Derek Brockway takes wonderful walks in Wales. Derek looks at the mystery of the ringing stones in the Preseli Hills, Bluestone country, then reveals a hidden bay close to Swansea.
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just a few miles from a city of more than 200,000 people.
But there's hardly anyone else here.
The secret is you have to walk to get here.
Are you ready?
Absolutely stunning, isn't it.
This is Three Cliffs Bay on Gower's south coast.
Spend a few hours here and you'll understand why, back in 1956,
it became Britain's first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
'From Langland Bay to Worm's Head, this entire coastline is gorgeous.
'And today, we'll be going to one of Gower's hidden bays.'
For our first walk, though, we're heading west to Pembrokeshire.
Not along the coastal path, no, we're going inland and uphill
to the highest point on the Preseli hills, Bluestone country.
'Think of Pembrokeshire and what probably springs to mind
'are beautiful beaches and craggy cliffs.
'But up here in the Preseli hills there's a quite different landscape.
'A wonderfully wild and windswept place
'steeped in the ancient history of standing stones and tomb builders.'
Our walk today starts in the village of Maenclochog,
which means "stones sounding like a bell",
thanks to two rocks near the church which, apparently, when struck
-made a ringing sound.
The church also has a connection with my guide today.
Becky Davies, the vicar of Maenclochog.
'Originally from London, Becky trained as a classical musician
'before becoming a vicar and moving to Maenclochog four years ago.
'Despite, or perhaps because of, her city upbringing
'she loves the place's character and is fascinated by its history.'
-KNOCKS ON DOOR
-Hello, Becky! Shw mae?
Yn iawn, diolch. A chi?
-Da iawn. Nice to meet you.
Listen, I'm sorry about the weather, but have faith, it'll brighten up.
-I hope so.
-Which way are we going?
-Up by there.
'Just six miles inland from Pembrokeshire's north coast,
'this is a walk of contrasts.
'It starts off nice and easy,
'along boardwalks and through a forest,
'then climbs up a broad ridge to the summit of Foel Cwmcerwyn.
'Then it's downhill most of the way,
'joining the ancient Golden Road path and a forestry trail
'to the old slate quarrying village of Rosebush
'and finally, back to Maenclochog.
'Unfortunately, the ringing stones that gave Maenclochog its name
'are no longer here, long-since used for another purpose or destroyed.
'But glance at an OS map of the area
'and you'll see more standing stones and burial chambers
'dotted around the place than you could shake a Celtic cross at!'
I can see two stones standing in this field, here.
-Anything significant about these?
-You'd have to ask experts.
I'm just a vicar, but I reckon they probably go back
four or five thousand years to the ancient peoples that were here.
The whole of the Preseli mountain range acts as a big calculator,
so that you can tell when to plant your crops,
when to harvest, when to do a religious thing.
Archaeologists have discovered, up on Carn Menyn,
that a high proportion of stones, if you hit them ring like bells.
-They make a sound.
-Like a metal bell. It doesn't sound like rock.
I could show you one at Pentre Ifan.
You can hit it and plays two notes with harmonics.
If you tap it with the palm of your hand, it sort of goes, "Dong"
instead of, "Phht". Stone should go, "Phht", but it doesn't.
Maybe these stones could help me forecast the weather.
It could tell you what season it was. You said it would get brighter.
Let's go and see if it does.
'Not so long ago, this path would've been impassable on days like today
'but thanks to Becky and friends, who persuaded the council to help,
'this is now a pleasant alternative to the busy road
'as a way to reach the hills.'
Oh, we're going onto a boardwalk, now.
Yeah, this is part of opening it all up and making it accessible.
Before, you had to wade through here in your wellies.
If you look here, it's not proper solid ground.
It's a bit betwixt and between.
It's not water and it's not ground. It's a bog.
This has all been newly done so you don't sink.
And our feet will stay nice and dry.
'So what would've been a boggy path
'is now a delightful stroll through a glade
'that leads to an enchanting, mossy wood
'where a boardwalk gives way to a soft carpet of pine needles.'
Oh! Look at the mushrooms!
Here we are, out of the woods.
-Look, the rain has stopped.
Mind you, I wouldn't rule out a few showers later on.
