Thursday, 26 June 2008

Three Cliffs

Date of trip: 23 June 2008

Lauded as Britain's best beach by 'BBC Holiday at Home', Three Cliffs Bay in the southern Gower peninsular is so highly recommended by many locals that it is incomprehensible that I should miss it, especially with the reasonable fare up to Swansea.

Hopping off the bus at Parkmill and transversing a tranquil forest path by a stream, I was greeted by a plain of grass and sand between lime stone cliffs. The ruins of Pennard castle stood on the left, while the metallic roofs caravans and camps glimmered on the right.

As I move seaward, the greenery give way to the open sea.

That morning, the tide was in the process of ebbing. It was absolutely great to amble on the soft wet sand, letting the refreshing sea wind caress your face and watch the sea retreat.

One of the most wonderful unexpected joy of the trip is meeting Tony, an Irishman living in Swansea who regularly visits the bay. Walking together and learning from his rich experience in enjoying the Three Cliffs is very enriching. I'm very thankful and pleased by his generosity in sharing information and his merry companionship. I do hope the sea is warm enough for him to swim in, by today.

With the receding waters, some sea creatures are bound to be washed up. Considering it is the breeding season for jellyfishes, you can see at least one every few meters you walk.

This is the first time I touch a jellyfish, it feels well... remarkably like jelly. I wouldn't have dare to hold it if Tony has not done it first.

One of the reason why Three Cliffs is so enchanting is because it is so clean. I have not been to too many clean beaches. Perhaps this is the reason why there are not too many seagulls as compared to places like Stonehaven.

The crystal clear water and the fine flawless sand.

While the beach is a heaven for swimmers and sunbathers, the namesake cliffs are what fascinates me more. After all, we don't really have this kind of coastal landscape in Malaysia.

Unlike the other cliffs, very few people travel on the western cliff. I find it rather unsettling walking there alone. One can constantly hear a strange sound akin to the rattling of a rattle snake though I not sure it is. However, I did catch a glimpse of a brownish snake slithering away into the knee high grass from the narrow and overgrown path. That was what sent me back without daring to venture deeper into this alien and vaguely prehistoric landscape.

Looking at the vegetation, I would not be surprised if someone wanted to film a mockumentary about dinosaur and rat-sized mammals here.

From the western cliff, the nearby homesteads are visible. I find the tree in the middle of the picture very curious. It does resembles an oversize nail sticking on the ground.

The middle cliff is more about limestone, sandy hills and grass.

The defining cave that appear in many postcards is right in the center of the middle cliff.

Outside the cave, straight vertical lines cut through the limestones. A mark left by quarrying activities on the now jagged rocks.

On top of all these, many bovines graze blissfully right up to the very edge.

Commanding such a vantage point overlooking the whole bay, as you walk closer to the bovines, one couldn't shake off the feeling of being watch. Among the seemingly oblivious grazers, there are bound to be one or two who look at the two-legs intently.

Another blissful bovine, I shall dedicate all these to Mr. snappycow.

Gentler slopes of sand and grass lay between the middle and the eastern cliff. This is the first time I realize how tiring it is to climb a sand dune where every step forward and upward you take are hindered by gravity and lose sliding sand. This will increase anyone's respect for camels.

Further up from here, there is a scenic golf-course.

For those fancying a walk, the eastern cliff stretches on as far as the eye can see. And there are more flowering plants here as well.

I'm not sure what flower is this, but it does look like a tough one. Perhaps surviving under the harsh sun and howling wind demands no less.

More cows graze the cliffs and their 'mark' is all over the place (luckily big enough to see and evade with ease). After getting this close to a herd, I can only say cows are very noisy eaters.

A perfect pastoral scene where cows and calves lay down to rest. Now is the time of the year where you see animal babies everywhere.

Sea-gazing cow - humans are not the only one who knows how to enjoy a good view.

By 2pm, the cerulean waters have receded enough where the Three Cliffs Bay joined as one with Oxwich Bay, forming an even longer picturesque walkway.

As I continue eastward, there are less sandy shores but more rocky formations.

Once more, drinking in the majesty of the natural world and be awed by the hands that hold these spectacular places over the millennium.

Blue, green, gray and brown, colors of the seascapes. Here, it feels timeless, where things that seem pressing becomes inconsequential, and the rhythm of life slows and beat in tune with the natural.

