Penclawdd
Not just a land of bewitching natural beauty, myth and history, Gower is also a scattering of small, deep-rooted communities, where over the centuries women and men have lived off the land and the sea. The sense of a living, working community is still evident in Penclawdd, on the north coast a few miles west of Swansea, and its neighbouring satellite Crofty, for cockles have been harvested here from Roman times to the present day.


Penclawdd Copyright © 2003 Julian Herbert

Up until the end of the 19th century, Penclawdd was a flourishing sea port, with several coal mines, and tinplate, copper and brass works. It was a bustling commercial centre for much of North Gower. There was a time, almost within living memory, when it had a railway station, a forge, twenty grocers, three butchers, three drapers and four fish and chip shops; for happy hours, there were eleven pubs and a cinema, and for holy hours, three chapels and a church.
But above all else, Penclawdd was synonymous with cockles and cockling, and this is the only one of the old industries to survive. The famous low-tide cockle beds on the Burry Estuary sands have always produced a good quality harvest. During the Industrial Revolution, women whose husbands were unfit for work in the coalmines turned to cockle gathering as a lifeline, and right up to the 1970s, women were the main gatherers. Working with donkeys, hand rakes and riddles (coarse sieves), the women were tough and resilient, famed for their ability to withstand all weather conditions on the estuary.




Today, with demand ever increasing, the industry is run by men with tractors and four-wheel drives, but they still gather the cockles with the traditional hand tools. The cockles are processed in local factories, carefully prepared and heat-treated for export nationwide. Look out for the cockle stalls in Swansea Market, and for establishments, such as the Kings Head Hotel at Llangennith, which serve a traditional Welsh breakfast featuring cockles, bacon and laverbread (laver seaweed washed, dipped in oatmeal and fried in bacon fat).

Penclawdd and Crofty both have high locations and enjoy spectacular views over the Loughor estuary and the surrounding countryside. Worth visiting in Crofty is the graveyard of the ruined Hermon Chapel, for its profound atmosphere and marvellous views(see below). Originally painted white, the chapel, built in 1807, was an important landmark for ships navigating the estuary.

 


Penclawdd from Pen-y-gaer Digital Panoramic Copyright © 2003 Julian Herbert



Mumbles Pennard Penmaen Reynoldston Oxwich Port Eynon Rhossili Llangennith Llanrhidian Penclawdd

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