No. Probably not.
-Where to from here?
-We want to end up over there.
Foel Cwmcerwyn. This is where we turn left to go right.
Up here and then we take the ridge along to Foel Cwmcerwyn.
-Like that. We'll just pick up the path by here.
Hang on a minute.
Can't hear a thing.
It's not a ringer. You'd know if it was. They make a funny noise.
-I could be a bit deaf.
-No, you'd know. Really, you'd know.
Over another stile, onto a grassy track.
-Does it go all the way to the top?
Yeah, it goes up to Foel Cwmcerwyn.
We've turned back on ourselves, we're going the way we want to go,
instead of against ourselves.
-It looks nice and easy.
Much easier than picking your way through gorse.
See on either side now we've got wimberry bushes.
A month or so ago, it would've been packed with them.
-I make muffins for my baby from them.
Just what you need on a day's walk.
-Is that the summit, there?
-That's the top, Foel Cwmcerwyn.
-Hopefully we'll get some good views there.
-I think we'll be lucky.
I think so.
'But if there's one place you're going to get wet in Pembrokeshire,
'it's on the first hill in the way of weather coming off the Atlantic!'
-It is very wet.
-It's wet sock-making kind of terrain, isn't it?
Hopefully that cloud will blow away.
'But for the moment, that's still wishful thinking.
-Well, we've finally made it.
-The top of Foel Cwmcerwyn.
-That's it. You got it.
-Fancy a cup of tea?
-I'd love a cup of tea! I'd do anything for one!
Song: "5 Years Time" by Noah and the Whale
-Cup of tea, vicar?
-Yes. Thank you.
-Bet you get that all the time.
All the time! Always the same joke!
So we've seen bits of the view when the cloud has lifted.
What can you see through here?
When it clears, what you see in that direction is Foel Drygarn.
You've got a picture in your rucksack, I think.
Let's have a look at these pictures.
That's on the other end of the mountain.
It's Drygarn, it's got three cairns on the top of it.
That's a Celtic hill fort.
-What's this, here?
-In the front, you've got Bedd Arthur.
Beyond that you've got Carn Menyn. It's all jaggeddy.
They're natural outcrops of rock,
that's where they took the Bluestones from.
You know you hit a rock and said, "Does it ring?", lots of them ring.
-Yes. That's where the ringing stones came from
and the stones probably for Stonehenge and all that jazz.
It's clearing again.
# ..All down our necks and there'll be
# Sun, sun, sun
# All over our faces and sun, sun, sun.#
We've come down off the hill and it's getting a bit squelchy again.
Yes. The path has got worse even though the weather got better.
Actually, boggy places were special to the ancient peoples
because they're not quite land and they're not quite water.
They're sort of an in-betweeny and liminal place.
So it's like a land picture of a spiritual reality.
It's this world and the other world.
And the way you can see your reflection in it too.
So it's like your soul and you.
In old Welsh thinking, the whole of this mountain range was 'Annwn',
which is the Otherworld.
So it might be the Otherworld because it's got lots of bogs!
There's another one of those stones over here.
Just look at that though.
The colour difference on the side compared to this side here.
It's completely different, isn't it?
You can see why they called it bluestone.
Look how blue the fresh bit is compared to where you've got all the weather coming in.
If you take a bit of the blue stuff and polish it all night,
it goes navy blue and it ends up with little white bits in it
and it looks like the night sky.
So if you're going to build something like Stonehenge
to calculate what stars do and stuff,
that's a pretty apt thing to make it out of.
It really is very distinctive, the colour.
Pretty rare anyway.
We're on the Golden Road now, going through this little gate.
-The Golden Road.
-Why is it called that?
Because it's not just any old track way.
Look how far it goes in that direction,
and in the other direction it went all the way to the coast.
They traded salt and gold from the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland on it.
So which way are we going? This way or that way?
The road goes both ways but we're going that way
because we want to go to the pub, down to Rosebush to Tafarn Sinc.
-Tafarn Sinc, here we go.
'I shall have to come back another time
'to follow the Golden Road to the east for a closer look
'at the standing stones of Bedd Arthur
'and the burial cairns of Foel Drygarn.
