Day 104 Ogmore to Cynffig Country Park 16 April 2018

Day 104 Ogmore to Cynffig Country Park 16 April 2018

Today, I was out for 12 hours. Unfortunately, only five of them were spent actually walking – the rest was waiting for public transport to arrive, sitting on public transport whilst it went nowhere, and getting to and from public transport. It has been great staying with a friend as a base, but, practically speaking, it gets very hard as you get further away, even though, in theory, there is plenty of public transport in this area of South Wales.

Things began well enough – local train to Bristol Temple Meads, mainline train to Newport, change to Bridgend and a walk to the bus stop. En route, I stopped in a local café to buy a coffee – I try to avoid chains and patronise local businesses. As I queued, the man ahead of me turned around and said:

‘I don’t know why two of them have to come to the counter. They’re only gossiping – why can’t one sit down and the other get the order?’

I made a murmuring noise.

‘And why do they have the kitchen upstairs here?  There’s plenty of room for it down by here (or by yur as it is pronounced in the Valleys) – it would be much better.’

I murmured again.

‘It’s a wonder how ignorant some people are. A few years ago, I had to have an operation to cut a cancer off my ear’. He turned his head to show me his right ear.

Murmuring didn’t seem enough, so I graduated to ‘Goodness’.

‘The doctor I saw, he’s my neighbour. I told him he needed to mend the fence.  He said it wasn’t his fence. Of course it is, I told him. The posts are on your side. An educated man and he didn’t know whose fence it was. It wasn’t as though he’d only been there a minute. Five years he’d been there, and didn’t know that.’

Lost for words, I repeated ‘Goodness’.

‘There’s a shop down by here, got a massive glass window it has, and they’ve gone and put a great big sign in it. Why do they want to spend all that money on the glass, and then cover it up?  Two fish and chips, and I’m sitting upstairs,’ he said to the woman at the till, plonked down his money and walked away.

After this entertaining slice of local life, I got on the bus and hopped off near the pub we ate at yesterday. The other passengers had a discussion about the best place for me to alight, to find the footbridge over the Ogwr river. There are stepping stones as well, but seeing it has been so wet, the bridge seemed the better option.

I found it easily and walked over the water meadows – heavily pocked with horse hooves. The ruins of Castell Ogwr are impressive. Built in the early 1100s, possibly by the de Longmore family, it came into the Chaworth family and thence to the duchy of Lancaster, and then the crown after Henry Bolingbroke took the throne in 1399. It was still in use in the nineteenth century. On the other side of the Ogwr is the delightful village surrounding the ruins of the de Cantilupe manor of Candlestone.  I did not divert to see the ruins, but enjoyed the pIMG_3277retty houses, the church and the spring flowers in the bright sunshine.

The track moves through a woodland to the high dunes of Merthyr Mawr – the path was fairly clear, although difficult to walk on, because trotting horses had created deep pockets in the narrow path.  After a mile or so, the path comes to the beach. The tide was way out, so I could walk across the sands all the way to Porth Cawl – there is one headland where it is necessary to climb up onto the prom, but otherwise, if the tide is low, you can walk across both bays at Porth Cawl – I really enjoyed this huge expanse of firm sand even thoug the sky lowered somewhat. IMG_3286

At the old dockyard, the warehouses have been turned into a row of eateries, and I had an excellent lunch – the staff did no more than glance expressionlessly at my muddy trousers before seating me.

After Porth Cawl, the chimneys of Porth Talbot steel works become visible – puffing the steam that I could see last summer from the Devon shore. Devon itself was very visible – the peaks of Great Hangman and Little Hangman, where Rachel and I were in July, and even the tip of Ilfracombe.

The walk continued at the edge of the beach, and partially on the shore itself – wide sands, with some rocks, and a golf course to the inland. This eventually turned to sand dunes at the Cynffig Nature Reserve, which apparently is one of the most diverse habitats in Wales, although I saw little other than grass and gorse. I navigated successfully across (previous coast walkers have complained of getting lost, so I think the authorities must have increased the number of marker posts).IMG_3346

I landed at Mawdlam at around 3.45. I would like to have gone further, but had to stop in a place where I could get a bus back to Bridgend. I didn’t get back to Bristol until 7.45 – very frustrating. I can’t face similar complications tomorrow, as I would only be able to walk for a short while anyway before heading home, so will leave the next section until I have a plan to walk from place to place again.  10.6 miles and a bronze day.

