Oliver cooked me a bacon and egg sandwich and then drove me back to the sea wall leading from Cardiff to Newport. What a great brother I’ve got!
The weather was very changeable today, bright sunshine interspersed with heavy showers. I survived 3 such showers without getting wet. The first came after only 5 minutes of walking and I was just by a cafe so I ran inside and had a coffee.
The sea wall reminded me of Essex and the low lying land with ditches was rather like the Norfolk Fens; there even seem to be a smattering of Dutch names!
West Usk lighthouse marked the turn inland up the Ebbw River. I had to run to the lighthouse and take cover behind a wall from the second downpour.
The next bit of the path was completely blocked by a herd of about 50 cows and a bull. Only one thing for it, I tried to look big and shoo them all away. Scary, but I managed it and then I walked very quickly around the path to get away from them.
I arrived in the outskirts of Newport and survived my third shower standing behind a tree. I don’t think the path went through the best bits of town, at least I hope it didn’t.
I arrived at the Newport Transporter Bridge and went into the small visitor centre. Having been on the Middlesborough Transporter Bridge already on my trip I was keen to go on this one, the only other working transporter bridge in the UK and one of only 6 worldwide (only 20 were ever built).
The Newport Bridge is even older than the Middlesborough one. It was built in 1906 and then restored and reopened in 1995. It crosses the River Usk and was built to ferry the workers to the steel plant.
Before I crossed the bridge, first I was meeting Chris and Ginny for lunch at one of the old pubs next door, The Waterloo. It was great to catch up with Chris.
After lunch I met Oliver and we climbed up the Transporter Bridge together and walked across the top platform. Once on the other side we caught the gondola back across the River Usk. We were lucky that the views were great this afternoon.
I caught the train from Cardiff Central to Cadoxton, a suburb of Barry. I still had to walk through the suburbs and around the chemical works to Sully Bay.
The coast path ran past the edges of suburban gardens and was way marked by stones with various little mosaics telling the story of Sully. The beach was made up of vegetated shingle, which is apparently quite rare.
At Swanbridge I stopped for a 2nd breakfast overlooking Sully Island. The tide was in so no chance of walking to it.
On the way to Lavernock I passed an old WW2 anti-aircraft battery; unsurprising set in a location with great views.
At the church in this tiny village there was a plaque commemorating the first radio transmissions across water that were made by Marconi, who was based at Lavernock. In 1897 he received a message at Laverock that was sent from Flat Holm.
From Lavernock Point it was a short walk to Penarth, with its big houses on the cliff top and a pier on the small sea front.
Back up the hill to Penarth Head and some great views across the Bristol Channel, taking in the islands, and also over Cardiff Bay.
I dropped down to Cardiff Bay and walked across the Cardiff Bay Barrage. What a feat of engineering. It was built 1994-99 to create a freshwater bay and it certainly seems to have created a busy and well used environment.
One of the barrage sections was drained for repair and the South Wales Fire Service were carrying out some training.
The East side of Cardiff Bay was busy, with people and lots of fantastic buildings. I walked past the Welsh Assembly and along Roald Dahl Plas.
Cardiff Bay very much celebrates being the home of Roald Dahl (he was Christened in the Norwegian Church) and being the start point for Scott’s voyage to the Antarctic in 1910. I was mildly amused to note the lovely mosaic memorial to Scott and his colleagues is located directly in front of the Norwegian Church!
From Cardiff Bay the coast path wends its way alongside a small canal flanked by houses and apartments (I saw grebes and coots with their chicks). After that the walk was best forgotten.
I spent a good hour walking alongside a busy road through a series of industrial estates and then, when I reached the water’s edge, it was only to walk past a sewage works and various other nasty sites. I walked past 2 landfill sites, although it seemed more like I was walking through and over them. It wasn’t pleasant walking and the smell was horrible. There was one small settlement of chalets that I walked past and they were surrounded by rubbish and various animals, including horses standing in muck and mud. It was all very sad, and smelly.
I had to walk up and down the banks of the Rhymney River to escape, and even the river was muddy and filled with rubbish and tyres.
Finally I reached the sea wall, just as the wind picked up. Walking along it reminded me of Essex all that time ago; walking atop a big grassy bank designed to hold back the tide.
When I reached the Cardiff/Newport border I phoned Oliver (who had offered to pick me up) and headed into the road. I had seen 2 sides of Cardiff today.
I was up early to catch the bus into the centre of Cardiff and then the train to Llantwit Major, named after St Illtud who founded a college and a monastery here in 393AD.
I stopped for a coffee at the velo cafe in the old part of town. Fuelled on caffeine I headed out to the coast. It was a lovely morning, the sun was shining and there was very little wind. Consequently I had an excellent view across the Bristol Channel to North Devon.
