look after your kit it will look after you. My snow goggles saw some serious use (and less serious photo use).

They saw action from sunrise…

…to sunset.

The need to respect the mountain and weather was emphasized daily as the helicopters dropped bombs and triggered controlled avalanches, like this one above our resort.

I think you can see that solemn respect* in these guys as they are about to hop on to a red run in a blizzard. *cough.

We all survived, grinning ear to ear, but we were far to soon back on the plane and heading home. Great days and nights with great people. All that was left to do was leave the snow sunsets back in Les Arcs.

I admit, I am hooked, lets do this every winter, DimExcuses.

It is a big walk in Gower. DimExcuses end of summer walk 2016.

DimExcuses End of Summer Walk

“Let’s make one thing clear” Darren Green informed our small group in a windy Rhossili car park, “it is the DimExcuses end of summer walk, always has been and always will be” referring to our traditional September walk now in its seventh year. “A big Gower walk it maybe, but that is note its name”. I stand corrected.

DimExcuses Gower Walk

The DimExcuses end of summer walk is a nine hour, 17 to 19 mile walk (dependent on the tide) from Rhossili Bay along the South Gower Coast to the village of Bishopston. It takes in the South Gower bays of Rhossili, Fall Bay, Mewslade, Port Eynon, Horton, Slade, Oxwich, Tor Bay, Three Cliffs, Pobbles, Heatherslade, Hunts Bay and Pwll Du. You get to see it all, you will definitely find your epic as the hours and miles mount up.

DimExcuses Gower

You can see pictures from previous years by clicking the dates below.

2013 pictures, 2014 Pictures, 2015 pictures.

This year we were a small contingent, made up of founding members Darren Green and Paul Jones, regular walker Ade Price, myself and the new feet of Chris Bidder and Rachel Bidder. As always we start off on the first bus out of Swansea into Gower.

First bus out of Swansea to Gower

Arriving in a windy and cloudy Rhossili it is a obligatory group selfie before going cross country to get a full fry up in Port Eynon.

DimExcuses End of Summer Walk

It was certainly a windy one.

Windy Gower Walk

There is always something new every year on the end of summer walk and this year it was the breakfast. We have always loved the Captains Table cafe in Port Eynon, trying to stop there each year for a fine breakfast. This year it is in new hands and the breakfast was outstanding. The Captains Table (facebook page here) does a range of breakfasts, small, large, veggie small, veggie large and the almighty Captain’s Breakfast. We all had a Captain’s Breakfast, setting a record for the most Captain’s Breakfast ordered in one go, DimExcuses.

Captain's Breakfast Port Eynon

Now powered by a Captain’s Breakfast we head off under the clouds along the Wales Coast Path to Oxwich. Sometimes it was a straight and narrow path,  a very narrow path.

Gower the straight and narrow path

We passed another group using a map. No maps for us, just keep the sea to your right. That seemed to work as we successfully got to Oxwich. A quick pint of Gower Gold to wash away the remains of that breakfast and then we were off across the beach.

Apint of Gower Gold at Oxwich

The beach was quickly followed by a climb over Great Tor to Three Cliffs.

Climbing Great Tor

The tide was in so we had to climb over Three Cliffs too.

Three Cliffs DimExcuses Walk

From Three Cliffs it was a walk to the South Gate Club for some more Gower Gold before the final leg through Pwll Du Bay and finishing in The Joiners Arms in Bishopston for several pints of Three Cliffs Gold.

No map, no compass

With weary feet and big smiles we finished the epic walk and narrowly avoided the heavy rain. You can see all the photos from our adventure in the gallery below. We are all looking forward to the DimExcuses end of summer walk next year. You should come, DimExcuses.

None like it hot. Swansea Bay 10k 2016.

Swansea Bay 10k 2016

What a lovely day in Swansea Bay, unless you were planning on running 10 kilometers on the seafront in Swansea Bay 10k 2016. One of the best road races in the UK, the virtually flat course takes in the wide sweep of Swansea Bay along the Wales Coast Path. You can read a km by km guide to the course here.

Winner Swansea Bay 10k 2016

The weather was warm with little wind, hot conditions for a long road race. The Kenyans above just took it in their stride leading the race from the beginning. But you didn’t have to wait long to see some familiar Swansea runners. Andrew Frazier setting a blistering pace.

Frazier Swansea Bay 10k 2016

Chris Jones was next smashing almost 10 minutes off his time from last year.

Chris Jones Swansea Bay 10k 2016

You can see photos from Swansea Bay 10k 2015 here.

You can see photos from Swansea Bay 10k 2014 here.

You can see photos from Swansea Bay 10k 2013 here.

A familiar face in Swansea Bay 10k photos above, Sam Donaldson was running this year too. Here he is at just past the 2km mark at Blackpill.

Sam Donaldson Swansea Bay 10k 2016

Closely followed by another Swansea Bay 10k veteran Luke Millward.

Luke Millward Swansea Bay 10k 2016

Jan Lawrence was next completing her second year in the Swansea Bay 10k, running for the Salisbury NICU premature baby unit that had just treated her latest grandson.