 

 

 

 

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Day 103 St Donat’s to Ogmore 15 April 2018

Day 103 St Donat’s to Ogmore 15 April 2018

Sunday having fairly limited public transport options, Jane and I had to be at Ogmore to catch the single bus that would take us back to St Donat’s. With my usual need to be everywhere early, we had a good half hour to wait at a place where no bus stop is actually signposted, but where a local farmer assured us it did stop – usually.

After about 15 minutes, a car stopped and we were given a lift a few miles into Ogmore-by-Sea where there was at least an official bus-stop and a lady standing by it looking expectant. Local knowledge proved correct, and the bus did turn up, carrying us through the tiny lanes to the point where I finished yesterday by 12pm. The forecast was not good, and it rained off and on, although not heavily, most of the day. TherIMG_3197e was the odd burst of sunshine over the sea, which sparkled silver. The path dropped down to the sea, and up again to the cliffs from time to time.

The mud was knee-deep, and it didn’t take long for me to slip – sitting down hard in a bramble patch. The rest of the day, I trailed mud everywhere.IMG_3202

After about an hour, we passed the lighthouse at Nash Point, and shortly after came to the Nash Point carpark café where I had an excellent bacon roll, and Jane had Victoria sandwich – highly recommended spot!

By and large, the walk was flat, with one or two steep drops down – the greasy ground made it hard going downhill, and my knee is now giving gyp. I hope it will be better tomorrow – if it is not, I shan’t walk.

For the first time more-or-less, since crossing the Severn, the Devon shore was occasionally visible – I could pick out the notch which is Porlock and I think at one point, I could spot Minehead. The coast is beautiful – very steep, vertical cliffs, with visible horizontal sediment structure in the land.  This ability to see the history of the coast’s development make it a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), known as the Monknash Coast. It is quite unstable, and in many places the land has clearly sheered away suddenly – fence posts hanging over the sea.IMG_3218

One of the prettiest parts of the path was the wooded valley on the approach to Dunraven Castle – sessile oaks, with an understory of bluebells – only a few were in bloom, but it will be a delight in a couple of weeks. There was sweet woodruff and ramsons, too, that Jane picked. IMG_3235We passed the foundations of Dunraven Castle, built in the 12th century on an old iron-age fort. It was raining quite hard at that point, which continued for about twenty minutes as we came to Aberogwr and turned up the river-valley. The views from the houses which overlook the estuary must be fabulous, when the sun shines.

As we walked up the river valley back to Ogmore, the sun came out, even though it was still raining, and we saw a lovely rainbow. An average supper (although the service was very pleasant) in a pub and then a drive back to Bristol in absolutely torrential rain. Jane pointed out that it would stop as soon as we crossed the bridge into England, and, aggravatingly, she was right.

Another silver day, with 9.5 miles covered.

Day 102 – Barry to St Donat’s 14 April 2018

Day 102 – Barry to St Donat’s 14 April 2018

Last night was rather disturbed – the fire alarm for the whole block went off at 2.17am. I grabbed my coat, my slippers, my phone and my keys, as well as the keys to the flat (Jane had stayed somewhere else last night) and spent a few minutes standing in the street, looking like an extra from a bad soap opera – furry slippers, waterproof and nightie: all I needed was curlers. This exciting incident meant I woke late, but it did not matter too much, as there was little traffic this morning, driving back to Barry.

The downside was the thick fog – visibility was not much more than 100 yards.  I drove over the spit to Barry Island, figuring I could ignore the half-mile from the bus-stop I finished near yesterday. Unfortunately, the layout of the roads has changed considerably from my map, with the construction of vast new housing developments. With that and the fog, (not forgetting the poor sign-posting) I got completely disoriented. Eventually, I sorted myself out, and came to the top of the island, a place called Nell’s Point. Of course, it is not really an island, just a promontory, joined with a thin spit of land.

It was still very foggy – but as I walked down the west side, it became possible to distinguish between the sea and the sky, although only because of the wave movement.  Barry beach is beautiful – so far as I could tell – long, wide, flat golden sands. It was somewhat disfigured by the noisy slot machine arcade blaring bad music place at the end – but, of course, everyone has different tastes. I was happy with the Cadawaldrs next door, where I was able to buy an excellent coffee. As I returned towards the spit, I saw that the tide was way out, so was able to walk across the harbour, rather than going back to the bridge – it was a bit of a scramble down, and the sand was heavy, but it made up the time I had lost.

