169b Cardiff to Barry

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.

b01 Cardiff Bay and sails, Ruth Livingstone

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.

b02 Cardiff Bay Barrage and Barrage Circles, Ruth walking the Wales Coast

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.

b03 Penarth Pier, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

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.

b04 Penarth sea front, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

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.

b05 Walking along Penarth path, Ruth Livingstone

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.

b06 memorial flowers, Penarth, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

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.

b07 through bushes to Lavernock, Ruth on Wales Coast Path

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.

b08 Marconi Plaque

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.

b09 Colin Vyvyan's bench, Ruth walking in Wales

Just beyond this is the remains of an old WW2 anti-aircraft battery. I take another break and walk among the concrete blocks.

b10 Lavernock Point, anti-aircraft battery, Ruth Livingstone

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.

b11 Pillbox at Bull Bay, Ruth walking the Wales Coast

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.

b12 walking the dead end in front of holiday camp, Ruth on Wales Coast Path

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.

b13 road walking towards Swanbridge, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

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.

b14 Sully Island, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

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.

b15 warning signs, Sully Island, Ruth on the Welsh coast

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.

Sully sea front, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

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.

b17 rocky beach towards Barry, Ruth on the Wales Caost Path

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.

b18 Wales Coast path leaves the coast, Ruth's coastal walk

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.

b19 Barry Council Office, Ruth walking the coast in Wales

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.

b20 waterside development, Barry, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

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


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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13 Responses to 169b Cardiff to Barry

  1. paul sennett says:

    very interesting blog…

  2. Conrad says:

    I was fortunate at the cliff fall/diverted path. A caravan owner came to the fence and directed me round the beach. Writing this from hospital after a surprise appendectomy – see my blog.

  3. Joyce & Dave Morgan says:

    Hi Ruth,
    A very interesting and informative read. We find your entries really helpful when planning our own walks. Currently we’ve reached Dover walking anti-clockwise like yourself.
    Joyce & Dave Morgan

  4. Gayle says:

    Yep, I did the same ‘why can’t I just follow this footpath in front of the holiday park’ out-and-back, before following the WCP as it briefly detours inland. I did realise, when I got to the other side, that there was a way up from the beach at the far end, so could have short-cut that way instead.

    • So I’m not the only one who takes short-cuts that turn out to be long-cuts 🙂
      I did wonder if I could cut across the beach instead, but wasn’t sure if there was a way up on the other side. Now we know.

  5. Marie Keates says:

    Those paths that turn into dead ends are so annoying. I hate back tracking. I like the circles.

    • The circles were amazing. I wish I’d taken a photograph in exactly the right place, but I didn’t understand what I was looking at! The one I managed to take – by accident – is pretty good anyway 🙂

  6. I’m now back home and feeling pretty good ten days after the op. I go to have the clips removed today at my gp’s surgery. Looking back at your walk through Cardiff it’s interesting how we all see different things. I knew nothing about the circles, although I walked through them to Penarth. Back at the sea front I came across a plaque for Roald Dahl and a memorial sculpture to Scott of the Antarctic.

    Glad you liked the hospital entertainment – it reminded me of the hospital scene in Catch 22, but of course Heller’s version was full of much more meaning, allusion and profundity.

  7. jcombe says:

    I did this walk today (I’ve not walked Wales in order!). I really enjoyed it, helped by the lovely sunny weather (albeit windy). I went from Cardiff Bay to Barry Island. Penarth is certainly better in the sunshine, I especially liked the art-deco building at the land end of the pier.

    I made the same mistake at that second caravan park as you. I noticed the coast path went in land here and was suspicious I would not be able to get by and was stopped by a man at the caravan site (perhaps the same one Conrad met?) who advised me it was a dead-end and to walk down onto the beach to the ruined wall of a building near the end where there was a path up to the track. I think unless it is high tide this should be possible, but the beach is quite pebbley, so not the easiest of walks.

    I also made it out to Sully Island. I stopped for a quick snack on the rocks and noticed the causeway was nearly uncovered. By the time I’d finished and got to that timer display it was open so I was able to get out and walk around the island too.

    I agree the walk around Barry is grim, right next to main roads all the way but at least there are always pavements (sometimes with the luxury of a grass verge between it and the road too). I took a path out to Barry Island. It wasn’t marked as the route of the Wales coast path but seemed well used and was a bit of a shortcut. I thought Barry Island was lovely. I was lucky in that the tide was a way out, leaving a great expanse of beach with rocks at either side, it felt quite like parts of North Devon/Cornwall in fact. A lovely day.

    • Hi and glad you enjoyed this walk. Always wonderful to hear from others who have done the same stretch 🙂 I do think the weather (and frame-of-mind) make a big difference to the enjoyment of a walk. Cardiff Bay was lovely and I liked Barry Island too, but the weather was not so kind to me.

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