Summer’s here! For some people there’s nothing better than to lie on the beach. Maybe you’d like something a bit more active? Or maybe you just want to cool off? Either way, everything’s better with water!
Did you know being near water is great for our health and wellbeing? Over a decade of research shows being close to the water, especially the sea, has measurable benefits for our physical and mental health, benefiting everything from our Vitamin D levels to our social interaction. Maybe it’s the quality of light, the soundscape, or the ebb and flow of the tides? Being around water puts us in tune with natural forces, whether it’s understanding the movement of wind and water as you swim, surf or sail, or simply thinking outwards to your natural environment as you walk along the beach.
We’re spoilt for choice with beaches. Whether it’s the breathtaking Bracelet Bay with its rocky shore, cave and fossilised coral reef to explore, the eight miles of sand and shipwrecks at Cefn Sidan, the seclusion, pristine sands and crystal clear waters of Barafundle Bay, Rhossili Bay’s dramatic views and beautiful sunsets, or having a great family day out along the promenade at Aberavon.
There are some amazing places for beach yoga. Take advantage of the sheer mass of water to channel its energy to meditate and reconnect with nature. Adopt the majestic tree pose while surrounded by a lost and submerged Bronze Age forest, which surfaces at Freshwater West when the tide is at its lowest point. The UK’s largest beach yoga class, Womankind Yoga, takes place on Swansea Beach. Discover inner peace, balance and true relaxation, even in the city.
And our coasts can feed us! Learn how to find clams, cockles and oysters and sea vegetables (edible seaweed) on a foraging course. Your guide will show you what to eat (or not), how to harvest it sustainably and, if you’re lucky cook you a meal from the food you’ve foraged.
If you’d prefer to get your local seafood a bit more quickly there are plenty of options available. For amazing street food check out Cafe Môr and Gower Seafood Hut. If you’d like the chance to forage for your food and then have a chef serve it to you in a restaurant, check out Annwn.
Our coasts offer great places for walks. Follow in the footsteps of medieval saints around St David’s Peninsula, or pass bone filled caves and a winding river to watch the sun set over Three Cliffs Bay. Have you ever wanted to tame a dragon? Walk out to Worm’s Head (the name comes from the Old English wyrm, meaning serpent or dragon), but be careful you don’t get stuck there! Worm’s Head is a tidal island and you’ll only have about two and a half hours to get there and back.
The region is perfect for surfing. Freshwater West has the best waves in Wales, although its strong rip currents means it’s only suitable for experienced surfers who are strong swimmers. For beginners and children, check out Caswell Bay and Newgale. Llangennith and Manorbier are great for surfers of all abilities, with enough space for everyone.
And what about swimming? Wild or open swimming offers a sensory experience like no other, and there are some amazing places to swim. Please be aware of the hidden risks such as cold water, waves and undercurrents, even in places that look ideal for swimming. Beginners are best sticking to lifeguarded beaches such as the amazing sandy beaches at Caswell Bay and Whitesands. More experienced swimmers can try out beautiful, quiet beaches like Tor Bay or Blue Pool Bay.
How about land yachting? Imagine a buggy with a huge sail that can be propelled by winds of less than 10mph and reach speeds of over 60mph. Try them out on Pendine Sands, where many land speed records were broken. You’ll be so close to the sand you’ll feel like you’re racing too!
Want to do a sport invented right here in the region? Coasteering was created by TYF Adventure and Coasteering in St Davids in 1986. Basically it’s where the foreshore becomes your eco-adventure playground. Scramble across the shore, climb rocks, jump from cliffs, and swim in rock gullies, ride waves and explore caves. The North Pembrokeshire coast is perfect for coasteering. The most popular spot is the Blue Lagoon, a flooded former quarry, where the slate turns the water a brilliant sapphire blue.
And what about wildlife?
Seals love Pembrokeshire! Its nutrient rich waters make it one of the best places to see all kinds of marine wildlife. There are about 5,000 Atlantic grey seals in the waters in Pembrokeshire. Seals can be seen all year round, and you may be able to see their fluffy white pups on undisturbed beaches between August and November.
The best way to see marine wildlife is by boat. In fact this is only way to see a whale. Dolphins are easier to find because they’re inquisitive and usually come to find you. Pods of 500 are common, and if they choose to follow your boat you’ll only be a few inches away from them. You may also see porpoises and even sharks. If you go on a boat trip, your guides will know where the seals are snoozing, the porpoises are feeding, and the seabirds nesting. They’ll also be able tell you about the rich history of the coast, from prehistoric caves to smugglers coves.
Skomer Island is particularly famous for its large breeding population of seabirds. It’s home to half the world’s population of Manx shearwaters, and the largest Atlantic Puffin colony in southern Britain. You’ll also find guillemots, razorbills, great cormorants, black legged kittiwakes, European storm petrels, common shags, Eurasian oystercatchers and gulls, birds of prey such as short-eared owls, common kestrels and peregrine falcons, and a unique mammal, the Skomer vole.
Our wild coastline, rivers, lakes, and even canals are perfect for canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned expert. If you’re going out in open water it’s best if you go with an experienced guide, particularly if you go any distance from the shoreline. You’re also more likely to see more wildlife this way.
The Afon Tywi is the longest river flowing solely through Wales. It has a thriving population of otters, and grey seals can be found in pursuit of sewin and salmon. Paddling along the river takes you through some of Carmarthenshire’s most stunning attractions, including the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Aberglasney Gardens and Dinefwr Park.
For a magical family paddle, get out onto the Afon Teifi. Start in the deeply wooded valley and look out for otters, herons, buzzards and kites. You’ll glide past Cilgerran Castle, through a gorge and then into wetlands where water buffalo graze.
Llys-y-Frân is a very special place in the foothills of the Preseli Mountains. The reservoir was opened in 1972 to supply clean water to Pembrokeshire. The dam is a feat of engineering, but it has also preserved the landscape as a haven for nature and wildlife. It offers a whole range of activities on land and water, including stand up paddleboarding, an offshoot of surfing where you stand up on the board and use a large paddle to propel yourself. It offers a fantastic all over body workout, especially the core muscle groups, and provides improved agility, co-ordination and an enhanced lifestyle. Or how about stand up pedal boards? They combine the fun of paddle boarding, with the comfort of handlebars. You step on two pedal pads on the board, so you can literally walk on water.
Have you heard of ‘the waterfall effect’? When water bashes against itself it releases zillions of negative oxygen ions into the air. Breathing them in makes you happier and more alert.
Discover our very own ‘Waterfall country’, where natural forces have combined here to create a highly concentrated area of waterfalls, gorges and caves. At Sgwd Gwladus ten metres of water gush into an idyllic forest pool. Splashing about or swimming under the waterfall is great way to cool off on a hot day! The waterfall is named after Gwladus, who fell in love with a man called Einion. Her father wouldn’t allow them to be together, so Gwladus’ sadness became so overwhelming she transformed into a waterfall. Einion threw himself into the river and became a waterfall too, Sgwd Einion Gam, one of Wales’ most spectacular but least accessible waterfalls (which means you’ll probably have the place to yourself). Now their spirits flow together as one.
4theRegion is a movement to create a happier and healthier South West Wales. Our amazing natural environment is a big part of that.