'Now though, west is best for a short distance along the Golden Road
'before turning on to a forestry trail,
'leading down towards the old slate quarrying village of Rosebush.'
You can see why it was called Rosebush
because it's actually meant to be Rhos y Bwlch.
-Rhos y Bwlch.
-Yes. Like where the pass is.
The head of where the pass is in the mountains.
I suppose in some ways if you're from Swindon
then it's easier to say Rosebush than,
"I'm off to Rhos y Bwlch for the weekend."
The landscape has changed and so has the geology.
We've left the bluestones behind and now I can see slate.
That's quite unusual for this part of the country, isn't it?
It is really, because if you say 'slate' and 'Wales',
you often think of North Wales.
If we turn down this path here, we'll take you alongside the quarry then.
'It might not have been of the same quality as North Wales slate,
'but for a period around the 1860s, there was a wide demand
'for this slate because of its attractive colouring.
'But slate production finished here in 1891,
'70 years or so before the more famous North Wales quarries
'began to close.'
So here we are in Rosebush or Rhos y Bwlch in Welsh.
-And a nice row of little houses here.
It's called The Terrace,
and it's where all the slate workers used to live
when the quarry was in operation.
It's still a thriving community.
What's this building here?
It used to be a post office and now it's a bistro and tea rooms.
Really good home cooking and things. Cracking curry!
'Built of Rosebush slate in 1870 for the local quarry master,
'the old post office is now Pembrokeshire's highest restaurant.'
-Thank you vicar!
-So this is Tafarn Sinc?
It is and it used to be the Station Hotel.
As you can see, we're in a station.
Yes. There's a platform here, a railway line,
and they've even got models of people
who look like they're frozen in time.
You can even hear the sound of a steam train in the distance.
I think it's coming from that little shed.
-Do you want to go in and have a look inside?
-Can you see all the crinkliness of the walls?
It's corrugated iron. That's why it's called Tafarn Sinc, as in zinc.
It makes sense!
'A quirky corrugated crimson shed,
'Tafarn Sinc is not in fact unique in this part of Pembrokeshire.
'But these distinctive tin buildings,
'built towards the end of the 19th Century, are rapidly disappearing,
'though they have a charm and character well worth preserving.'
It's amazing, isn't it?
-Look, Jamie's left his long johns here!
There's all sorts of things if you look carefully
all over the ceiling and all over the walls.
-And sawdust on the floor.
-Lots of sawdust.
'This is what many modern theme pubs aspire to but don't quite pull off.
'Tafarn Sinc feels really authentic and homely
'with lots of original photographs and random old artefacts,
'including a 12-year-old ham.
'And by all accounts,
'it's a brilliant place for a good old fashioned sing song.'
-Shall we have a quick drink before we head back to Maenclochog?
Diolch yn fawr.
Mae'n flasus iawn. Bendigedig!
-So where to next?
-Back home to the vicarage.
We'll go back down along the path we came up this morning.
-I've got to say, that was a fantastic walk.
Thanks very much.
Lots of history, wonderful views and real Pembrokeshire weather!
You can't beat it!
'If you fancy trying one of our walks from the series,
'go to bbc.co.uk/wales
'and take a look at our interactive Weatherman Walking website.
'It has everything you need,
'from detailed route information for each walk,
'as well as photos that we took,
'and walking maps for you to print off and follow.
'For the next walk in this programme,
'we head for Gower's south coast for a varied walk
'along cliff tops, beaches and a wooded valley.'
This is the coastal path that goes from Mumbles to Langland
and on to here, Caswell Bay.
A lovely walk. It's very accessible and very popular.
But we're going to go slightly off the beaten track
to find a hidden gem of a walk
that starts here at Caswell and goes that-a-way.
'To show me the way and tell me what's special about this area
'is National Trust warden, Sarah Stevens.
'Sarah has been warden here on Gower for eight years.
'She loves the outdoors and when she went on a National Trust holiday as a youngster,
'thought the wardens had a cool job and would like to do it herself.
'And now she does!
'Caswell Bay, the start of our walk,
'is a very popular award-winning Blue Flag beach
'with plenty of sand, waves to surf
'and rock pools to explore at low tide.'
