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Refections on Gower
Tuesday 21st May 2019
David Heathcote (with photos by Huw Riden)
I have had a couple of weeks to reflect on my first ever holiday with Journeying, so a good time to pass on my thoughts as a newcomer. It was not a great start as a Welsh pothole gave me a puncture, requiring an RAC-towed detour to KwikFit (other tyre dealers are available) in Barry. This, plus heavy M4 bank holiday traffic, saw me arrive at Nicholaston just as dinner was being served, which was very welcome as I had not been able to get a proper lunch. The friendly company and relaxed atmosphere soon made me forget that day's frustrations, and evening worship followed by a walk up Cefn Bryn in the setting sun began to put me in "pilgrim mode".
Our first full day walk around Oxwich bay and Penrice was in glorious sunshine. Dave G had done his homework, and the addition of two local guides provided access to two normally locked churches and lots of fascinating info about the area. They had even been out to clear some of the footpaths, although they couldn't do much about the muddy sections!
Sunday started with us all sharing communion in the intimate, circular, Celtic-style chapel. Thanks to Huw for leading the simple service, which strengthened our group's bonds in Jesus. Then, it was a short drive to Rhossili. I have a love for the islands around our shores. Stays on Mull, Iona, Canna, Orkney, Bardsey and Lindisfarne have all been special, and I was looking forward to walking along Rhossili beach to the small tidal island of Burry Holms. There is often a hard and an easy way to tackle situations. Dave and I chose the hard way to reach the island, involving a steep rocky scramble. Our sense of achievement was short-lived as the rest of the group arrived by a much gentler route! The sun came out to shine (on the righteous?) as we settled down to enjoy lunch by the ruins of the 14th century chapel dedicated to St Cenydd, whose story can be found here. The promise of tea and cake at Nicholaston prompted us to begin walking back to Rhosilli. We split, with one group deciding to retrace steps back along the beach, the other climbing up through the dunes to follow a path about 150 feet above the sea providing some good views.
We had been together for only a couple of days, and there was a sense of thankfulness tinged with sadness as we held our final time of worship on Monday morning before preparing to go our own separate ways. But as Dave reminded us, our personal Journeys would still continue.
So what to make of my first Journeying experience? The walks were great, taking in some wonderful landscape with historic links to the early Welsh saints. But it was more than just a walking holiday. Our morning and evening worship, reflections along the way, the fellowship while out on the Gower and back in the comfort of Nicholaston House really did invoke the spirit of pilgrimage. Big thanks to leaders Dave & Huw, and to my fellow pilgrims, for making my introduction to Journeying so enjoyable and rewarding.
If any of you reading this have thought about joining a Journeying break but are not sure, I would recommend that you take the plunge - I'm sure you won't regret it.