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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The best of South Gower in one day.

We often have visitors down over the summer. It is amazing that those from further afield tend to embrace the must see sites, while family and friends often neglect the little gems on their doorstep. So this summer we have been sharing our favorite beaches with all our visitors. At the start of the summer we took some family members on our legendary Three Cliffs Pobbles Loop, and last week we introduced some more family to the fantastic Pwll Du Bay.

Our guided trips must be popular, because this week we had more visitors wanting to see the best of South Gower in one day. So we had to start with that legendary Three Cliffs Bay, Pobbles Bay loop that goes past Pennard Castle. You can read all about the route here, or you can see our strava route here. I am also using the Relive app so here is a 3D aerial video of our route too.

The view from Pennard Castle of Three Cliffs Bay is fantastic, as you can see above. You can then walk around the golf course to the headland, or if the tide is out you can take the steep walk down into the valley. You may need a hand…

If you think that looks tricky you should checkout how the Darth Mannion Beach and Swamp Run Challenge runners descend it at speed. Once down in Three Cliffs Valley it is a much more of a gentle stroll, that then opens up into an incredible view of Three Cliffs itself. You can read my DimExcuses Three Cliffs Beach Guide here.

With the tide out you can climb through the cave in Three Cliffs and get through to Pobbles Bay. It is a massive beach at low tide.

You can read my DimExcuses Pobbles Beach Guide here. Right out on its furthest east corner is the headland of Shirecombe. You can find some serious rock gullies here full of seaweed and rock pool residents. If you know what you are doing you can look for edible crabs here too, but please respect the tide, it can come in behind you fast!

Once we had taken in both Three Cliffs Bay and Pobbles Bay we took the path out of Pobbles up to Pennard Golf Club and back to our van. We took our guests to the dog friendly Beaufort Pub in Kittle (other Gower Pubs are available) for some light bites and a pint of Gower Gold.

A standard Three Cliffs adventure that you can see many times on this website, but today was all about getting the best of South Gower in one day. So we got back in the van and headed to the furthest West point in Gower, the world famous Rhossili Bay. You can read my DimExcuses Rhossili Beach Guide here.

The National Trust have taken over the car park at Rhossili it is really well run with fantastic friendly staff. With loads of parking you have loads that you can see and do. If you are a really hardy walker you can walk down to the beach itself, or if you really want to find your epic you can surf Rhossili Bay! Both activities will require a tough climb back up the path to the headland.

For the less energetic, I would recommend staying on the headland and taking the short walk out to the Coastguard Hut by Worms Head causeway. It is here that you can take the walk to Worms Head itself, but that is a serious adventure that you will have to plan in advance taking into account the tide times. The causeway is only open at certain times of the tide. You wouldn’t want to get stuck out there!

We just stayed on the headland and took in the panoramic views.

All the best of South Gower in one day! Maybe you can take your visitors on the same adventure. 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.

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.

Riding More, Rhossili 20th & 21st August 2016. #RideMore

DimExcuses Surf Rhossili

August has been a great month for surfing. In my mission to just simply #RideMore I managed to get down Rhossili Bay, Gower on both Saturday and Sunday, 20th & 21st of August 2016.

Rhossili, Gower August 2016

The Saturday had a consistent swell, but it was slightly windy. Apart from the wind it was fun in the sun and definitely worth getting in the water. It must have been perfect conditions (10 mph onshore wind) for paragliding as there were loads of them in the air, launching off Rhossili Down. Look closely below, I don’t know how those paragliders don’t hit each other?

Paragliding Rhossili Gower August 2016

I was joined by regular DimExcuses surfer Darren Green, keen to get some use out of his new 7’6″ mini-mal.

DimExcusesSurf Rhossili

A busy summer day meant that the bottom field was open as a car park, which is my preferred base when surfing Rhossili. We had a few obligatory car park photographs before taking the long walk down to the beach below.

Mark Blackmore DimExcuses

We had a good two hours in the water and we were super stoked. So I was really pleased when I got a chance to return the next day with my girlfriend Sharon’s family to collectively surf Rhossili again. It was a great chance to continue teaching the kids to surf.