I know we're not taking that path which goes to Mumbles,
so which way are we going today?
The tide's out so we can start along the beach and join the path.
If the tide was in, we'd need to go along the road.
'Just a few miles west of Swansea on Gower's south coast,
'our walk takes us from the beach at Caswell Bay
'up on to the cliff top path to Brandy Cove and Pwlldu Bay.
'Then it's a short sharp climb up on to Pwlldu Head
'and on to Pennard Cliffs.
'Turning inland, we drop down into the wooded Bishopston Valley,
'then return to join the path at Brandy Cove and back to Caswell.'
I can see there's a lifeguard station on the beach, keeping an eye on the surfers and swimmers.
It's so busy, it's good to have them here so they can help keep you safe
-through the summer months.
-Not many surfers in today.
It's pretty flat.
Not good surfing but maybe if you're brave enough to swim.
'The flat bit of the walk doesn't last long,
'as we now head for a short climb up steep and narrow steps
'somewhere here in the corner of the bay.'
Brandy Cove, that's an interesting name.
Yes, we'll be going there. It's one of our stops on the way.
Has it got anything to do with alcohol?
Path's a bit narrow in places, isn't it?
It is a bit, but if you just look where you're walking
and take your time, it's fine. Just take advantage of the great views.
-And a big drop down there!
'Fortunately, that's the biggest drop out of the way.
'From here on, the path is very safe.
'But I wouldn't recommend flip flops for this walk
'and I'd stay off the brandy as well!'
So this is Brandy Cove.
Yes. It used to be called Herslake Cove but it got renamed Brandy Cove
because of its connections with smuggling.
It's a narrow cove so they could get the boats in
and take off the tobacco and the alcohol.
Then it was all dispersed amongst the villagers and further afield.
So it got renamed Brandy Cove.
They also used to bring small boats in to load lead ore from the mine down there.
-Let's take a look.
-Let's go this way.
# All you hardy miners help us sing this song.#
-This is the old silver-lead mine.
-Yes, one of them.
There were a few in this area.
Worked in about the 1700s and 1800s for silver-lead.
Not necessarily extensively worked.
Maybe not too much ore there to make it worthwhile.
-I wouldn't want to go in there.
-It's a bit dark, cold and narrow.
-I don't want to go in either!
-Let's carry on then.
# A lovely day, lovely day Lovely day, lovely day.#
Another amazing view, Sarah.
Yes. The sandy bay along there, that's Pwlldu Bay, where we're heading to.
-It's beautiful, isn't it?
-It is, and we're so lucky with the weather.
So this is Pwlldu, which means 'black pool'.
Yes. The river that comes through here is called Bishopston Pill.
It quite often runs beneath the shingle bank,
but due to recent heavy rain falls it's burst through the shingle bank
and formed what we can see now.
A few high tides and that will push the shingle bank back up again.
So if I came here another time, it could look different.
Shall we see if we can cross over and keep our feet dry?
Yes. After you!
Here we go!
-You didn't get your feet wet!
-No, not quite!
'It really is hard to believe that this secluded bay
'is literally just down the road from the city of Swansea.
'It just needs a little bit of effort to get here.'
-This is a beautiful little cove.
But at one time, it used to be very busy with shipping.
Yes. The limestone quarrying was quite big business here.
The ships would come in on high water, get rid of their ballast,
which formed this shingle bank.
They would have anchored up at Ring Rock over there.
At low water, the rocks would have been slid down,
loaded on to the ships and next high water,
the boats would have returned to Devon and Cornwall.
So 150 years ago, this place was really busy
with ships coming and going and lots of people as well.
There were possibly 200 people employed here
and it was the last quarry to close on Gower in 1902.
It's hard to believe it now because it's so quiet here.
Just how I like it.
'Behind the pebble bank are two houses that were once pubs.
'At the height of the quarrying,
'there were actually five pubs in the bay.
'Enough for the quarrymen to go on a pub crawl.
'Ship Cottage, built in the 1600s, was called The Ship Inn,
'and Beaufort House was The Beaufort Arms.'
So all this is National Trust land and Bishopston Valley is that way.
Yes, we're coming into National Trust land now
and we'll be going through Bishopston Valley later.
But first, Pwlldu Head.