Jan Swansea Bay 10k 2016

This year the sisters were doing it for themselves, with both my sister and sister-in-law running. First to reach us at 2km was my sister-in-law Caz.

High Five! Caz. Swansea Bay 10k 2016

My sister Michelle wasn’t far behind, cheered on by a big family turn out.

Michelle Swansea Bay 10k 2016

The great thing about spectating at Blackpill is as soon as most of the runners are past you the elite runners are running back on the promenade behind you. So I ran over to my usual spot to catch the runners coming over the bridge. Here is the fight for first place.

Swansea Bay 10k Winner. Battle for first place.

The first women runner was an equally fierce battle.

Women's Race Winner Swansea Bay 10k 2016

The rest of the elite runners were next.

Superman 2016

The usual suspects weren’t far behind them. Andrew Frazier not dropping any pace in the heat.

Andrew Swansea Bay 10k 2016

Chris Jones setting a personal best for this race.

Chris Jones Swansea Bay 10k 2016

There he goes, jostling for places on the hill climb.

Hill race

Some were taking it a little less seriously.

Ian in a Tutu. Swansea Bay 10k 2016

But there were still some seriously fast runners in the far from ideal hot conditions. It was the lack of wind more than the temperature.

None like it hot. Swansea Bay 10k 2016

I just missed Sam Donaldson on his return run. Here is his back as he climbs the hill.

Sam Swansea Bay 10k 2016

Frances Samuel was the next familar face I spotted in the crowds.

Frances Swansea Bay 10k 2016

The hill being her least favorite part of the course.

Frances Samuel Swansea Bay 10k 2016

Clare was the next to tackle the hill.

Claire Swansea Bay 10k 2016

I even spotted one of my old students, giving a big thumbs up.

Swansea Bay 10k Sept 2016

Luke looked pleased to have got to almost 8km into the race.

Luke Swansea Bay 10k 2016

My nieces were thrilled to see their mum Caz safely past the Blackpill bridge…

Caz crosses the bridge

…and onto the hill. I thought Grace would start running with her.

Caz Bidder Swansea Bay 10k 2016

My Sister Michelle was marking a return to the 10k after having a baby and was joined by her fellow Paul Popham running club members.

Paul Popham Runners Swansea Bay 10k 2016

Just demolishing the hill towards the final 2km.

Paul Popham Running Club

Was that sports development legend Tom Jones I spotted amidst this year’s runners? Surely not?

Tom Swansea Bay 10k 2016

It was all over too fast.

Paul Popham Team

It certainly was a hot one, and none like it hot! Everyone made it home safe though and all had a big smile on their face. A fantastic Swansea Bay 10k 2016, see you next year, DimExcuses.

Finding Our Epic. End of Summer 2016.

Find Your Epic

Find your epic, was the challenge set out by Visit Wales this Summer. They asked people to photograph great things around Wales and post those photos with the hashtag #FindYourEpic.

#findyourepic

To increase awareness of this marketing campaign Visit Wales had a giant Epic Sign made and placed at breathtaking venues around Wales. Controversial maybe, but shouldn’t all social media campaigns encourage debate? Like Porthcawl’s #SelfieBench. The one thing you have to agree about this sign though is at its massive size, is certainly is epic. Here I have added Grant and Andrea for scale.

DimExcuses #FindYourEpic

Returning to Rhossili for more surfing with the Halpin-Jones clan, a two foot swell with a slight sideshore wind and blazing sun meant we were going to find our South Wales Epic with or without a giant sign.

find your epic surf at Rhossili Gower

The waves were pretty epic, and as always so was the Rhossili view.

Rhossili View

We had to get straight down to the beach and catch some waves.

findyourepic surf

My waterproof camera coming in really useful again.

Epic DimExcuses

Some really epic waves were to be had in the end of summer sun.

Surf DimExcuses

If you really want to find your epic, the view of Wormshead from the sun soaked, surf line up, has to be a contender.

Find Your Epic Wormshead

Exhausting work, this finding your epic.

DimExcuses Shattered

The endless supply of good waves to surf was taking its tole.

Epic

Line after line was rolling into Rhossili Bay. Forming classic Gower blue lines like corduroy.

Gower Blue Lines

You always have to get just one more last wave.

Surf Gower

But with the tide going out, that long walk back up the cliff was looming over us, and it was time to get back to the car park.

Low tide Rhossili

We had a prime spot in the bottom field, with our vans having an unblocked view of Wormshead.

DimExcuses VW

The whole crew wanted a #FindYourEpic selfie in front of the Epic Sign.

Epic DimExcuses Crew

Even Sharon and I had to get our picture by the sign, Molly will be gutted she missed this adventure.

Mark & Sharon, DimExcuses

The great thing about this time of year, is by the time you have finished surfing and had a bit of a chill out in the field, the sun starts to go down on the icon Wormshead. Being the furthest west point in Gower there is nothing between Wormshead and the sunset.

sunset at Wormshead

Truly epic.

Epic Wormshead

So we found our epic, now go and find yours, DimExcuses.