One of the things that I'd set on our Summer Bucket List was to visit Rhossili beach on the Gower Peninsula with The Boy. It's something that I'd wanted to do for a while with him, having visited it with extended family around seven years ago, but despite it being one of the top three beaches in Europe, I was put off by the steps down the cliff-face. They're perfectly safe, but it's a long way down and therefore a long way back up again for a toilet break!
However, when my sister-in-law suggested at the beginning of the Summer holidays that we go to Oxwich Bay for the day that seemed like the perfect compromise; it's not as far as Rhossili and there isn't a long walk down to the beach from the car park. In fact, the car park stops at the edge of the beach and there are fairly alright shower and toilet facilities within a hundred yard walk of the beach's edge.
I've never been to Oxwich Bay before and I think it has quickly become one of my favourite beaches, because it has everything there; sand, rockpools, wildlife, facilities, decent parking, and more importantly it is sufficiently off the beaten track to not be over-run by tourists.
My sister-in-law had recently undergone some 'Beach Schools' training and guided The Boy and Fiery Cousin around the rockpools, demonstrating how to find crabs and what the difference between a limpet and a barnacle is (guides can be found here). We also learnt the phrase 'Green Is Mean' courtesy of my brother, i.e. algae is slippery, as The Boy found out when he landed on his bottom in a rockpool!
We shared a picnic lunch sprawled out over the sands with the children playing around us. Normally I'm quite cautious at keeping The Boy within a twenty yard distance of us, at Oxwich Bay it is so vast that the next family could well be over 150 yards away and therefore it allows the children a little more freedom to 'free-range' play.
After we'd finished snacking, I showed the children how to create a shell-shaker which they then pranced around with, making music.
As the tide was reaching it's lowest point, my brother was desperate to go cockle-hunting (he's a chef) and so we all waded down to the shoreline to search for the much sought after cockle. We found plenty, but we also found jellyfish, crabs, sea anemones and sea urchins!
As The Boy was beginning to get cold and exhausted, the mums and children trekked back up the beach to our beach tent while the dad continued their search for cockles. My sister-in-law and I glanced down to the shoreline and beyond to the rapidly darkening sky.
This resulted in us quickly gathering our belongings into the tent along with the children. We had three seconds to spare before the quickest rainstorm I have ever come across deluged us! We thanked our lucky stars for the tent until we realised it was vented at the bottom where the children were and they were getting soaked. My sister-in-law raced them up the beach to the shelter, then came back for me and the tent. By which time the dads had returned, drenched to the skin. They were literally dripping! We carried everything back up to the shivering children in the car park and proceeded to assess the damage and dry various bits and bobs off, while standing and laughing hysterically at how wet we all were!
I was astounded at the lack of people who were at the beach that day, even before the rain came. It must surely be one of the best beaches on the south Wales coast with such wonderful ecosystems to explore!
Much of the Gower Peninsula falls under the protection of the National Trust, it currently cares for 157 miles of Welsh coastline. The National Trust are running a competition until the end of October 2013 to find the best loved beach location in their care.
"Tell us why you love your favourite National Trust place and you could win a day’s kayaking and/or coasteering for you and 4 of your friends with our qualified instructors at the amazing Stackpole Quay, Pembrokeshire."
Entry is simple via the I ♥ Welsh Coast app on their Facebook page and takes only a few moments. The most original and inspiring comment will be chosen on the 31st of October and the lucky winner has a year to claim their prize.