Monday 21st May 6 50am it was wall to wall sunshine, a baby blue sky and the birds sang. As I waited for the 7am train from Gilfach Fargoed to Cardiff. I do like a train journey, even as a child when with my mother and my siblings, we would take the train to places like Penarth, St Mary’s Well Bay and Barry Island. “Do not put your head out the window” my mother would cry. Too late my head was out there, breathing in the diesel and taking in the scenery flashing by.
The Rhymney Valley line is the direct line to Penarth so I changed at Cardiff Central, for the Barry Island train. At 8 25am I made my way to the sea front at Barry Island and breathed in the familiar air, looked at the bare beach and thought back to when I was younger. To the time when me and my siblings would be in the background of every photo taken with Pedro the donkey from 1966 to 1973.
Tracks left by the most wealthiest Council in Wales, Vale of Glamorgan. I see the sign “No dogs on beach from May to September” and I think some dog walkers cannot read.
Towards Whitmore beach and where as a child we picked cockles for tea. I recall one time, when we were at the beach at 8am in the morning and my father said it was our own beach and I believed him, until later when 5,000 strangers joined us. See the coal grains staining the sand.
The walk starts at the car park at the Knap and is a circular.
Coastal path, Fields, meadows and a busy pavement.
OS maps 1:50 00 Landranger Sheet 171, 170
1:25 000 Explorer Sheet 151
7 and half miles long.
I have wonderful childhood memories of Cold Knap and I was heart-broken when they closed this fab outdoor swimming pool. My parents did their courting at Cold Knap in the 1950’s. I use to nick in through the metal turnstile as a teenager and yes I was that skinny once! In my teens I remember walking to Cold Knap with old school friend from Ely, Gail George. Leaving memory lane behind.
There is no cliff foot path, you walk up a steep green hill, head down and backside up look behind to this splendid view.
Making my way towards Porthkerry another childhood haunt. If we did not travel by train, we went by bus, and if my father was not working we piled into his sky blue Bedford van. Sat among bags of concrete, lump hammers, spirit levels, shovels and spades, not a seat belt between us. Up Port Road we would shout “Go faster dada” Looking back I think he did 40 mph but that was fast in 1960’s.
Stunning green tunnel guiding me to Porthkerry.
These steps were dangerous, hand rails were missing, steps uneven and you have to be super fit to walk up or down these steps. Vale of Glamorgan wealthiest Council in Wales, please do something about these steps. At the bottom I found these beautiful flowers.
To my right the view of the viaduct, this viaduct was built between 1894 to 1898 and has 18 piers and is over 300 meters long and spans across the valley. I winked, waved at it and told it I would see it later. What a stunning sky!
Path was good, a nice breeze coming off the channel, the sun behind me and I felt happy.
The walk consisted of meadows, open fields, coastal paths and an ugly quarry that was once owned by “Blue Circle” At the edge of the quarry sat new modern houses.
Making my way towards Rhoose I did not know that Rhoose is the most southerly point on mainland Wales, I thought it was Lavernock Point?
The air was alive with birdsong, bees buzzing, butterflies fluttering. Since I left Barry Island at 8 25am I had only met 3 people to say hello to.
Leaving Rhoose point I head for the coastal path that brought me to a caravan park. No coastal path here, you walk through the caravan park and it was very boring. In the distance Aberthaw, Aberthaw was once a busy port and in the 17th century traded as far as the West Indies. Limestone was the main export and in the 1756-9 Eddystone lighthouse at Plymouth Hoe was built with the limestone from Aberthaw. There is no longer a port at Aberthaw, the power station covers much of the Leys burrows where the port once was. I looked around me and thought about the Severn estuary with its second highest tide in the world, the first being the Bay of Fundy Canada, and the surrounding area. BP Plastics down the road, in front Aberthaw Power station, across the waters, Hinkley Point A and B and a shudder went through me.
I turn right over a railway line and into the village of Rhoose and walk the busy pavement. I pass Rhoose airport, I have flown from their many times mostly to Ireland. I hear the roar and I look up to the underbelly of an airplane and fall on my knees in fright. Yes I am walking the international flight path into Cardiff airport. I encountered another four international airplanes . Terrified I looked to my left to distract me and saw waves of grass, this cheered me.
