I thought today would be long, but fairly easy, and not especially exciting, since it involved walking through the industrial areas around Neath – Porth Talbot. Well, it was certainly long!
Pleasingly, public transport posed no problems – once I had worked out how to use the ticket machine in the car park for Swansea station. A queue began to form behind me as I wrestled with the machine that insisted on either charging for two days, or refusing to recognise my card. I apologised to the waiting commuters behind me, but people round yur are very patient. Had I been in the south east, there would have been a good deal of harrumphing.
Train to Pyle, then bus to Cynffig. En route between the train station and the bus stop, I was delighted to see the coach for the Bridgend Male Voice Choir, and a selection of its smartly dressed members. Sadly, they did not break out into Bread of Heaven – in fact, they were nipping into Asda for the all day breakfast!
As I waited for the bus I began talking to an elderly lady. Her hair, I noticed, was a thick plait down her back, reaching her waist. It was only when I stood behind her that I realised it was doubled up. Loose, her hair must have reached mid-thigh. I wonder if she has ever cut it.
The route back through the dunes was easy enough. I chose a flatter path than I had used to come the other way, earlier in the year, so it was a bit quicker. I was then on the beach and what a splendid beach it is.
I took off my boots and walked along ok the sea edge. Glorious, the sun shining and the Devon shore clearly visible. Inland again, then a rather confusing path around the edge of the steelworks. I could hear bikes and the roaring of sand buggies. As always with dunes, the paths are confusing and I found myself on a track high over the main path, so was obliged to slide down a fairly steep slope to join the path.
This took me along the old railway track. I crossed several train lines, and was fascinated by Mariam Knuckle Yard. What could it be? Perhaps a giant’s graveyard? Full of jacks for the game of knucklebones? The other side of the railway was a road, leading nowhere in particular. I was delighted to see a parked car, and a man with no shirt sitting on a deckchair, facing it. Only in Britain…
I crossed the M4 and headed towards the wood surrounding Margam Abbey ruins, which I reluctantly decided not to investigate as time was marching on. I stopped to empty sand from my boots before entering the wood and had a chat with man clearing rubbish who told me there would be a mass on hill on Wednesday 23rd July, commemorating two Catholics hanged, drawn and quartered for hearing the Mass – dobbed in by their brother…nice.
Entering the word, it was difficult to see the path. But I climbed up steeply until I found it running east west. It was fairly clear and soon became well marked. Eventually, it was broad and gravelled. It turned sharply down, which was a surprise, but I followed it, relieved to see another west leading path branching off. This was also gravelled, but after some 300 yards simply stopped.
I carried on, over difficult woodland, thinking I would find a clearer track, but it got worse and worse. I could hear motorway to my left, but there was no track, the terrain was very steep, there were broken branches everywhere. I kept trying to move west. According to map there were two well marked paths, but I could not find either. Since I was near the motorway, I tried to climb north, reasoning that I must hit one of them, but it was much too steep. all I could do was inch west. I am covered in cuts from the brambles, and the splintered wood. I can only be glad it has been so dry. There were lots of mossy rocks probably, normally slippery as glass.
I began to feel very worried. If I slipped, no one would hear me or see me. I saw a bit of plastic, which I hoped meant occasional visitors who might find my bones and give them decent burial. Eventually, I emerged, scratched, sweating, thirsty and filthy.
This was followed by a long stretch along heathland, where the farmer had carefully locked all the gates. The path is very poorly signed. At one point, having marked straight on, it stopped abruptly at a barbed wire fence. I could see path on the map, and gate the opposite side, so I put map on barbs and scrambled over. This brought me into the back of Port Talbot and a dull walk through its back streets, before reaching the shore again at Baglan.
This is another lovely beach, but then the path turns up the Nedd estuary, into Castell Nedd/Neath. I was pretty exhausted by this time, but there was still a further three miles or so back to the carpark in Abertawe, mainly by the side of the A48. In theory, it was supposed to be 19 miles, but with all of the wanderings and ins and outs, it was nearly 22.