Into the blue: Suz Mendus experiences the magnetism of Gower’s now-infamous Blue Pool
The sea approaching Blue Pool Bay is rabid. Crackling over a cold shore on the retreat, before throwing another frothing wave to bite at the gnarled rocks guarding the escarpment. Within it, a circle of tranquil, cobalt water, oblivious to the chaos orbiting its jagged rim.
Blue Pool is an inkwell of a rockpool, protected from the tides of the Loughor Estuary, hugged by the base of a cliff, and a short walk round the headland from Llangennith or Broughton Bay. Today, the pool is barely visible from the cliff above. The mist is thick, heaving with alkaline salt and the sweet slick of laver seaweed, its residue whipped up the cliff face by a punchy gale.
I reached Blue Pool by following a track through Broughton Bay Caravan Park. An artery of tarmac runs between static caravans – now jostling in the wind like red-faced farmers at the local pub, chuckling because I’m wearing Nikes, not walking boots – leading to a wide, sandy path, snaking round expansive Broughton Bay, to my right. I can see why Broughton is so popular. The tide has left what looks like an oil slick of clear, blue water resting in rivulets across the undulating sand.
As I climb higher, the path narrows to a capillary and the wooden walking slats’ progressive decay prophesise what may lie around the smooth curve of the headland. The last splinters give way to purple moor grass, common quaking grass, and gorse, its woody coconut scent shaken from its hardy yellow flowers in a tussle with the elements. I hit a wall of weather at the top of the cliff, which worsens on the left-hand descent. The guttural rumble of waves is a thunderous, interrupted only by sharp spits of rain against my waterproof hood.
The clouds are pregnant with every droplet they’ve plundered on their voyage across the Celtic Sea, leaving the bay’s half-moon of sand dimpled by fat raindrops. At the base of the cliff, the Pantone palette of weathered blue-greys, greens and beiges is punctured by something – a fluorescent orange swimming hat, perched above otherworldly Blue Pool. It’s a downward scramble to reach the pool as the path disappears into steep, uneven rock, the sharp protrusions studded with barnacles, the smooth cambers caked with gelatinous gutweed.
Once there, I see how the pool is alluring and repellent in equal measure. At low tide, the glassy water waits dormant, untouched by whichever element dominates the rest of the beach that day. But at high tide, the pool fills to the rim of the tall, anthracite rocks which surround it, forming a deep, narrow cylinder – bottomless, if local legend is to be believed.
At eight-feet deep when full, the pool is slightly shallower than bottomless, but the bay’s the stuff of legend: flat sand, a crust of distorted rock around its curved edge, stretching up a steep cliff to meet curls of wild grasses and soft heathers. At the far end of the bay, stands the Three Chimneys cliff formation, towering above the Culver Hole Cave – a treasure trove of prehistoric discoveries. In 1770, and again in 1840, golden coins and doubloons from a Portuguese shipwreck were found glittering in dark limestone, blown apart by prospectors’ dynamite. The steady beat of waves pounding a heart-shaped explosion hole reverberate round the bay. The Portuguese wreck is one of around 30 known vessels which have shattered against the surrounding coastline, all watched by the Blue Pool – a seductive, silent siren amongst the rocks.
Until recently, the rockpool wasn’t only hidden from the elements: it was hidden from almost everyone. But in 2018, a BBC Sesh video surfaced, featuring an influencer singing the pool’s praises. A warning is casually tacked on to the end of the dialogue: “be careful what time you arrive – the tide will come in and you could be stranded on the beach”. A wave of footfall, a wash of hashtags and a torrent of filtered pictures followed – along with multiple incidents so serious they warranted RNLI intervention due to the pool’s “deep water, strong currents and heavy surf.” An argument now rages between Swansea Council and the private owner of the bay about how to safeguard the area. The Council demands signs, the owner urges common sense.
I watch as yet another man’s common sense is overpowered by the ethereal waters. The swimmer’s orange hat disappears beneath the surface, fading into the blue. Realistically, whose common sense could be strong enough to resist the lure of Blue Pool? And when the Britannia Inn’s a pebble’s throw away, it would be rude not to pop in for a post-dip pint.