Many people bypass Swansea as a city break on their way to the beaches and outdoor pursuits of the Gower Peninsula. Yet Swansea has 32 miles of coastline, a flourishing tourist scene and many attractions that make it a great day out or weekend break.
Swansea is the city where I was born and I lived there until I was 6. I was recently asked by travel blogger Ali from What Ali Sees to contribute to a series she was collating about first travel memories, which you can read here. My earliest travel memories were of wild camping on the Gower and reflecting on this made me realise that it was 30 years since I’d been back to Swansea, despite the fact we only live across the Severn Bridge – how had that happened? It was time for a long overdue visit and to show my children the city I was born in.
Swansea has had a huge amount of development over recent years and many tourist attractions have opened up. But we weren’t going to visit these, we were going to visit the places I had spent my early years. Generally these were places that were free – my parents were young and broke and we had an abundance of parks and beaches on our doorstep, so it was the outdoor life for us. We lived in the Uplands and the first stop on our tour was a childhood favourite of mine, Cwmdonkin Park.
Cwmdonkin is of course famous for its links with Welsh Poet, Dylan Thomas, who lived nearby at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, now open to the public. The park featured in various of his works, including his Reminiscences of Childhood.
“And in the park was a world within the world of the seatown”.
Returning to Cwmdonkin, it’s an exceptionally well kept, vibrant park with a playground, bowling green, kiosk and tennis courts. Bonus – you can get Welsh cakes at the kiosk! When Cwmdonkin first opened it received a number of specimen trees from Kew Gardens, which it was required to report on every year and the park still has exotic trees and rockery pools.
In my childhood years Brynmill had a pets corner, a poor sad lonely monkey in a cage and a solitary mynah bird. I remember the playground we visited almost daily after school and the kiosk selling ices. Brynmill was smaller than I remember but the playground was a hit with my children. Dragging them away from there, we bought some bird seed from the kiosk and went to feed the ducks on the lake. This turned into a scene from Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ as a large number of pesky pigeons harassed us constantly.
Escaping from the pigeon attack, we strolled the park.
Like Cwmdonkin, we found Brynmill a really well maintained park and I was glad that two of my favourite childhood haunts were in such great shape. As a child we also went to Singleton Park and Victoria Park, but we ran out of park time on this trip to get round all 4 and so had to make do with a drive by!
In recent years Mumbles has had a revival. We popped by on this visit to see the new RNLI Lifeboat Station and of course sample the joys of the penny falls amusements. I’m sure there used to be a helter-skelter on Mumbles Pier which we could see from our house.
The Swansea area has a whopping 50 beaches. That’s a boast that surely few cities in Britain can rival. As a child we camped and played on many of the Gower Beaches, from Three Cliffs to Rhossilli and Caswell. For this trip the beaches of Mumbles and Swansea were enough to keep my children happy.
The sweeping views of the sea and Swansea Bay from all coastal vantage points give the city an open and expansive feel.
A Swansea institution, no visit is complete without a trip to Joe’s. The Uplands ice cream cafe with its wicker chairs is long gone but we popped to the Mumbles cafe for an essential ice cream. I had to try the Welsh cake flavour!
Our two days in Swansea came to an end in a huge glass of ice cream, sauce, cream and wafers – as befits any childhood jaunt.
I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting my childhood and sharing it with my own children. It was great to see them enjoy the same parks and beaches and the simple pleasures of feeding the ducks, playing on the swings and messing about on the beach. I’ll be continuing my trip down memory lane in the Autumn when we spend a weekend in Port Eynon on the Gower, so I definitely won’t be leaving it 30 years until my next visit!
WHERE JO GOES -CITY BREAKS WITH KIDS
Porto – Jardins do Palacio de Cristal/Porto- Food Tour/Porto City Highlights/New York/Oxford UK/London – Greenwich/HMS Belfast/British Library/O2 Arena/Royal Albert Hall/World’s Biggest Lego Store/Ham House /Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre/
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