Teaching the kids to surf

The surf had dropped off slightly, but the wind had also dropped making perfect conditions for learning with perfect small waves coming into Rhossili Bay in straight blue lines.

Blue Lines Rhossili

And as always we were flanked by the impressive Wormshead.

Wormshead Rhossili Gower

Molly my French Bulldog cross joined us, taking charge from the camper van…

Molly at Wormshead

…and checking out the surf from the car park.

Bulldog Surf watch Rhossili Bay

Again we got our favorite basecamp spot in the lower car park because it has possibly the best view of Wormshead without actually walking out to the Coastguard Station.

Big Landmark, Small Bulldog, Rhossili August 2016

There are clear views to the North too, giving Molly a great view of Burry Holms and Pembrey beyond.

Gower Bulldog

Enough of the headland, we were soon down on the beach and in the water. Everyone was getting their share of waves.

Surfing Rhossili

Including me.

DimExcuses Surf

The great thing about surfing at Rhossili is the magnificent view of Rhossili Down rising up above the beach. This is the natural beauty that Gower is so well known for.

Surfing Rhossili #RideMore

It is probably best to look where you are going though and save the view for the walk back up afterwards.

Catching that wave

Molly insisted on getting in the mix, dragging her stick into the waves.

Rhossili Waves

All the time we were catching waves we were in the shadow of Wormshead.

DimEXcuses Surf Gower

Even when just chilling out back.

Chilling Out Back Wormshead

Weary from a long surf it was just a case of doing that punishing walk back up to the car park.

DimExcuses & Dog

A great weekend surfing, I am definitely riding more, and I hope to #RideMore as we go into Autumn, DimExcuses.

#RideMore 4, 5,& 6. Summer 2016.

DimExcuses Surf

It took a while but after making a resolution to just #RideMore (bikes, boards and waves) finally I am out nearly every day. Unfortunately this has meant the blog has suffered and not seen enough updates. So with no more delays here is what I have been doing. A late improvement in summer weather saw me surfing Sker Beach within Kenfig National Nature Reserve. It was the usual hard walk to the remote beach I regularly surf.

How to get to Sker Beach

No photos of the beach this time, but here are some shots of the Nature Reserve.

Kenfig Nature Reserve

Since getting our French Bulldog, Boston Terrier cross, Molly my mountainbike riding has suffered. Her little legs, as fast as they are, can’t keep up with a bike for long. So instead of riding I spend most of my time walking the Gower beaches with Molly. Here she is.

Frenchton Molly

But in August I was able to get out on the bike in Pembrey Country Park. Here is the fine steed.

DimExcusesRide

Molly was not impressed that she was being left out of the adventures.

Dim riding for Molly

Pembrey Country Park is great for a bike ride as it is relatively flat and perfectly positioned on the Millennium Coastal Path, a fantastic bike friendly section of the Wales Coastal Path. There is a viewpoint you can cycle up to and see all the way across to Gower, Rhossili Bay, and Wormshead.

View of Gower from Pembrey Park

Even though Molly didn’t come on the ride she was still as tired as us when we finished riding.

Let sleeping dogs lie.

With a surf and ride under my belt my #RideMore plan was finally starting to come together. Next I headed to Newgale, Pembrokeshire with my girlfriend Sharon’s family. I have surfed Newgale many times, but this time I was teaching the kids and had my waterproof camera with me. Helping the DimExcuses next generation get the bug for surfing.

DimExcuses Surf next gen

Newgale is a great place to learn to surf, with consistent ride-able waves breaking into a safe sandy bay. The best way to teach learners is to push them into waves and let then experience riding the wave all the way in lying down. This helps the learner truly understand what the exhilaration of riding  a wave feels like. To catch a wave you need to be travelling as fast or faster that that wave is moving when it gets to you. Learners often can’t get that speed and a little push can get them on the wave.

Learning to Surf

The kids were keen to learn, look at the concentration on his little face below.

DimExcuses Surf School

It wasn’t long before they were catching waves all on their own.

Surf Newgale

With the surfing stoke passed on to the next generation we sat down to watch a fabulous Pembrokeshire sunset over Newgale Bay.

