I park my car in the Welsh village of Peterstone Wentlooge. A footpath leads down to the bank of the Severn Estuary, where I stand and take a photograph looking back towards the village.
It is sunny, but cold, with no wind. A perfect February day. My main concern is to keep up a good walking speed. I travelled down from Lincolnshire this morning and it is already 2:30pm. The sun sets at 5:00.
My usual long-distance walking speed is about 2 mph, but today I need to maintain a speed of 3 mph to reach Cardiff Bay before it gets too dark. I have 10 miles to cover and only 2.5 hours of daylight left.
The bank stretches in front of me. Flat and featureless. The sun is low in my eyes. I begin walking.
The sea is some way off to my left. But the tidal range of the Severn is huge and I soon realise the water must reach all the way up to this bank. A large pile of flotsam is a reminder of the power of the waves. I wonder if it was washed up in last year’s storms?
I was hoping to see the coast of North Somerset across the estuary. I always enjoy looking across to a distant shore and tracing the path I once trod along that way. But, despite the sun, the horizon is obscured by a murky haze. I can’t see across to Somerset today. What a shame.
There is nobody up on the bank and I meet no other walkers. Only a few horses for company.
After a couple of miles, I come to an area which is being restructured. A couple of newish looking bridges cross over a recently dug pond. A digger is busy working in the distance.
[At this point I really should have left the bank of the estuary and headed inland. But I didn’t know this. There was no obvious sign, and I didn’t bother to check my map because I was in a hurry.]
I continue walking along the shoreline.
But the path becomes increasingly muddy and difficult to navigate. Horses have been this way. Their hoof prints make an obvious, if uneven, track. I follow this and find myself stumbling across piles of rubbish. What a tip!
I reach the mouth of a river – the Rhymney River – and am forced to turn inland, following its bank. The path disappears. The rubbish gets worse. I check my map…
… and discover I am walking over a place marked as marshland and with the name ‘Lamby’. It is also marked as the site of an old and disused tip. [Unknown to me, I am walking around the edge of a large waste recycling plant.]
A high fence constrains me to a wide strip of muddy land between the fence and the river. I wonder if I should turn back, but I have already invested precious time walking this section and so I decide to continue. If I stick to the edge of the river I should reach a road soon and there I will re-join the official Wales Coast Path, which follows the road for a mile or so.
After a while, the road comes into sight, just over a hedge. I walk the final stretch of wasteland along a very muddy and steeply sloping bank. Glad to have my walking poles!
But then I reach a final hurdle. Just before the road is a deep ditch. But I can’t jump down into the ditch because someone has erected a makeshift barricade of old wooden pallets and planks, wound through with barbed wire. The obstruction isn’t very high, but it takes me some time before I manage to climb over it and tumble down into the ditch.
Eventually I emerge – scratched and muddy – onto the pavement. At this point I must look like a tramp.
I follow the road as it crosses over the Rhymney River and makes its way along the opposite bank. In the slanting rays of the sinking sun I see a collection of boats moored in the river.
Then I reach a place called Pengam Moors. This was the site of an old airfield, but is now taken over by light industry and a shambolic collection of mobile homes and static caravans. There is rubbish everywhere and the sound of large dogs barking.
I feel very uneasy and am glad to get past this place. The path rises up and I stop for a last photograph back the way I have just come. In front is Pengam Moors, behind the mouth of the Rhymney River, and the high bank in the distance is the waste tip around which I recently struggled.
Up on a cliff, the path winds around following the shoreline. This is lovely and the best part of the walk. I meet a couple of dog walkers – and take photographs of the shapes in the mud beneath the cliff.
The scenic view is slightly marred by a burnt out and abandoned car.
Ahead the sun has almost set. The industrial buildings of Cardiff’s docks are silhouetted against the skyline.
To my right is fencing and on the other side is more industry. I can smell gas and other strange chemical smells. Tanks and pipes and round structures. I wonder what is going on here?
The sun is almost set. But I can’t resist a final photo of rising smoke from a couple of tall chimneys.
After walking around this industrial section, I join a busy road.
From here the Wales Coast Path follows a series of roads and heads inland as it circumnavigates the Cardiff dock area. It is too dark for more photographs. The route is well signed, but I find it very tiring. Rush hour traffic, oncoming headlights, and the lack of any pleasant scenery, all make this section of the walk very wearying.
Finally I reach Cardiff Bay – a new and attractive development of high-rise buildings – and am relieved to see my hotel. It is on the other side of a busy road. [Working out how to get to the building on foot is another story… but I won’t bore you with that today.]
Average moving speed = 3.1 mph
Average speed including photo stops and fence climbing = 2.8 mph
Miles walked today = 10
Miles walked since beginning = 1659.5