Usually, taking holidays in September we strike lucky with the weather. This year however, we arrived at Gower in a gale. The blast coming in off the sea buffeted our stone cottage fiercely. Upstairs, as I drifted into sleep, I felt as if I was on the top of a bunk-bed with a restless sleeper below.
It was cosy though. The under-floor heating was generated by a ground-source-heat-pump, so I felt a little virtuous about the luxurious warmth.
Like all the best storms, it had pretty much blown out by morning. Though as Ray, Rusty and I made our way down the cliff path the sky was still overcast, and there was a gusty wind. It was cool enough that when we reached the sand I didn’t consider taking my wellies off.
I suspect we did the thing that everyone arriving on Rhossili beach for the first time does, when we headed for the main shipwreck. Yes, I did say shipwreck, and no, not recent. The Helvetia grounded in November 1887, and is now a partial skeleton deeply embedded in the sand.
No diving necessary to look at this wreck, no pieces of eight either: the vessel’s cargo was timber. There’s treasure here though. It’s in the worn oak posts, and the large twisted iron nails and bolts that are slowly being eaten by the weather, the sand and the sea.
The Helvetia was lucky: other ships lost lives as well as cargo, on the long shallow beach or against the rocks below Worms Head. Don’t be misled by the earthy nature of that ‘worm’, this name derives from Wurm, the Viking word for Dragon.
It makes sense as a visual descriptive, and as a warning. Imagine the stories to go with that naming. It’s figurative language. It’s the imagination examining, explaining and dramatizing. Even when the sun came out I could see how it had earned such a name.