I walked around The Knap, another promontory, then climbed up onto the cliffs. Behind me, I could hear two women chatting. Eventually, I entered a wood, and waited so that I could ask them to take a photo. We got chatting – they are walking the Welsh Coast Path, but, like me, not all at once. One has a son with realistic ambitions to play rugby for Wales (Yay!!) and the other has a daughter who is a contestant in the Miss Wales contest. We walked together for a good half hour, and it was lovely to make new friends.

Gradually, the cloud cleared and the sun came out, although it was not till the very end of the day that the Devon shore was vaguely visible.

The path runs along the coast, occasionally climbing up and down, with a couple of places where I had to clamber over cobbled beach.  passed the southern-most tip of Wales at Rhoose Point, and saw some interesting geological features.

The path passes a very large and ugly power station, where I was concerned that I was on the wrong side of the fence as the path was several inches deep in water at one point.

I hopped over the fence, but soon had to climb back as there were private property signs liberally scattered.

The path went inland for a bit, over fields, before dropping down to another cobble beach below Llanilltud Fawr. The evening sun was shining by now and the sea looked rather inviting.

I realised that if I moved swiftly, I would catch the 17.12 bus at St Donat’s – I hurried too much, and saw the 16.12 bus chugging away, and had to wait nearly an hour. St Donat’s is the location of the Atlantic College – it is a delightful little hamlet. Meeting new people has turned this day into Silver.

Day 101 – Cardiff to Barry 13 April 2018

Day 101 – Cardiff to Barry 13 April 2018

It’s nearly four months since my last walk, but the weather has barely improved. The spring has been absolutely sodden – with consequences for my boots. I had forgotten that the last walk I did, in January, was on the Icknield Way in Suffolk, with my friend Jon. The ground was so boggy that every few steps we had to lean on each other to try to shake the mud off, as it was so heavy it was almost impossible to lift our feet. Unfortunately, I had slung my boots in the back of the car, then gone on holiday and forgotten to clean them. The result, when I got them out was that they were solid mud – almost like plaster casts.IMG_3040

I left home later than I intended, but had a good run, and was walking away from Cardiff Central Station, where I parked, around 11.40 – a few minutes to get myself facing the right way, as there are several exits, and I was off.

I walked back down to Cardiff Bay – the development there is amazing – Yr Amgueddfa Genedlaethol (National Museum) and Y Seneddd (Assembly building) are both architecturally interesting – the former is an absolute gem in copper and slate.  IMG_3048

I walked along the Bay front, and across the Barrage. Here were lots of people around – it was grey, but not wet or cold.   The barrage takes you into Penarth, where there are some rather nice houses with sea views.

The walk itself was not particularly memorable – lots of road walking, and even those parts on the shore were easy going. There was very limited visibility. At one point, I could see Flat Holme and Steep Holme, the islands in the Severn that had looked so clear from the Devon shore.IMG_3103

The best part, was the enormous quantity of daffodils- it has been a great year for them – cultivated ones, but also the lovely Lent lilies- some early bluebells, as well – the worst was mud.

There was a long, dreary walk on the main road into Barry, then a short element close to the docks. I was tired by this point, having got up at 5.30am.  I saw a bus-stop, and thought it was time to head back – before I was there, the bus arrived. I began to run and waved frantically. The lovely bus driver stopped for me, although I was still 100 yards short of the bus -stop – you wouldn’t get that in the south-east.

A tour through the backs streets of Barry, Penarth and Cardiff brought me back to the station, and a drive down to Bristol to stay with my friend Jane finished a Bronze day.

Day 100 – Newport to Cardiff 22 Dec 2017

Day 100 – Newport to Cardiff 22 Dec 2017

Today is my hundredth day of walking. I have done 1,587 miles –  around 24% of the whole (assuming a distance of 6,500 miles). My average day is 15.9 miles. I have walked in eighteen counties (including Greater London) and on twelve different official long distance routes.

All very pleasing: just a shame today’s walk was not particularly special. I took the train back to Newport, then spent some time getting lost in the town’s backstreets as I worked my way back to the path. The Cornish pasty I ate yesteIMG_3014rday didn’t agree with me, so I had to make numerous diversions to find loos.

