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Paviland Cave

Cave / Rock Shelter


Failed visit 30.9.13 :(

The ‘Red Lady’ of Paviland – a name surly to stir the imagination.
A site of international importance and one I am sure that most, if not all, of the readers of this fine website would love to visit.

And here I am, a mere 60 or so miles away – so why I haven’t I as yet made the ‘pilgrimage’?
The obvious answer of course is because of the well know difficulty of visiting the site. Indeed, some books I have read positively warn of the perils of undertaking such a task.
Even Neil Oliver went for the abseil approach – no doubt also making better TV of course.

I had recently come across a website which actually gave details of how to access the cave (without the need of a rope!) and by co-incidence within days TSC posted his fieldnotes – and thus confirming the access details I had read.

Time to put this right. A day off work, no children in tow, weather forecast reasonable for the time of year and an O/S map and tide timetable at hand. What could stop me?

The tide timetable stated that low tide was at 10.00am. I set out at 7.30am to allow plenty of time to drive to the Gower and walk to the cave by low tide. My plan was to park on the B4247 and take the footpath directly south to the cave. Unfortunately there was absolutely nowhere to park on this stretch of road and in the end I decided the best option would be to park in the large car park in Rhossili, next to the N.T. shop, and walk along the coastal path to the cave.

I arrived early enough not to have to pay the £3.00 parking fee (the little shed wasn’t yet open) and I eagerly made my way past the N.T. shop, coastguard station and east along the coastal path. T

he weather was warm, dry and only a little breeze so all was good. I avoided the temptation to check out the several cliff/promontory forts I passed as priority for today was the great cave itself. After all, I could take my time and look over the forts on the way back.

It took me 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach the cave and my heart was racing with expectation and excitement. (This will no doubt sound ‘sad’ to most people but TMAers will know what I mean.) I quickly identified which was the correct headland with photo’s I had taken with me and was soon scrambling down the ravine with the drystone wall running down the middle of it. Why on earth would anyone bother to build a wall here?

I passed Foxhole Slade Cave and was soon onto the treacherous rocks. I have never visited a place before where the rocks were so sharp. They were covered in barnacles and one slip would have resulted in my legs being badly cut (I was wearing shorts). However, this was quickly put to the back of my mind as I was now only a few metres from my goal.

It was at this point that my bubble of excitement burst. The tide was still not far enough out to get around the headland. By now it was 10.30am and I assumed the tide hadn’t fully gone out and I would just have to wait. I sat there like King Cnut and watched the waves roll in and out. To my surprise a seal swam past, sticking its head out of the water to look at me as it did so. I bet he/she could see the cave!

I decided to have a look at Foxhole Slade Cave while I was waiting but my mind was fixed on the tide and Paviland Cave. I returned to the rocks and sat and waited and waited. By 12 noon it was obvious (even to me) that the tide wasn’t going out any further. I tried to get to the cave by scrambling along the side of the headland and also from the other side of the headland – DO NOT attempt this as it is dangerous.
The only safe way to access the cave would be from the beach – which was still underwater. I was so desperate to see the cave I would have swam for it if I had taken bathers with me – that would have been a first!

Despite my best efforts their would be no visit by me today. I had to be sensible from a safety point of view as if I did fall and incapacitate myself, not only was I on my own, but there is no mobile phone signal from the rocks. I slowly and disappointedly had to head back up the ravine and onto the coastal path. So close – but so far. Gutted.
All I can think of is that the low tide wasn’t low enough and that not all low tides allow access – if you see what I mean. A ‘low’ low tide is perhaps necessary?

On the way back to the car park I visited the other sites along the way and tried to enjoy the coastal views but no doubt my disappointment took the edge off it. This is clearly one place I will need to come back to. As Fu Manchu used to say (ask your dad) ‘I will return!’

For anyone contemplating a visit can I offer the following advice?

1. The cave would be accessible to most people once the tide is far enough out. The walk off the coastal path down the ravine is straight forward although the sharp rocks are a little tricky. I would not recommend a visit for those with mobility problems.

2. The walk from the car park in Rhossili is long but offers great views. The quickest way would be to get someone to drop you off on the B4247 and head directly south. However, the coastal path is steep and narrow in places and is often close to the cliff edge. I would not recommend a visit with children – far too dodgy.

3. Check the tide times (try to get a ‘low’ low tide and leave yourself 1.5 hours to walk to the cave if coming from Rhossili.

I hope this is of some help and you have better luck than I did. I still feel gutted about this ‘failed visit’ – more so than any other ‘failed visit’ I have had over the years.
One day…………
Posted by CARL
4th October 2013ce
Edited 4th October 2013ce

Comments (3)

A sad and sorry tale Carl, but I'm sure you'll be back again, the pull will be too strong!

"The quickest way would be to get someone to drop you off on the B4247 and head directly south."

The roughly hourly bus from Swansea to Rhossili passes directly past the northern end of this footpath, and will drop you at Pilton Green, so if you use that there's no parking issues or charges - perhaps an instance where I can justifiably claim that public transport may have the edge :)
(scroll to page 8)

By the way, once you get to the bottom of the ravine, it's an easy-ish scramble over to the limestone pavement (there's no "beach" as such) but then, even with the tide out, you have to scramble back up over the sharp rocks to get onto the sloping ramp that leads up to the cave entrance, in the foreground here:

When we went it was just an ordinary tide, not a particularly low one - this is about as far out as it went on our visit:

Persevere though, as long your eye is on the time and you can get across the rocks, you should be fine.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
4th October 2013ce
Assume you considered the verge of the access track to Pilton Green Farm (this is the accepted spot for visitor parking)? If so you must have been incredibly unlucky not to find any spaces. Better luck next time, eh?

I'll hopefully be back some time or other to visit the Knave. I reckon the chain of cliff forts along this coast are one of the glories of Wales to be 'sipped' like a fine wine. Then come back for more. So does the Mam C.
5th October 2013ce
Thanks both.
Regarding the photo, when I visited these rocks were all underwater. I reckon the tide needed to be out several more metres - not a huge amount but enough to make a difference.

I did consider parking on the large grass verge opposite the start of the path but decided it looked too much like 'private property' and would have reqired permission? I knew I would be gone a couple of hours and thought it would be too long to leave a car unattended there? Perhaps I was being too cautious?

This is a definite 'must return one day' site.
Posted by CARL
7th October 2013ce
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