Newgale Sunset

So two surfs, one ride and a whole load of fun at the end of summer. I also intend to #RideMore as we get into Autumn and my favorite month Surftember, DimExcuses.

Mentro 20. Surfing All Saints Day, Rhossili Bay, Gower 1st November 2015.

Surfing All Saints Day

It is the 1st November already, All Saints Day, or as it used to be known All Hallows Day. Which is why it is preceded by All Hallows Eve, or as it is called now Halloween. Well it is here and El Nino has let Gower have some unseasonable sun and warm weather.

Rhossili Bay 1st November

With water temperatures still cool rather than cold I headed for Rhossili Bay, Gower and the first of the winter swells.

Misty Rhossili

As well as the unusual weather we also had an unusual south easterly wind, which means offshore winds and clean blue lines. Perfect accompaniment to that solid winter swell.

Surf Rhossili

I managed to join fellow Gower surfer and South Wales surf twitterer Paul (@b_bstephens on twitter). He was getting a lot of waves in the clean conditions. We were surfing on the falling tide and the wind was increasing as we lost the cover of Rhossili headland.

Low tide Rhossili Bay, Gower

The sun had brought the autumn tourists out and the car park was a lot busier than when I took a similar photo of my board in a previous autumn visit to Rhossili Bay, Gower.

Rhossili Bay Car Park

With the sun out and the air so warm for autumn some people were making the most of the Worms Head Hotel beer garden, and there were plenty of surfers to entertain them below.

Worms Head Hotel

The strange weather soon saw an eerie sea mist descend on the horizon. Unusual autumn conditions indeed.

Sea Mist Rhossili Gower

Great weather, great surf and the winter chill is still staying away. El Nino is growing on me.

Gower Surfing

So this was Mentro 20 in my #Mentro21 challenge to surf 21 times this year. Just one more surf to go, DimExcuses.

The Usual Suspects. DimExcuses Big Gower Walk 2015.

DimExcuses Big Gower Walk

It has taken me a month to get these photos up. Every September we take the first Gower bus to Rhossili Bay, and then walk 19 miles on the South Gower coast to the finish in Bishopston. It is like a end of summer ritual, and it is great to see all the usual suspects on the bus each year.

Gower Bus

The starting line up for the DimExcuses Big Gower Walk 2015.

DimExcuses Usual Suspects

You can read about the DimExcuses Big Gower Walk, 2013 by clicking here.

And the following years’ DimExcuses Big Gower Walk, 2014 by clicking here.

Big Dogs

Starting in Rhossili the sun was low and Rhossili Down cast a long shadow across the bay. A lovely wave coming in too.

Morning Gower Sun

A quick toilet stop, and we head off across the fields towards Port Eynon, soaking up the morning dew in our running trainers. This distance is a bit far for hiking boots. Unless you are really used to your boots, blisters are inevitable. I also advise having two changes of socks.

DimExcuses Dire Wolves

The dew wasn’t a problem for Huw and Sarah in their Gortex Trail Shoes. They also brought their massive Dire Wolves straight out of Game of Thrones.

The Wolves

We were lucky with some lovely sun all day. By the time we powered in Port Eynon the sun had burned away the early morning mist.

Port Eynon bound

An essential full cooked breakfast stop at Port Eynon and then it was back onto the Wales Coast Path.

Wales Coast Path

Making our way to Oxwich Bay along the Gower Coast. It wasn’t long before we were in the Oxwich Bay Hotel, checking in with family and picking up some more walkers.

Oxwich

We waved good bye to Huw, Sarah and the Wolf Pack at Oxwich, and gained Tony and his dog Ness. Of course we also picked up Molly the French Bulldog.

Molly on the Big Gower Walk

It was only a matter of time before Molly was at the front, giving advice as we approached Three Cliffs Bay as she knows it so well.

DimExcuses Walk

This is a fantastic walk, and the huge Oxwich Bay section just has to be barefoot all the way in the Gower seawater.

Ade on the Gower Walk

That Oxwich Bay walk seems to go on forever.

Oxwich Bay Walk

The tide was out at Great Tor for once, so we were just able to splash around it and into Three Cliffs Bay itself.

