Worm’s Head – Welsh 100 No 55

May and June this year has been almost wall to wall sunshine – except that iOS when we stayed on Gower for a few days with the intention of joining up a few sections of the Coastal Path in this area. Well the best laid plans of mice and men were scuppered by the weather – it blooming well rained, not only that it started to blow a gale as well. So long walks along the coast were called off and we decided to walk top the end of Worms Head instead. The last time Aunty and I did this must have been about 30 years ago, and I don’t remember it being as difficult as this! Just to prove the difference 24 hours can make in Wales the first photo of Rhossili Bay was taken the day before when we popped over to check the tide times. And boy the next day was a little different.

Rhossili Bay
The Worm’s Head the day before in all it’s glory. Sun, blue skies even if a little windy.

Worm’s Head is a small tidal island off the tip of Gower, and is relatively easy to get to when the tide is out. But safe pass to and from is only possible 2.5 hours either side of low tide. Don’t be misled by the name of Worm’s Head. The headland was named by the Vikings as Wurm, meaning Dragon. From some angles it is easy to see why. At high tide the causeway is hidden below the water, but the large flat-topped ‘Inner Head’, leads towards a natural rock bridge called ‘Devil’s Bridge’, a ‘Low Neck’ leading further out to the ‘Outer Head’. All this gives an impression of a long sinuous dragon in the water.

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And this is what it looked like on the day. Grey, miserable, wind and wet!
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And so of we set on the first section – Aunty leading the way across the tidal causeway towards the Inner Neck.

It’s not unusual for people to get stranded, while in reality there is no reason to get caught out the tides these days as the safe crossing times are well advertised at the Sea Watch Centre on the top of the cliffs on the mainland. But if you do make a stupid mistake and get stuck you’ll be in good company. Dylan Thomas fell asleep on the Inner Head and missing his tide:

I stayed on that Worm from dusk to midnight, sitting on that top grass, frightened to go further in because of the rats and because of things I am ashamed to be frightened of. Then the tips of the reef began to poke out of the water and, perilously, I climbed along them to the shore.

– Dylan Thomas.

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Once on the Inner Head the next section is to negotiate a set of jagged rocks onto the neck and over the Devil’s Bridge.

Dylan Thomas used to regularly visit Worm’s Head and in his short story, ‘Who Do You Wish Was With Us?’, he wrote:

… Laughing on the cliff above the very long golden beach, we pointed out to each other, as though the other were blind, the great rock of the Worm’s Head. The sea was out. We crossed over on slipping stones and stood, at last, triumphantly on the windy top. There was montrous, thick grass there that made us spring-heeled and we laughed and bounced on it, scaring the sheep who ran up and down the battered sides like goats. Even on this calmest day a wind blew on the Worm.

– Dylan Thomas

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Aunty taunting the Devil on his own bridge. 

There is evidence of what may be an Iron Age fort on the inner neck, but there is very little to see today, and I think you’d need an archaeologists eye to pick it out. The prevailing thought is that it is Iron Age in origin, but may be older.

Worm's Head
At last on the Worm’s Head – If I had any hair you’d be able to see how windy it really was!

But in reality the island itself doesn’t blend itself too much to habitation or farming. There is a story that a local farmer used it to grow a superb crop ion potatoes but the difficulty in getting the crop to market meant he didn’t try again. Sheep have also been used to graze the grass, but again access doesn’t make shepherding an easy task. Today the island is left to to the wildlife and the tip is a protected seabird nesting site. Despite the jagged rocks it is worth the effort. But make sure you check the tides and wear strong shoes.

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The weather got even worse as we started to make our way back.

Oh by the way there is a blow hole right at the end, but we can’t claim witness to it. The day was too windy, too cold, too wet and it only performs at high tide. We had absolutely no intention of being stranded to see it in action.

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Despite the weather it’s always a pleasure to watch seals right underneath your feet.

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