The weather was not cheerful. A heavy fog all day meant that visibility was never more than a hundred yards, and there was a fair bit of road-walking with quantities of lorries and vans thundering along.  Route finding was also hit and miss – on one occasion, I reached a farmhouse at the end of a long, muddy track, expecting to follow a path back onto the sea wall, but seeing no sign of it. The owner was at home and informed me that the path had been allowed to grow over and was now impassable. I had to make a long detour round.

Once I reached the sea wall again, it was straightforward, if uninspiring because of the lack of views.  Eventually, I reached the river Rhymni, and walked up the east bank, then back onto a busy road, before bearing off onto a track running parallel.  The track was ugly – litter everywhere, old bits of metal, shopping trolleys, plastic containers and so forth. There were also lots of small ponies tethered. I had been surprised all day at the number of horses and ponies I had seen – more than anywhere else on the walk so far.IMG_3022

In the distance, I could see a number of caravans, and this, together with the ponies, led me to wonder if I were approaching a Traveller site. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a young lad of about fourteen appeared, with a dog on a lead.

‘You’re on private property,’ he announced.

‘No, I’m not. This is the Coast Path’.

‘It’s not. It’s private. It’s my dad’s land.’

‘No, the map shows clearly that it is the coast path’.

‘My dad just bought it last week.’

I shrugged my shoulders and carried on.

‘I’m going to tell my dad.’

I felt a bit nervous. The path wasn’t getting any more attractive – there was evidence of burnt out vans and other debris around. The lad himself didn’t look dangerous, but who knew what a father or elder brother might be like?

I carried on. He turned back and asked, in a more conciliatory tone, what I was doing.

I explained that I was walking up to Cardiff, and tried to be friendly, admiring his dog, and stroking her. He was a nice enough boy, in fact.

The path came to a point where you could either drop onto the road, or turn left alongside the caravans. I didn’t like either option much, but the road was very busy, with no pavement, and in the fog I didn’t like to chance it. The boy indicated that the path went left, and, having assured me that I would never make the five o’clock train, dropped back as I hurried on.

I have seldom been nervous on the walk (other than cow incidents) but I did not much like going behind the caravans and up onto a very dirty, overgrown outcrop of land where I could hear major works of some sort but, with the fog, could see almost nothing. The path at this point suddenly became very poorly signposted, and I had to guess amongst several tracks. I scurried on, over debris and eventually made it back onto the main road, where it was wide enough to have a footpath.

A long and tedious road-bash took me into Cardiff, where I missed a train by one minute. Great Western surpassed themselves today. The next train was cancelled, and I had to take another train to Newport and change there.IMG_3029

I can’t decide whether to walk tomorrow – I am going to family near Glossop for Christmas, and if it is foggy would prefer to drive up early.

Definitely a below average day, so ‘cotton’. 16.2 miles.

Day 99 Severn Tunnel Junction to Newport 21 December 2017

Day 99 Severn Tunnel Junction to Newport 21 December 2017

Today was certainly not as exciting as yesterday, but few days are. It was a very straightforward day. I arrived at Severn Tunnel Junction around 8.50, and retraced my steps for about half a mile, to rejoin the path. It crossed back over the M4, then went straight down to the sea-wall.IMG_2984

Looking back, the second Severn Bridge was far more visible than yesterday, despite being overcast. On the far shore, I could see Portishead where I finished at the end of October. It was too cloudy to be certain of any other landmarks.

The tidal range of the Severn river is 12m – the second highest in the world and the result is a wide expanse of mud-flats. There was not a lot of bird life visible, but all the interpretation boards told me the place is teeming with our feathered friends.

The sea wall continued more or less without interruption, before turning slightly inland and then entering the Newport Wetlands Conservation Area, which is also apparently full of migratory species, although almost the only thing I saw (other than a rookery) was a lone adolescent swan.IMG_2995

The Wetlands are well-named. For a good ten miles, I was bog-trotting in heavy mud, across a succession of fields, with the odd road crossing. Navigation was more-or-less straightforward, although the Newport district signage does not have the useful yellow tips that is on the waymarkers in Monmouthshire. I missed one sign which, although it only wasted five minutes, had the knock-on effect of making me miss the train at the end by one minute.

