WEEK 38 – Swansea to Newport

76 miles walked

(total 2,166 miles walked)

Easy walking and planning this week as I was hosted by Oliver and Laura all week (and Meirion and Ann on Monday night). This meant I carried a light pack all week and dispensed with my walking poles. 

Strange weather this week. Fortunately I didn’t see the snow that lots of the UK received, but I did have my fair share of rain and hail. None of it dampened my enthusiasm for the walks though. 

my favourite photo of the Blue Lias cliffs
My favourite section of the week was the Blue Lias cliffs of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast; simply stunning. I also like Cardiff Bay and it was nice to share walking the Newport Transporter Bridge with Oli. 

Oli on the Transporter Bridge
I spent all week alongside the Bristol Channel staring across at North Devon. The Severn Estuary does seem to extend out a long way and is muddy brown; rather different from the blue sea of last week. The channel was clearly well defended during WW2 as I have passed lots of pill boxes this week. 

looking across the Bristol Channel towards Weston-super-Mare, the islands of Steep Holm and Flat Holm in view

Day 271 to 273 Rest Days

Saturday 30 April to Monday 2 May (Bank Holiday)

Rest Days

Oli and Laura’s house, Cardiff

An opportunity to spend the Bank Holiday weekend with Oli and Laura was not to be missed. Besides, it rained pretty much non-stop from Saturday evening onwards. 

Lots of eating, some drinking and plenty of relaxing. I took the time to go shopping in Cardiff for new boots (the same ones as my previous two pairs). The pair I got in August were cracking around the toe joint (a recurring issue) so I managed to get them replaced, despite the obvious wear. I had my feet measured again in Cotswold Outdoor and this time I left with a size bigger as the assistant was convinced mine were too small. So now I have size 8 boots (or boats!), and I wear size 6.5 shoes. I also replaced my inner and outer socks and my superfeet insoles; the only thing I didn’t replace was my feet!

I must not get used to only walking half a week!

Day 270 Newport Transporter Bridge

Friday 29 April 2016

Nr St Brides Wentlooge to Newport

8 miles

Oli and Laura’s house

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. 

walking the sea wall – ominous dark clouds over Newport Power Station!
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. 

West Usk Lighthouse (now a B&B)
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 had to get through there! I can now add cow herding to my list of skills
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. 

Welcome to Newport!
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 Transporter Bridge looking magnificent
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.  

lots of photos of the transporter bridge
the gondola approaching
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. 

the amazing bar in The Waterloo Hotel, complete with tiles (it is grade I listed)
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. 

Me and Oli walking across the top of the transporter bridge
looking through the walkway as the gongola passed beneath

the view up the River Usk into Newport

Day 269 Lavernock Calling Cardiff, Over

Thursday 28 April 2016

Barry to Cardiff/Newport border

17 miles

Oli and Laura’s house

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. 

Sully beach, made up of vegetated shingle (Sully Island and Steep Holm in the distance)
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. 

the footpath around Sully – guided by mosaics and tiles
At Swanbridge I stopped for a 2nd breakfast overlooking Sully Island. The tide was in so no chance of walking to it. 

Sully Island marooned offshore at high tide
On the way to Lavernock I passed an old WW2 anti-aircraft battery; unsurprising set in a location with great views. 

looking down the Bristol Channel from an old searchlight position for a shore battery that protected the Channel from enemy ships
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. 

the commemorative plaque on Lavernock Church wall
a small tower on the Lavernock cliff – was this used by Marconi?
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. 

looking at Penarth (on the cliff) and Cardiff Bay below it
Penarth’s art deco pier (one of the stopping points for The Waverley, the only working paddle steamer in the world)
Back up the hill to Penarth Head and some great views across the Bristol Channel, taking in the islands, and also over Cardiff Bay. 

the view from Penarth Head (Flat Holm and Steep Holm are the islands)
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. 

the bridge was open at Cardiff Bay Barrage when I arrived
one of the barrage sections
One of the barrage sections was drained for repair and the South Wales Fire Service were carrying out some training.

this section had been drained
looking back at Cardiff Bay Barrage and Penarth Head
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. 

