We have several slides along the coast; Limeslade, Rotherslade, Heatherslade, Mewslade, and a little hamlet called Slade. The word is fascinating. It’s old English meaning is a small valley, or a piece of low, flat ground, and its use in these parts seems to signify a little valley sloping down to the sea. Its use in this context seems to be local, and I can’t find other slades on the west coast of Wales, or at any other coastal site in the UK. In Internet searches, the word is usually associated with inland farms and villages, and apart from here, there seems to be no connection with the sea. Pembrokeshire is often referred to as ‘Little England beyond Wales’, a label which also fits Gower. Many of our villages have English names, and there’s very little Welsh spoken here. I wonder if our slades date back to the dominance of the English in Gower during Tudor times.
Slade can’t really be called a village, rather a collection of half a dozen or so dwellings at the top of a narrow valley about a quarter of a mile long leading down to the sea. It’s a very quiet and secretive place, there’s hardly any sign of life, and it looks like a closely-knit community. Facing due south, and protected from the ravages of westerly gales, the little valley lush. Stunted trees, shaped over generations by the wind, line the high ridges on either side, and the woodlands below seem not to have been managed for years.
The track down to the beach is muddy at this time of year and little used. It’s busier during summer months, but even then only locals and keen walking holidaymakers find it. On sunny autumn days such as this, with frequent heavy showers, there’s nobody here. At the point where the track meets the raised beach, the sun bursts out from the fast-moving clouds lighting up the sea. I sit and marvel at the sound of the surf pounding the rocks below. Even on benign days like this, the power of the sea impresses. Rollers, originating from way out in the Atlantic, die on the rocks below my feet; they never fail to impress.
I walk east along the shore. The few fields on the raised beach have been farmed for generations, and look fertile, but I always wonder about fertilisers. There are few birds about at this time of year, just a few pipits and a small flock of skylarks move amongst the stubble. Overlooking the fields, limestone cliffs climb upwards towards the sky, their steep faces splashed with yellow gorse and red hawthorn berries peeping out from sheltered hollows.
I could walk for another mile, round the headland into Oxwich Bay, and climb back up to the road leading to Slade. The journey would be long and slippery, so I turn into the breeze, survive another sharp shower, and head up the deserted lane to the comfort of the car.