My walk to Aberthaw was nice, mostly along the cliff and then a stretch at the back of a long, rocky beach covered in anti-tank defences (known as Dragons’ teeth around here).
Unfortunately, while I was bathed in sunshine I could see a huge dark cloud looming over Aberthaw Power Station (all power stations seem to have dark, moody skies over them). With a lack of wind the rain clouds just didn’t seem to be moving.
Aberthaw has a biodiversity area, created by the power station, not only with finance but also by providing a tropical environment! Apparently Bass and Smoothound Sharks come here to breed in the warm water.
I had only just climbed the cliff out of Aberthaw when the first hailstorm hit me. I managed to get my waterproof jacket on but didn’t bother with the trousers and just accepted I was going to get soaked. For the next 3 hours the weather alternated between hail and heavy rain, and the temperature seemed to drop by about 10 degrees. All the time I could see Devon bathed in sunshine!
I walked past RAF St Athan (now Cardiff Airport) at Rhoose. Rhoose Point had a sign telling me I had reached the southernmost point of mainland Wales. This old quarry filled with new houses seemed like a desolate place in the pouring rain. I needed a cafe to dry off.
I was thoroughly soaked by the time I reached Porthkerry Country Park. I stopped at the cafe for a cake and a break from the rain so I could swap maps and add a layer.
The rain eased slightly as I arrived in Barry. I stood on the cliff and surveyed Cold Knap Point and Barry Island.
As the tide was out I walked across the sand/mud to Barry Island.
Whitmore Bay was just around Friars Point and there I came face to face with the famous Barry Island Pleasure Park. It looked a bit sad without any people and only a few places were open. I didn’t stop.
On the other side of the island are the docks and a view of Barry Power Station.
The sky was black over Barry so I hurried on, keen to cross the bridge and get to the train station before I got drenched again. I almost made it.
I sat at Barry station and watched the heaviest downpour. Everyone was shivering in the cold. The sun was out when I arrived back in Cardiff!
Many thanks to Ann and Meirion for looking after me. Meirion gave me a lift down to Sandy Bay and I walked past the funfair and all along the beaches of Sandy Bay, Trecco Bay and the edge of the Merthyr-mawr Warren Nature Reserve. It was high tide so there wasn’t much beach but lots of shingle.
I reached the Ogmore River and had to divert inland, through the Merthyr-mawr dunes (apparently the 2nd highest in Europe), around the sewage works hidden in the trees, past the remains of Candleston Castle, to the village of Merthyr Mawr.
It was a lovely walk and very quiet. Merthyr Mawr was very picturesque with its thatched cottages and church surrounded by a carpet of bluebells on the banks of the river.
I crossed two bridges to Ogmore, which also meant I was now in Glamorgan. I found myself back at The Pelican pub (too early for lunch!) and alongside Ogmore Castle (another Norman Castle built 1116).
It didn’t take quite so long to walk the road down to Ogmore-by-Sea and then I was back on cliffs.
I walked along to Southerndown and stopped at the pub there for lunch. The wind was picking up and I could see squalls of rain that kept just missing me.
A huge sausage sandwich later and I felt invigorated and ready to carry on. It was very windy and at times I felt like my rucksack was being ripped off my back. Great fun walking along some very exposed cliff tops with no fencing and lots of cliff falls.
The Glamorgan Heritage Coast has the 2nd biggest tidal range in the World. I was glad that I had stopped for lunch because the walk from Dunraven Bay to Nash Point should be done at low tide. I would have been possible to walk the whole way on the beach; however, I stayed on the cliff top and was rewarded with some spectacular views of the rock formations.
Dunraven Bay used to have a huge mansion house but it was demolished in the 1960s as it became unaffordable. There is a small heritage centre there and walks through the gardens. The beach has lots of large rocks on it known as ‘dancing stones’. It was very noisy as a coastguard helicopter was practising something around the cliffs of Witches Nose, the bit that sticks out at Dunraven.
The Blue Lias cliffs on this stretch of Glamorgan coast are spectacular. They are formed by layers of limestone and shale, and they captivated me. Around every turn the cliffs, and the flat rocks on the beaches below, gave another dramatic view.
I rounded Nash Point, which has 2 lighthouses (one not used), and arrived at St Donat’s Bay.
This was a strange place; concrete castle-like walls the length of the small bay to keep the public out. I could see an outdoor swimming pool behind the walls and it looked like some sort of activity centre. To get to the town behind I can only assume one must walk through the small wood on the side of the cliff?
I reached the cliff top overlooking Col-huw Point, the spit of shingle that forms Llantwit Major’s beach.
Here I headed into the, larger than I expected, town to catch the train back to Cardiff. Llantwit Major certainly seemed like a thriving community with lots of shops, several pubs and a lovely old centre.