The Welsh Assembly (made of Welsh slate of course)
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!

the memorial to Captain Scott and his men, 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. 

a roundabout covered in signs
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. 

looking down on the sewage treatment works, and various other industries, from what seemed like the top of an old landfill site
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. 

the sea wall (no, I’m not back in Essex!)
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. 

Day 268 Hailstorm at Barry Island

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Llantwit Major to Barry

16 miles

Oli and Laura’s house, Cardiff

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. 

Llantwit Major old town
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. 

a beautiful view along the cliff to Nash Point
an example of cliff erosion (Devon in the background)
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). 

Aberthaw beach (dragons’ teeth on the edge of the beach)
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 Power Station
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. 

Aberthaw biodiversity area
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!

Rhoose – an old quarry with a new housing estate
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. 

the lovely sign marking the most southerly point of mainland Wales
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 Porthkerry viaduct
The rain eased slightly as I arrived in Barry. I stood on the cliff and surveyed Cold Knap Point and Barry Island. 

looking across to Barry Island
Cold Knap Point
As the tide was out I walked across the sand/mud to Barry Island. 

walking across to Barry Island at low tide
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. 

Barry Island Pleasure Park (just like Las Vegas, it looks less tacky from a distance)
On the other side of the island are the docks and a view of Barry Power Station. 

lookig along the coast as far as Sully Island
Barry Docks
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. 

the weather rolling in to Barry Island
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!

Day 267 Glamorgan Heritage Coast

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Porthcawl to Llantwit Major

19 miles

Oli and Laura’s house, Cardiff

Trecco Bay at high tide, looking back on Porthcawl
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. 

Merthyr-mawr Warren
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. 

Candleston Castle in the woods
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. 

St Teilo’s Church, Merthyr Mawr
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). 

Ogmore Castle
It didn’t take quite so long to walk the road down to Ogmore-by-Sea and then I was back on cliffs. 

looking down the Ogmore River
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. 

walking the ‘dangerous cliffs’ to Southerndown
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. 

Dunraven Bay
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. 

the ‘dancing stones’ at Dunraven Bay
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 coastguard helicopter out practising
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. 

dramatic cliffs
amazing Blue Lias cliffs
I rounded Nash Point, which has 2 lighthouses (one not used), and arrived at St Donat’s Bay. 

Nash Point lighthouses
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? 

St Donat’s
I reached the cliff top overlooking Col-huw Point, the spit of shingle that forms Llantwit Major’s beach. 

the Afon Col-huw leading to the beach by Llantwit Major
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. 

stunning Blue Lias cliffs

Day 266 Port Talbot and Porthcawl

Monday 25 April 2016

Port Talbot to Porthcawl

16 miles

Ann and Meirion’s house, Porthcawl (Al’s parents)

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. 

Aberavon Sands (at high tide)
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 beautiful Aberavon beach, with Port Talbot steel works behind it
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. 

Port Talbot docks and steel works
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. 

Kenfig Burrows Nature Reserve
Kenfig Burrows
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. 

the edge of Kenfig Burrows, Port Talbot behind it
I approached Porthcawl via Rest Bay, which I later found out is significantly lower and has less sand than before the 2013 storms.  

Rest Bay, Porthcawl
looking back on Rest Bay
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. 

Porthcawl esplanade
I noticed the plaque on the wall commemorating the first Porthcawl Annual Christmas Day swim that has been running since 1965.

the lighthouse at Porthcawl Point, Sandy Bay on the left and Ogmore across the bay
I had a lovely evening with my friend Al’s parents. Meirion and Ann really looked after me and made me feel very welcome. 

penguins and a blue whale at Aberavon Sands