'It's a bit of a steep pull on to the headland, the highest on Gower,
'but it's really worth the effort.'
-Well, Sarah, what an amazing view!
-It's pretty cool, isn't it?
We started in Caswell over there
and we followed the coast path down to Pwlldu Bay.
-Look how much the tide's come in.
-We haven't walked that quickly.
'Just below the headland, there's a grassy gully called Grave's End,
'with a circle of limestone rocks
'that indicate the last resting place of some 68 unfortunate souls.'
There was a ship called Caesar in 1760
that was wrecked just off the headland here.
People were battened down below decks,
press-ganged into service for the Navy.
They didn't survive the wreck. The crew supposedly did.
The local villagers then buried the dead in that area there.
-A bit of a sad story.
'As we reach the top of the dramatic limestone cliffs at High Pennard,
'formed a mere 400 million years ago,
'it's now time to turn inland for a complete change of scenery.'
So where are we going now then?
The woodland called Bishopston Valley.
It looks a bit dark down there.
It is in places. I'll look after you!
Look at this, Sarah.
I haven't seen a fungus this big before.
It's bracket fungus. Quite common on big trees.
As you can see, this tree has naturally fallen here
and we've done nothing other than cut the access through it.
It's not a commercially run woodland so when trees fall
we let the insects get on there, fungus grow on there
and put all the nutrients back into the ground
and just cut our way through.
Does the river ever dry up at all?
No, there's always some here,
but further up, we'll lose it underground.
This area here is a bit of a surprise.
I was expecting just to walk through the valley surrounded by trees
and we've got this beautiful, grassy meadow.
Hundreds of years ago there would have been far fewer trees here.
There's an Iron Age fort.
They wouldn't have built that amongst trees.
They would have opened these areas up for grazing.
We try and maintain these meadows, we don't want to lose the grassland.
When the cattle aren't grazing enough for us,
if there's trees encroaching, we'll clear them back.
Derek, this area is known as resurgence.
That means the river reappears here having disappeared under the ground
further up stream.
We've seen a lot of the water today and from here it reappears
all the way down to Pwlldu Bay.
From here on, it flows underground from its source.
We're actually walking on the riverbed at the moment.
-The river is flowing underneath us?
-Yes, at the moment.
'I'm about to see where this river's gone at a place called Guzzle Hole.'
It's a great name because you can hear the water guzzling.
Yes. Here is one of the few places that we can see the river
running underground and it reappears at the resurgence we saw earlier.
Is it safe to come in here?
If we're careful and take our time we should be OK.
This is as far as we'll go.
You can see the water coming in and then disappearing again.
What I really like is the ceiling,
the way the water has cut through the rocks, carved its way through.
It's absolutely amazing. I never get bored in coming here. Stunning.
I suppose we'd better head off to the next place.
My knees are seizing up!
I just want to show you Long Ash Mine,
-an old silver lead mine.
-Like the one we saw in Brandy Cove?
Yes. Possibly worked in roughly the same time.
There's no evidence of a spoil heap here
so we don't think it was extensively worked.
Probably flooded quite often.
There's a big padlock here to keep people out.
It's quite dangerous in there but we know bats roost in there.
-Greater horseshoe bats and lesser horseshoe bats roost there,
possibly others too, and that's why the grills are horizontal
-so they can fly in and out.
This is where we branch off from the riverbed and leave the valley.
What? All the way up there? It's a bit steep, isn't it.
Well, we've got to get out of the valley somehow.
I'll hold on to your rucksack.
We're back into the daylight again.
-Yep, sure are.
-What a difference.
I didn't realise we'd climbed so high.
Look at the view across the treetops.
Not long ago we were down at the bottom of the valley,
hidden amongst all those trees down there.
It's very secluded down there and yet so close to so many people.
Thanks very much, Sarah, for a fascinating and interesting walk.
It's made me realise I must come back to Gower more often in future.
-Be good to see you again.
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Weatherman Derek Brockway takes wonderful walks in two beautiful parts of Wales. Firstly Derek looks at the mystery of the ringing stones in the Preseli Hills, Bluestone country, then he reveals one of Gower's best-kept secrets - a hidden bay close to Swansea.