Out Out

I only popped out for milk, but somehow I found myself on the seafront near Swansea Marina watching the waves as the tide reached it’s highest point this morning. There wasn’t much of a wind and I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular but right on the promenade I could see and hear the waves pounding the sea wall. Sure enough, there were plumes of spray bursting high into the air.

I stood and watched for a while before getting the camera out. Not only did I want to make sure I experienced this properly but I also wanted to see what the waves were doing, so I wouldn’t be surprised by a big one and get soaked. Although there wasn’t a pattern I could find, I did notice that waves coming in at a certain angle created the massive spray plumes. I kept an eye out for those waves and waited.

There were others on the promenade walking dogs, jogging, riding bikes and just watching and snapping away, like me. One of the photos I had in mind was of some of those people getting soaked. However, I didn’t want to be a similar subject of someone else’s picture. Between photos, I kept a careful eye on the waves and what they were doing. High tide was around 9am and I didn’t notice any change one the tide was technically going out. In fact, the waves seemed to get stronger as I walked along the promenade towards the docks. I didn’t go far, finding a great vantage point that offered me some protection and a nice view back towards the Guildhall. Looking at the times on the photos, I see I was only there half an hour but it felt like a lot longer.

I headed off to get my milk but once again something went wrong and I found myself in Mumbles. Although the shelter of Bracelet Bay didn’t give rise to many waves, further along seemed to offer more opportunities and I took a stroll along the coastal path to Langland. Along the way I could hear and feel rather than see the waves hitting the cliffs. There was a deep boom at every impact, followed by a much higher pitched hiss as the water receded. At Langland Bay, large pebbles – fist sized of more – had been thrown on to the path and the forecourts of the cafe. As I watched, I saw similar sized pebbles being pushed up the slipway, grating and rattling as they went and occasionally hitting the metal handrail, causing it to ring.

The rain forecast for later this morning started a little early so I turned around and made for the car. It was amazing to hear and feel the thump of waves against rock as I hurried back to avoid the inevitable downpour.

I did manage to pick up milk, too.

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The wind is in the door

My great aunt, who ran a little sweet shop in a small Gower village until the (and her) early 80s, used to say ‘the wind is in the door’ in her peculiar Gower accent if there was a storm blowing. I think she would have been able to use that phrase today,

We weathered the previous storm (weathered – did you see what I did there?) partly because we had several days warning. This one sneaked in, hidden in the shadow of the big one and hit my part of South Wales harder. Following a tip from a fellow photographer, I headed off to Rest Bay to see what there was to see with the sea (I’m on wordsmithing form today – there’ll be rhymes sometime soon).

I wasn’t disappointed. I could see the rough breakers and the foam filling the air from the car park. I battled to force open the car door and struggled to make my way down to the beach against the wind, blowing directly in from the sea. It wasn’t cold, but the spray acted like rain and stung my face as it blew across the sand. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were grains of sand mixed up in it.

I walked along the coastline, heading east towards Porthcawl. The tide was coming in and although I was side on to the wind, I found it hard to make headway in the lengthy gusts. Porthcawl came into view and I could see massive waves striking the pier and crashing over the lighthouse at the end of it. I found a small pavilion to shelter behind and took a few minutes to watch and listen to the sea. There was a low, constant rumble and a higher pitched sound as the water crashed onto the rocks and pebbles. The wind added to the noise, whistling around corners and rattling anything that was not completely fixed down.

I left the shelter and was buffeted as I walked along the promenade, occasionally brought to a complete standstill by a particularly strong gust. Ahead, people lent against the wind. Coastguards stood watch on the pier as two people had tried to get on it earlier. I don’t understand why anyone would want to do that, given the ferocity of the wind and the sheer power of the waves. I took photos but I made a point of stepping back to watch and experience this powerful sea. All around, people were being blown about. As I left the pier the wind was at my back and I struggled not to go running into the middle of the road.

Huge waves were rolling in to the beach by the amusement park and bobbing about in the white water were a number of surfers braving the stormy seas. The sea was different here, though. With no rocks or walls to crash against, the waves rolled powerfully in to the beach. I didn’t see anyone manage to ride a wave while I was watching.

I turned to head back to the car and once again found myself leaning in to the wind as it tried, quite effectively, to prevent me from moving. The wind direction seemed to have change a little so that rather than coming in at 90 degrees to the path, it was now blowing slightly towards me. This meant that I was struggling to make any headway as the gusts were long and strong. Slowly I made my way up and back to the pavilion, where I took a few minutes to take some photos of the bay and the waves out to sea. Then it was off again into the wind.

I crossed the road, carefully as it meant letting the wind push me a bit, and walked as far from the beach as I could to avoid the foam. Nevertheless, I quickly became covered in it, so that I looked as if I’d been spat on by large people. Several times I was brought to a complete stop by a gust of wind, and I found the going quite hard. Great for my training, but not so good for getting back to the car before the next rain shower.

But eventually, the car park came in to view and after being blown away from the beach with no effort on my part, I finally reached the sanctuary of the car. It rocked and shook but it was dry and cosy.

I heard later that there were gusts of 89mph.

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Frustrations

Another glorious morning and the sun forced the curtains aside and slapped me on the face at about 7am. That’s ok – it’s an hour’s lie-in for me. Any longer lying awake and my back starts to ache. Age, I suppose. So I was up and out of the house by 7.45. My knee is still playing up so it was plastered with ibuprofen gel and strapped up. I ended up in Mumbles. It would have been a nice walk but today I had to drive and also be very careful where I went. No hills, no rough ground. Even the few steps down to the beach made me wince.

Even so, I managed to get some decent photos of the sea as it made every effort to soak me by splashing over the rocks. Then I strolled back along the seafront, taking in the views across Swansea bay. The tide was in and the waters choppy and restless. The waves seemed uncoordinated and random. I could just about make out my road from there and I have a photo that shows my house. It was that clear. Beyond Swansea, I could see the snow covered hills. I would much rather have been there with my walking buddy and slave driver, Rufus. But it would be foolish to risk worsening my knee.

Not content with Mumbles, I drove down to Birchgrove to find the engine house of Scott’s Pit. This was one of three or four small scale coal pits in the Birchgrove area in the early to mid 19th century. All that remains now is the shell of the Cornish beam engine house which was used to pump water from the mine. Despite several developments to the site, and a branch of the Swansea Vale railway line being built, it went out of use in the middle of the 19th century as the flooding made the pit uneconomical. I’ve seen the characteristic engine house and chimney from the motorway many times but today I was able to find access to it.

Then it was back home for coffee and the inevitable housework.

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