Splashing around Great Tor, Gower

From Three Cliffs it was a short walk into Pobbles Bay. Molly never more at home than when she is in Pobbles Bay, but a herd of cows on Three Cliffs was a new one even for her!

Cows at Pobbles Bay, Gower

A quick liquid refreshment stop at the Southgate Club and then it was onto the final section of Pennard Cliffs and down into Pwll Du Bay.

Pennard Cliffs

By this point we have seen nearly all the South Gower Coast and its great Bays.

Wales Coast Path Pwll Du

We are a weary bunch at this point, before the final finishing leg.

DimExcuses Walk

But once out of Pwll Du, we arrive in Bishopston and the finish at the Joiners Arms. Good thing the Joiners is a micro brewery, because we deserve a pint of Three Cliffs Gold after nine hours and 19 miles walking.

DimExcuses Walk Finish, the Joiners Arms

Another year gone, another summer ended, the seventh Big Gower Walk completed. I expect to see you all there next year, DimExcuses.

Mentro 19. Sunset Dreaming, Rhossili, Gower 11th October 2015

Wormshead Sunset

On Thursday I surfed Rhossili Bay as the sun started to set.  Three days later I was back there, slightly later in the day and with the days now a fraction shorter. The result of which was surfing even closer to the Autumn sunset. This was the 19th surf in my #Mentro21 project to surf 21 times this year.

Surf Colt Sunset

Surely the west facing Wormshead at Rhossili has to be one of the best views that you can frame with a sunset. This time I was joined by regular DimExcuses surfer Darren Green, joining me for some one foot glass with a slight breath of offshore wind.

Rhossili Glass

Two hands on the camera meant that some pre-surf selfies could be taken.

Darren Rhossili

Darren above and myself below.

DimExcuses Rhossili

We got an hour and a half in the water making the most of glassy sets that rolled into Rhossili Bay. Large gaps between sets made paddling out an ease.

Blue Lines Rhossili

The shortening Autumn evenings meant that we made our way out of the surf as the sun started to set, producing some fantastic photos after we had changed and packed up.

Rhossili Bay Sunset

We weren’t the only ones taking in the fading light and sunset dreaming.

Sunset Dreaming

A spectacular sunset, even better than last Thursday. Now though we are wearing winter suits and boots surely won’t be far behind. Tomorrow the first frost is forecast and it will be a return to coldwater surfing as I face my last two #Mentro21 surfs, DimExcuses.

 

Mentro 18. Autumn Warmth, Rhossili Bay, Gower 8th October 2015.

Mentro 18 Rhossili

Autumn is like one great big sunset on the year. Surftember moves into October as leaves brown and fall from the trees. It hasn’t been the best summer and even Surftember didn’t live up to its name. El Nino has ruined the party like a drunken ex-boyfriend crashing an engagement do.

Surf Rhossili

But today on Gower, October offered up some post storm swell and some Autumn sun. So I headed for my usual break, Rhossili Bay. The air is cooling but the high thermal inertia of the sea means it is still a summer 14 degrees C. Air and water almost becoming the same temperature. So I notched up my eighteenth (Mentro 18) surf in my #Mentro21 project to surf 21 times this year.

Mentro 18

Having the day off for my birthday, celebrating 42 years since I came kicking and screaming into this world, I decided to spend it kicking, paddling and screaming into some clean two foot sets in the October sun. I either saw a Portuguese Man-o-war type jellyfish or an inflated plastic bag pretending to be a Portuguese Man-o-war jellyfish. Either way I gave it a wide berth. I also got a scare from a large bass that decided to jump a couple of feet out of the water right next to me, as I sat on my board out back.

Clean Rhossili

There was not a breath of wind. A great change for a usually wind blown Gower.  These two had the best seat in the house to watch the waves.

Best Seat in the House Rhossili

The best thing about October surfing is that by late afternoon everything becomes a sunset.

Rhossili Sunset

I had the sea and pretty much the car park to myself, “after the boys of summer have gone” as Don Henly would say.

Gower Sunset

So the sun sets on Mentro 18, leaving three sessions to go to complete the #Mentro21 project, DimExcuses.