I caught a bus into the centre of Cardiff and then a train to Baglan, saving me a walk out of Swansea and across the River Neath. I made my way through Sandfields housing estate to the waterfront at Aberavon Sands.
At the end of the promenade is Aberavon Beach, which is lovely, except for being right next to the docks servicing Port Talbot steel factory.
The path turned inland to skirt the docks and the steel works, and I spent the next couple of hours mostly walking next to a main road, sandwiched between the M4 and the factories. It was not the most exciting walk.
Eventually, after another roundabout, I turned away from the main road and across several railway lines at the end of their tracks. Suddenly I entered a sand dune and wetland wilderness.
It was a long walk along the soft sandy paths through Kenfig National Nature Reserve. A wild place next to all the industry. I didn’t see much wildlife though, mainly geese and skylarks.
I approached Porthcawl via Rest Bay, which I later found out is significantly lower and has less sand than before the 2013 storms.
Porthcawl seems like a nice town, originally developed around a small harbour to service the iron and coal industries of the valleys and now a seaside resort. I walked along Lock’s Common and the esplanade, with its 1932 Grand Pavillion, and out to Porthcawl Point.
I noticed the plaque on the wall commemorating the first Porthcawl Annual Christmas Day swim that has been running since 1965.
I had a lovely evening with my friend Al’s parents. Meirion and Ann really looked after me and made me feel very welcome.
It was nice to have a couple of days with my Oliver and Laura. Fran from Montrose was also staying for the weekend, ahead of a course in Cardiff. We ate lots of food, watched some rugby and went for a walk on the beach at Ogmore, near Porthcawl. Oliver and I did some stone skimming and fossil hunting.
After some debate, the concensus of opinion was that I wouldn’t be able to wade across the Ogmore River on Tuesday and would have to walk inland to the bridge.
Our walk ended with an excellent pie and chips at the nearby pub called The Pelican in her Piety.
I awoke to rain pattering on Pippa’s cabin. After tea and poached eggs on toast and more chatting it was after 10 am before I left. It was still raining.
I walked back through Southgate to the cliffs and then along to Pwlldu. The cliffs were beautiful, even in the rain. Pwlldu beach had a house built behind the shingle with a track through a ford to reach it.
As I approached Mumbles, Caswell and Langland Bays both gave the impression they were very popular tourist beaches. Caswell in particular was a lovely big, sandy beach.
Mumbles Head was a bit of a disappointment as there were lots of workmen and barriers (it looked like they were doing something to a tunnel through the cliff), and the weather was such that I could barely see the lighthouse, never mind any views across to Devon.
I carried on into the town and stopped at one of the many, many cafes. Apparently Mumbles used to be an oyster town, but they weren’t on any menu I saw. I picked well as lunch at the Kitchen Table was very nice and gave me a chance to dry off. The rain wasn’t heavy, just persistent.
Swansea Bay was big and had a promenade all the way around it, much of it with a fitness trail. It looked like a lot of effort had gone into improving the sea front.
I walked along Marine Walk as far as the Swansea Marina and then headed into the centre of Swansea to the train station. I passed Swansea Castle, built in 1290. This is not the original one that was built by the first Lord of Gower in 1106.
I caught the train to Cardiff for a weekend with my brother and his wife.
A darker, cloudy sky today; no sun to be seen. It didn’t matter because I was still on a high from yesterday. I made my packeted porridge and ate it in the hostel lounge, staring out across Port-Eynon Bay.
I was on the road just after 8.30 am, heading across the beach to Horton and then past some big houses onto the cliff path. I noticed that my legs felt a bit tired today, which I put down to the last couple of days being quite long and strenuous. How fortunate then that I wasn’t going to walk so far today (not that I knew it at this point as I was aiming for Mumbles).
I made my way around Oxwich Point and Oxwich Beach came briefly into view before I was enveloped by trees. The path wound up and down through a lovely wood on the side of the cliff and I got a chance to admire the carpet of bluebells. I crossed paths with a lady who was also walking the whole of the British coast. Natalia had started walking clockwise from Durdle Door in February. She was on a very different walk to me as her 5-year old daughter had died 4 months ago and she was walking for charity, and through grief. She had a back-up team that arranged people for Natalia to walk and stay with, so she wasn’t carrying a tent. We wished each other well and swapped website addresses; hers is http://www.elizabethsfootprint.com.
St Iltyd’s Church is buried in the wood, barely visible from the beach. Noting the saint’s name I wondered if I was still on some sort of pilgrims’ path?I dropped out of the wood onto Oxwich Beach, a long stretch of golden sand with huge dunes behind. In the middle of the beach I had to head into the dunes to cross a small river via a bridge. I stopped here for a short break and to eat something (porridge makes me hungry!). Then I stuck on the path, through the dunes and up the cliff. I found a brilliant rope swing and stopped to play on it for a bit.