Trembling I walked down the lane which is covered in cow parsley. I do enjoy lane walking but not with the shadow of the beast in the air following me.
The lane led me to the village of Porthkerry and its 13th century church.
Past the church I took a left into a woodland and it was good to forest bathe and breathe in the wild garlic.
I go under the viaduct.
The second part of the walk and where I got lost!
I walk through the dappled and shade into another meadow. I saw the sign to go left into a wood but I looked at the Vale Circular sign and headed east into the sun instead. Onto a busy road, my gut told me to go back, my minds eye took me back to the sign and where my ignorance said carry on. Into the knee-high buttercup field. Where I saw two farmers in their tractors looking busy.
In the distance I saw the Wenvoe mast. In 1971 I was ten and decided to walk from Ely to visit an auntie who lived in Pencoed, Pencoed is a couple of miles from Bridgend. I walked it with my cousin Kim, Kim and I would walk anywhere, climb any tree and swam in rivers and outdoor pools in the middle of winter, we were tough. I led the walk because I knew the way from sitting in the back of her van and looking out the window. noticed villages like Bonvilston, St Brides Super Ely, and the shadow of the Wenvo mast (She was a delivery driver for Cardiff’s famous pie Clarke’s for over 30 years) She was stunned when we turned up sweaty, red-faced and hungry. My first longest walk was a conversational piece in my family for many years.
I walked 4 miles the wrong way
I now know I have come too far I take a swig of my honey water, eat an apple turn around with the sun on my face. I swear, shout and rage for a couple of seconds and then make my way to the farm. At the farm, I am red as a tomato, hair wet stuck to my head, I saw the four men in the yard and ask where am I, they tell me I am near Penmark. I sigh and politely ask for a lift to the busy road, the oldest man laughed and said no. A young good-looking man name Rees Jenkins. Rees offered me a lift in his tractor. Silly me thinking there were two seats in tractor. I sat undignified on the wheel arch and still wearing my back pack. I made conversation with the lovely gentleman Rees. At my destination I jumped down and thanked him, Rees then gave me directions for the correct path.
I arrived at the place that I earlier ignored and where the grass cooled my calf’s, that were bitten by stingy nettles and scratched by brambles.
Into the wood and the old ruin where. I ate my banana and drank some more honey water, sat and seeking wisdom and stopped telling myself off.
The viaduct again from another angle.
I cannot find the stile that supposed to be at a slant on the left side of the field. It has gone, lost, into the midday sun. I do not like heat at all and never sunbathe either. I need to get out of the midday sun, and I only have a small amount of water. After walking up and down and across for 20 minutes, I have to admit there is no stile. I do not mind being lost, I see it as a challenge. Walked over the Pyrenees, Coast of Ireland, Hadrian’s wall alone. I am never afraid. I forced my way through the brambles, stingy nettles and free fall into the woods. I am covered in moss, cuts and stings. I am now concerned because if I fall and hurt myself no one knows where I am. So I sing the song “Water is Wide I can’t cross o’er” and felt slightly better. I came through and I am in Porthkerry Park and where I tried to walk with dignity and grace towards the rangers cottage. I saw three cheerful male rangers eating on a picnic bench. They see me and look concerned. I wave and laugh (and beg for help ha ha) and ask for a lift into Barry town. A young man with kind eyes and wearing a beard, came to my rescue he offered me water, sun block and a sit down in the ice-cold cottage. I apologised that I got lost. He tells me off and tells me to stop beating myself up. Refreshed the young man whose name was Scott Giles said to follow him into the car park. I walked towards a white van, he nodded and said “No we are going in the buggy.” It was thrilling, we chatted and I found out his father’s family came from Ely and I knew them. Photo of Scott inside his buggy
Scott dropped me off a mile from Barry Town train station. I limped but smiled at the human kindness that was shown to me from strangers. Thank you park rangers at Porthkerry Park especially Scott and a thank you to farmer Rees Jenkins.
The walk was 7 and half miles long and would normally take me 2 and half hours. Add on 6 miles, I walked 13 and half miles. The length is not a problem, I can walk 20 to 22 miles a day. The heat was my problem. What can I learn from this walk? Listen to your inner voice and your gut instinct and remember.
Human kindness is the golden chain that keeps society together.