On a clear day, you can see the shoreline of Devon across the Bristol Channel at the horizon. Now, I wonder how the shores of Cornwall will be, compared to this.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008


After visiting the Wells Cathedral in the morning, we hop over to another site of spiritual interests in the afternoon.

This is Glastonbury Tor, where some people believe it to be the site of the mythical Avalon of Arthurian Legends. The tor (or 'conical hill' in Celtic) stood alone on the gentle Somerset plains. It is quite logical how the area had been an island in a lake.

As you amble up the green slope, ascending from the green pasture lands towards the summit, the vistas around you grow increasingly breathtaking.

Here stood some of my friends against the vast endless plain. How small indeed is a man, yet we have taken over, cultivated, and dominated the landscapes, carving and dividing it among ourselves, and bending it to our own ends.

The topless (I mean roofless) ruins of St. Micheal's Tower. The St. Micheal's church could well have been felled by the same earthquake that does some permanent damage to the 'frozen river' in Cheddar's cave.

Standing at the top of the tor, there seems to be a ring of mist around it. Is this white halo the holy light of Avalon? Perhaps there is a basis for all the legends and myths, if only at times much exaggerated.

Seeing my first thunderstorm in UK has to be the reward of climbing this hill on a rainy day. As lightning flashed and thunders rumbled in the distant, under the gray foreboding clouds, we are reminded that even though we have taken possessions of these lands, we have not tamed the storm. The wild majesty and awesome might of the primordial forces still reign to a great extend. (Even as we have our undeniable influenced in screwing up the weather, when nature plays its card, it is still as fierce as what the Cro-Magnon had witnessed.)

Not far from the foothills in the town of Glastonbury is the huge ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, the purported resting place for King Aurthur. Very little skeleton remains of the abbey to fully imagine its majesty at the height of its glory days. One can only look and ponder how kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, even Camelot's days are numbered. As it is said, only the Jerusalem-to-Come, whose builder and sustainer are far above us will endures forever.


The trip was on the 28 April with other international students, origanized by Julian and Mary.

The main attraction of Wells, a town slightly south from Bristol is its magnificent cathedral that date back to the 10th century.

While the exterior of the building is dashing, it is the interior that is absolutely awe-inspiring.

In the Nave, as you slowly approach the scissor arches at heart of the cathedral, it feels like walking under the canopy of a white forest.

The ceiling is one of the features that most fascinates me in this building of much ecclesiastical importance.

The crucified Christ at the center of the scissor arches. The curve organic shape lends itself well to framing the statues and beckoning you to come.

This is the Lady Chapel. It reminded me somewhat of Elrond's council.

The star-like ceiling that topped the Lady Chapel.

And the tree-like columns around it.

The ceiling above the Quire, between the Nave and Lady Chapel

These fleet of stairs lead up to the Chapter House, another white room reminiscent of Minas Tirith. I really like these well-worn steps. You can see how the feet of the faithfuls must left their unmistakable mark in the uneven concave step surfaces. I also find the 90 degree turning towards the right special, in how smooth it almost look, like a gentle slope instead of steps from this angle.

More trees and octagonal stars in the ceiling. The lone column in the perfectly symmetrical room rises like a blossoming flower or a trumpet of praise.

Descending from the Chapter House, stood the second-oldest surviving clock in England on the north transept .It is a 24 hours medieval clock, showing even the phases of the moon. Comical jousting knights come out above the clock as it strikes every quarter. Here perhaps, is a good example where profundity meets simple humor, as life should be.

One of the unexpected attraction in the cathedral is their elusive celebrity cat, Luis (or Lois, or something that sounds like that, I didn't get the spelling). It must be quite a honor for the feline to be 'canonized', where souvenirs of it are sold in the cathedral shop among other memorabilia of the ancient structure. There seems to be an implied link between this Garfield and Puss in Boots.

The stone statues of the 4 evangelists stood beside the northern facade of the cathedral. As you should realized by now, I have a penchant for pictures of stone lions.

Above the lion was another clock connected to the mechanism of the interior one. I suppose men too easily forgets the gravity of time. One more reminder is always welcomed, especially when it is so beautifully adorned.

I am sure I will be visiting many more cathedral before the summer is over.