'Mumbles is a funny place,
a church without a steeple,
houses made of old ships wrecked
and the most peculiar people',
So, it's official. Mumbles has been named the best place to live in Wales! The village we call home made the top spot for the first time in an annual list compiled by the Sunday Times, beating such in places as Abergavenny, Cowbridge and Llandeilo.
The Times looked at a number of factors before it made its decision; community spirit, shops, scenic views and the now all important broadband speed. The guide says that Mumbles 'was a bit run down at the turn of the millennium but has just had a serious makeover.'
There is the feel of a growing confidence in our community since the Oyster Wharf development opened. Building has started on the old British Legion site. The development of the pier into a new resort now looks likely to go ahead. Even our own ancient and modern Parish Church has been given a major makeover over the last few years!
For those of us who live here and for those who visit our seaside village for day trips or for a holiday, Mumbles does indeed feel like a special place. Community spirit remains strong; there are beaches, cliff path walks, the promenade. We have a historic castle and Church, a Victorian pier, a new Lifeboat House and an eighteenth century Lighthouse. There are fine restaurants and a good variety of shops, many of them local and independent.
But what makes Mumbles special to me is its people.
The old and often recited rhyme speaks of us as a 'most peculiar people'. This is a historic rather than a negative reference. The people of Mumbles and Gower have an identity of their own. When the Normans conquered the peninsula, centuries ago, they claimed the southern part for themselves and the Welsh were given the north. So Mumbles and South Gower became a little England beyond Wales, with its own dialect and somewhat insular way of life.
Though the coming of the world's first passenger railway, two centuries ago, and the development of a seaside resort here opened our community to the wider world it's in recent decades that Mumbles has seen the most change. Our community has become much more diverse. It is a sought after place to live in and remains one of Wales' property hot spots.
Yet Mumbles still retains a strong sense of community, even when it has waned elsewhere. It can often take me over an hour to walk just a few hundred yards around the shops as people stop to talk to me. This community spirit might be because our homes are so closely built together. We have had to learn how to live on top of each other. There are probably a great number of reasons why neighbourliness still thrives here.
One important factor is that our local Churches remain relatively strong and an important part of village life. The percentage of people who attend our places of worship is higher than the national average. Though we would not claim to have a monopoly on community it is an essential part of the life of our Churches. There is the sense that we are part of the 'leaven in the lump' that encourages neighbourliness and closeness in Mumbles. It's one of the gifts the Church offers to a broken world. It's what we call 'fellowship' or 'koinonia [communion]'. The Book of Acts described life in the early Church when it tells us that 'they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, the breaking of bread, fellowship and prayer,' That is still true for the Church of today.
All this said, there are challenges for our village too. Many of our young people are unable to make their own home here because local house prices are so inflated. There are those who come to live in Mumbles and who play little or no part in community life at all. But there are still plenty of people who do, and its what makes this place so special.