Day 105 Cynffig to Abertawe/Swansea 21 July 2018

Day 105 Cynffig to Abertawe/Swansea 21 July 2018

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. IMG_3993

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.IMG_4031

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.  IMG_4038

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.
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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.

 

 

 

 

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 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.