Coastline of Britain

The Gower Peninsula is on the south west coast of Wales, on the north side of the Bristol Channel. Rhossili is a small village on the southwestern tip of the Gower Peninsula near Swansea.

Coin design

Coin depicting the Gower peninsular

This official £5 coin depicts a striking view of Worm’s Head, a mile long serpent-like promontory that juts out into the sea.

The quotation ‘To see the world in a grain of sand’ is taken from the poet and artist William Blake, and plays on the notion of one can find vast truths in the smallest of things.

Designer Shane Greeves

History

The coastline around the UK stretches for some 6,000 miles – a coast of contrasts as the scenery changes from estuaries, shingle beaches, salt marshes, sand dunes, rugged cliffs, sandy beaches and rocky shores to industrial harbours and oil refineries.

Following the Norman invasion in the 12th century, Rhossili was a small village and church tucked at the foot of Rhossili Downs. The church dated back to the 6th century and was dedicated to St Sili. Rhossili gets it name from the Welsh word for moorland, ‘Rhos’ together with the name St Sili.

There is a local tradition that during the 13th century huge storms blew up which caused the powerful action of the Atlantic waves to send mountains of sand ashore, completely covering both village and church. A storm and an archaeological dig on the site in 1980 confirmed this. The inhabitants rebuilt their village on the cliff top above, away from the sand and sea.

Rhossili Bay curves along an arc running northwards from the village. The sandy beach is three miles long and is backed with sand dunes. Locals refer to the beach as Llangennith Sands.

At the southern end of the bay are small tidal islands called Worm’s Head and Burry Holms and these are accessible at low tide only. The names originate from the Viking words ‘wurme’ meaning serpent and ‘holmr’ meaning island. The Viking ships landed on Rhossili Bay in 986 and the Viking King, Sweyne Forkbeardm is said to be buried on Rhossili Downs, marked by the twin stone tombs known today as the Sweyne Howes.

The prominent wreck of the ‘Helvetia’ which ran aground in 1887 due to a severe storm as well as another shipwreck, the ‘Vennerne’, are still visible today buried at the base of Rhossili cliffs.

Rhossili Bay today

Rhossili is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty and is owned and protected by the National Trust.

Worm’s Head and Burry Holms are renowned for sea bass fishing and many small fishing boats can be seen during the summer months.

Despite its remote position, Rhossili is a popular tourist destination and several walks begin, end or pass through the village. However, given the steep steps down to the Bay, the beach is rarely crowded and sometimes over the cooler months the beach is deserted.

Did You Know?

  • On 5 June 2010, Fredericks, the UK’s largest independent ice cream manufacturer, announced Rhossili Bay in South Wales as the winner of the Cadbury Flake 99 Great British Beach Awards, a celebration of our nation’s best and most treasured seasides
  • Edgar Evans, Antarctic explorer, and Gary Ley, writer, are famous citizens of Rhossili
  • Rhossili village is void of large specimen trees due to the salt-thick winds.

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