I walk along the Cardiff Bay Barrage. This is a narrow band of land that stretches for 1 kilometre across the entrance to Cardiff Bay. I’m following a smooth cycle track, which doubles as the Wales Coast Path.
The weather remains murky. Shame, because it is impossible to take any decent photos across the bay. I can only photograph objects that are close to me, including sail structures on the barrage – but even these photos require enhancement when I get back home.
At the far end of the barrage, I reach the locks that mark the entrance to the bay. A red tug is passing through and I stop to watch the dock gates in motion. I notice the yellow stripes that are painted across the structures of the lock. They form a series of concentric circles.
Later, I learn I’m looking at another piece of commissioned art work, by Felice Varini, officially called Three Ellipses for Three Locks, but unofficially known as the Barrage Circles. If I had stood in exactly the right place, I would have seen 3 complete circles.
[You can see how the circles should look on the official website of the Cardiff Bay Harbour Authority.]
I’m sorry to leave Cardiff Bay behind. It’s been full of interesting and surprising things. But now I need to hurry onwards. My plan is to reach Barry – before it gets dark – and from there I will catch the train back to Cardiff.
They have closed off the official path for construction work, and so I am forced to turn inland, walking along residential streets, until I reach the seafront at Penarth, which has a rather fine pier.
I’m sure Penarth can look pretty in the sunlight. But today the weather is gloomy, and the place just looks drab and a little bit sad.
At the end of the sea front, the path rises up and I walk along the top of some low cliffs. This is popular with strollers.
And I find floral memorials. Another suicide, I presume? Or maybe an accidental drowning? That’s the problem with coastal cliffs. You see these sad tributes everywhere.
I leave the houses of Penarth behind. The path dives into bushes. To my left I catch glimpses of the sea and I can hear the shush of waves below. I’m on my own now and enjoy being away from roads and people.
After a mile of pleasant walking, and just before I reach Lavernock Point, the path turns inland to skirt a holiday village of prefab chalets. I walk the short diversion along quiet roads.
In the wall, beside a tiny church, I find a bronze plaque commemorating the first Marconi radio messages to be exchanged across water: between Lavernock Point and Flat Holm island in the Severn Estuary, and then between Lavernock Point and Brean Down in Somerset.
A little further on, and I come across an unusual carved bench, made from two huge chunks of wood, and placed in memory to someone called Colin Vyvyan. I’m feeling tired, despite having only walked a few miles, and this makes a good spot for a quick snack.
Just beyond this is the remains of an old WW2 anti-aircraft battery. I take another break and walk among the concrete blocks.
Back on the coast path and I come to a pretty bay (Bull Bay on my map). The far spit of land is Sully Island. In the foreground is another concrete relic of WW2.
Unfortunately, at this point my progress along the coast is interrupted by a second holiday ‘village’ of static caravans (unmarked on my map). The Wales Coast Path turns inland to avoid it, but I notice there seems to be a public right of way running in front of the fence that marks the coastal boundary of the village.
So I ignore the signs and carry straight on.
This turns out to be a mistake. There has been a cliff fall. The far end of the path has simply vanished into a slide of earth and rocks. Downhearted, I retrace my steps.
Back on the official Wales Coast Path, I walk through woods and fields, around the holiday camp. Then I follow a quiet road towards a tiny place called Swanbridge.
Swanbridge consists of a collection of houses and a pub. Sully Island lies on the other side of a narrow strip of water. I can see men on the island, carrying fishing rods.
I was planning to eat at the pub in Swanbridge, but it looks like a proper restaurant and seems quite busy. I’m pressed for time now, and decide to hurry on. But first I stop and take photographs of the warning signs. Sully Island is a tidal island, connected to the mainland of Wales by a causeway, and is cut off at high tide.
Half a mile later, and I reach Sully. The path runs beside the rocky beach. I pass bungalows. Ahead is Barry, but I know I will soon have to deviate inland to get around Barry’s old dockland and industrial area.
Soon the well-defined path disappears. I walk on the beach – across loose shingle and then across rocky shelves. I have to pick my way with care, not wanting to twist an ankle.
After a while, growing tired, I work my way to the top of the beach – and find the official path has reappeared, running along the edge of a wooded area. But I soon come to a fork in the way. Although a public footpath continues a little further along the coast, I can tell from my map that it will come to a dead end. To reach Barry, I must turn inland.
The next three miles of walking are very tedious. I walk along busy roads and follow what appears to be one of the main traffic routes into Barry. There is a separate cycle/walking path running alongside the road, and no danger from the traffic, but there is nothing scenic to see.
I’m hurrying now – partly to get this section over and done with, and partly because I am mindful of time pressing. So, I don’t stop for photographs. To add to my bad humour, it’s 3 hours since my snack on Colin Vyvyan’s bench, and I’m feeling very hungry. But this is road walking, and it’s not the kind of place where you want to stop for a snack. There’s nowhere to sit, for a start.
My spirits lift when I come across this grand mansion. It turns out to be Barry’s Town Council Offices.
From here, the Wales Coast Path leaves the busy road and runs alongside a stretch of water lined with modern residential apartment blocks. Over the water is Barry Island. It’s all rather nice – even if the modern blocks are a little soulless.
At least there are benches here. I stop and eat the rest of my snacks, while watching a bird (a grebe?) diving in the water.
Then I hurry onwards to find the station. But on the way I discover a Wetherspoons pub. As a walker, I love Wetherspoons. They are cheap, stay open all day and don’t care what time you want to eat. It’s four o’clock in the afternoon and I’m tempted by steak and chips, but order one of their healthy salads instead.
Distance walked today = 13 miles
Total distance = 1,672.5