I rounded the small headland to overlook Threecliff Bay; wow. What a stunning sight, with Pennard Pill meandering down the beach and the cliffs protruding into it. I thought it looked quite magical. (It also looked like the path did a lot of serious up and down.)
I kept stopping to admire the view from different angles as I made my way into the beach and across the stepping stones bridging the Pill. Pennard Castle was visible high on the cliff.Someone had lit a fire on the shingle and I walked towards it. Two ladies walking their dogs also gravitated towards the fire (I thought they’d put it but they hadn’t). We got chatting and they were both local. After 5 minutes Pippa had offered me a bed for the night just up on the cliff in Sandy Lane. It was too good an offer to refuse as my legs were tired and, unusually, I hadn’t got a plan for my accommodation that evening. It seemed like it was meant to be so I gratefully accepted the offer. Pippa advised that I walk up to Southgate, stop at Pennard Stores cafe, and then walk on to her house as a nice end to my walk. I took her advice and climbed the steep cliff off the beach.
There is some serious money in Southgate and some very large houses. I only had eyes for the homemade cake in the cafe and spent a happy couple of hours reading the paper and relaxing. I bought Pippa some cake and a bottle of wine and headed across the golf course to Sandy Lane.
Sandy Lane grew up as prefabs during the War and is still made up mostly of wooden chalets. It had quite a hippy feel to it. Pippa’s chalet was amazing; she is an artist and, along with her friend who is a builder, had recently done it up, complete with lots of quirky features (like bent tea strainers as kitchen cupboard handles). She will be renting it out in the summer as a holiday let (Gower getaways – Windyhill) and will live in the cabin in the garden (my bed for the night).
Pippa and one of her neighbour’s were going to the gym this evening so I went with them and had an evening relaxing in the pool, sauna and steam room. After that Pippa and I went to the pub for dinner and I didn’t get to bed until after midnight. I meet some wonderful people on this trip!
The forecast promised a sunny day and it was delivered for my walk around the head of the Gower peninsula. I started with Whiteford Burrows; a spit of sand dunes and pine woods protecting Great Pill and the marshes from the Celtic Sea.
Unsurprisingly, the wind picked up as I walked further out but it was beautiful. I wasn’t alone though; an army EOD team was out to destroy some WW2 ordnance (this area used to be a military range).
When I reached Whiteford Point I got a great view of the iron lighthouse, built a mile offshore in 1865 and the only one of its kind in Europe.
I jumped down the lovely dunes and began my long walk along Whiteford Sands and then across Broughton Bay to the point at Burry Holms.
I climbed onto the cliff top at Broughton Burrows (a cliff top covered in sand dunes) and walked around the corner to face Rhossili Bay. What a beautiful beach.
I walked halfway along the golden sand until I reached Hillend, where I walked past the deserted camping fields and climbed up onto Rhossili Down. The coast path actually goes along the base of the Down but on such a glorious day I wanted the views from the top.
It was a perfect day for enjoying fantastic views from Rhossili Down. I could see across the whole of Carmarthen Bay and beyond. I could see St Govan’s Head at the Bay’s Northern tip, Worms Head at the Southern tip, and across the Bristol Channel to Lundy Island and North Devon. It was breathtaking. It was windy on the top but worth the extra effort. It was early afternoon when I dropped down into Rhossili so I stopped for a quick coffee. I only had a short rest (out of the sun as I was a bit worried I was going to get sunburn or even sunstroke) I carried on to the Lookout Station opposite Worms Head. Here was a good spot to sit and enjoy the rest of yesterday’s picnic from the supermarket.
The tide was coming in so I was too late to walk onto Worms Head itself; I was quite happy just admiring it from the headland.
I still had a 7-mile walk along the spectacular cliff top to Port Eynon. This day had everything!
I passed a couple of forts on the cliffs, where circular earth walls and ditches were still clearly visible. There are lots of caves on this section of the cliffs but I didn’t climb down and explore any as I have done that before when visiting as a child. Culver Hole is the well-known man-made cave near Port-Eynon Point and was probably used by smugglers. (The small village of Port Eynon once had 8 Excise men stationed there.)
I rounded Port-Eynon Point and dropped down off the cliff by the remains of The Salt House, a 16th Century mansion built for the smuggler John Lucas. I passed through the beach-side campsite and stopped at The old lifeboat house that is now a youth hostel. Such an amazing location right on the beach and I had the best bedroom, overlooking the sea.
Diane, the hostel warden, was lovely and we spent ages chatting. She recommended the local pub for dinner and I enjoyed a lovely fish and chip supper. A great end to an amazing day.