The last few miles were on the outskirts of Newport – not a place about which compliments readily spring to mind, although the City Council is obviously trying its best with a new walkway along the River Usk and an interestingly designed pedestrian bridge across it.  IMG_3012

The weather was warm again, overcast, misty and with little wind.

A bronze day, taking me 15.9 miles.

Day 98 Avonmouth to Severn Tunnel Junction 20 December 2017

Day 98 Avonmouth to Severn Tunnel Junction 20 December 2017

I haven’t worked out the overall score for today, but although it feels in general like a bronze day, or perhaps a silver one, it is going to be recorded forever more as a diamond day, because of the sense of achievement, and the particularly special part I completed.

Today, I crossed the Severn Bridge. I have now completed all the way from the Humber Estuary to the Severn Estuary (except the last element along the Thames that will be the final weekend, and the 4 miles at Bigbury that are still haunting me). I think I can say, however, that I have completed the south of England and am now in beautiful Wales.

It was generally an easy day. I left at the crack of dawn from Clifton Down station and reached Avonmouth just as it was getting light – around 7.30am. The road through the docks was incredibly busy and smelly (there was definitely something very dead somewhere) and I could almost feel my lungs being coated with black slime as the lorries thundered past.IMG_2848

Eventually the path (part of the Severn Way) leaves the road and runs beside the railway track, between hedges of brambles.  At Severn Beach, the path becomes a promenade, where the early fishermen were out in force.

The fog that had been expected yesterday, turned up today, so although it was not cold, I could see very little of the view. There was no sign of the lower Severn Bridge, although I could hear traffic and the beeping of horns.  It was quite strange, as the bridge is so enormous, to know it was there, but invisible.  It did not emerge from the mist until I was no more than 30 yards away – and even then, I could only see the couple of pillars nearest me.  The sun was struggling to come through, and I hoped that it would come out to allow me to see the upper bridge, which was my crossing point.IMG_2861

I passed under the bridge, the trucks on the M4 roaring over my head, and continued along the promenade, which meandered for about half a mile, before turning inland and becoming a very easy track along dykes built to manage the salt marsh. Looking back, I could see the mist clearing and part of the bridge now visible. Ahead, there was still no sign of the second bridge.  The sun was trying harder, and the grass was glossy green.

The path led onto a lane, and I rejoiced to see the tip of what I thought was part of the bridge, only to realise it was a metal pylon from previous engineering works, but after another ten minutes, bits of bridge became fleetingly visible as the mist rolled back and partially broke up.IMG_2892

I reached Aust around eleven. I was so hungry I could have eaten my own arm. Normally, I don’t worry too much about food when walking, but obviously, I had not had enough breakfast. I debated walking into Aust to see if there were a shop, although it did not look hopeful, and I was reluctant to add a half mile each way. I whipped out the phone (normally well hidden and turned off when walking) and saw that the motorway services were not far. So I elected to cross the motorway, on a walkway across the toll-booths of the M48 and grab an early lunch.

Fortified, I returned to the south side and began the big adventure. The upside of it being misty was that there was little wind. I muffled up and pulled on my hood, but was not particularly cold. There is a walkway on either side,  but I had decided on the south side, as my original idea of going to Chepstow was superseded by the decision to carry on as far as Severn Tunnel Junction.IMG_2921

As I walked over, stopping for frequent pictures, I was amazed at the number of motorway maintenance vans that tootled up and down the walkway. Not sure where they were all going as they trundled along at 10 miles per hour, stopping for a chat as they passed each other.

Crossing the bridge took about twenty minutes.  I then joined the Wales Coast Path. I must say I am hugely impressed with the signage. At every point where there might be confusion, there is a marker, and the ones at the stiles are tall, with yellow tips, so you can see them as you scan the far side of a field, looking for the exit.

The path was easy, behind various factories, then down along the estuary shore. There was so much mud in parts, it nearly sucked my boots off, but the trip was uneventful. The only bovines were docile Welsh Blacks, not feisty Friesians, and so they paid no attention to me. I passed an ancient holy well site, dedicated to the Celtic king, Tewrig, who scored a nifty victory over the Saxons not far away. The statue of IMG_2934him showed him crowned, but unshod. An early example of ‘all fur coat and no knickers’, I suppose.

I won’t bore you all with the appalling Great Western Rail service back to Clifton Down:  suffice to say, it was not the highlight of the day.  17.5 miles