It’s another dull day. My rules say I don’t have to walk around islands, but today I’ve decided to walk around Barry Island before heading up the coast.
On my right are parked cars and terraced houses. On my left, between the road and the water’s edge is a broad strip of waste land, strewn with litter and rubble. Across the water is the new development, where I sat to eat a snack yesterday.
My feet are hurting from yesterday’s prolonged road walking. Now I am back trudging along hard pavements again. And the view is hardly inspiring. Perhaps my plan to walk around the island is a mistake?
When I reach the far eastern tip of Barry Island, and can peer over the fenced-off allotments that line the slopes, I have a smog-obscured view of the industrial sprawl of Barry. Hmm. Maybe this really is a mistake.
A little further on and I get a better view over Barry docks. In the distance is Sully Island. The tide must be in, because Sully Island is definitely an island today.
I continue walking around Barry Island and discover the best part is on the south side. This is Whitmore Bay, a lovely semicircle of sandy beach.
Even on this dull, February day there are people out and strolling about.
I cross the beach and walk out to the cairns on Friars Point, before heading up the west shore and back towards the causeway. In the muddy bay are several rotting ships.
A short walk across the causeway takes me back from Barry Island and into Barry itself. Here I turn left and follow residential streets, sticking as close to the coast as I can, until I reach The Knap.
The Knap is a pretty area of Barry, with a pebbly beach, a wide promenade, and a large lake on the landward side.
While I am walking along here, a group of swans swoop down above my head. Their wings make a thrumming sound. They are elegant in flight, but their splash down on Knap Lake is an untidy landing.
At the end of the promenade, a Wales Coast Path sign points straight up a cliff. It’s a grassy bank, but a very steep climb. At the top I am rewarded by a panoramic view over the Knap and Cold Knap Point, with Friar’s Point (on Barry Island) visible as a finger in the top left of the photo below.
It’s a shame that, yet again, the light is too dull for good photography. [All the photos on this blog page have been edited and enhanced!]
From here the walk changes and becomes rural. I pass through wooded areas and walk past a railway viaduct. What a view the train passengers would have!
I make a mental note to sit on the right side of the train when I make my return journey at the end of today’s walk.
‘Loose rocks!’ says the sign. Yes, but its impossible to obey the ‘Stay away’ order, since this is where the path leads me!
Then up a wooded slope. And I end up in a large, empty field. How strange.
I stumble around for a while, not sure which way to go. There is an array of airport landing lights on the other side of the field and I realise I am on the edge of Cardiff Airport. Surely I’m not supposed to walk through the airfield?
Checking my map, I realise that this empty field is the Porthkerry Bulwarks fort, an Iron Age site. With some help from my Garmin, I work out the Wales Coast Path goes straight through a neighbouring caravan park. There are no signs to guide me, but my Garmin never lies.
The caravan park is large and empty of residents, but full of workmen and mini-construction equipment: diggers and rollers. It’s winter and, therefore, maintenance time.
On the other side of the park, I take a photo looking back towards Barry Island.
I’m walking along the top of a cliff. To my left is the sea, to my right is a series of lakes, with new development on the far side. I wonder if these lakes are flooded quarries or, perhaps, old open-cast mines? No evidence of industry now. I imagine this area would look very pretty in the sunshine.
The cliff is crumbling and so the seaward side of the path is fenced off. I reach a signpost and realise I have reached another milestone. I am standing on the southernmost point of Wales. Rhoose Point.
A little further on and I see a mysterious circle of stones around a tall pillar. A Welsh version of Stonehenge? No – a modern sculpture marking Rhoose Point.
The next section of the walk is very enjoyable. This seems to be old industrial land that is being reclaimed as parkland. And in this area I meet a few other walkers, the first I’ve seen since leaving Barry. Ahead, I can just make out a tall chimney peeking above the gentle roll of the cliffs.
At Ffontygari Bay I turn inland and head up a path towards the village of Font-y-gary, where there is a pub. Lunch time. But first I look back the way I have come and take a photograph of the impressive cliffs. They stretch back to Rhoose Point.
After lunch, I set off again. The Wales Coast Path follows the cliff top and runs in front of a holiday park of static mobiles. The chimney ahead is growing larger.
At the end of the holiday park, the path passes close to a railway track, and I’m taken by surprise when a long goods train clatters by.
But now I am leaving the high ground as the path begins to zigzag down towards the shore. Ahead is a beautiful area of lakes and marsh and shingle. The best view of the day!
By the time I reach the bottom of the slope, I realise there’s only 3 hours of daylight left and a lot of walking to do. So I stride quickly along the path, which passes by lakes and marshes. It’s very pretty. And empty. Nobody in sight.
All the while the tall chimney is steadily growing nearer. A covered bridge takes me over a small estuary – and suddenly I am walking in the shadow of huge power station. Yes, that black hill is really a huge mound of coal – so large it has roadways coiling up its slopes to allow dumper trucks to offload more coal at the top.
At first the views of the industrial landscape are interesting. But then the path turns a corner and… well, all I can say about the next half mile is… grim, grim, grim.
I’m walking down a long, narrow walkway, hemmed in with a hostile fence on one side and a concrete wall on the other. Can’t even see the sea. This is the worst type of walking – boring, monotonous, with hard concrete underfoot.
Weirdly, the concrete path is dotted with dog poo. Every few feet there is another deposit. It’s very unpleasant. Why on earth would anyone take a dog walking here?
And it’s all somewhat intimidating. If I met a strange person there is no way of keeping a safe distance, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
As I reach the other end, my heart lurches because I see three people coming towards me. Two young men are walking along the top of the concrete wall. They take no notice of me, and are having an awkward type of conversation with each other. And a woman – some hundred yards behind them – is walking along the path, with a dog!
I pass them all without incident, but I find it all most odd. Why walk a dog here? Why come here at all?
At the end of the walkway is a rocky beach with road access and a handful of parked cars. Various men seem to be loitering. Maybe they are going fishing? But I don’t see any fishing rods. It’s all a bit strange and I do wonder if its a gay pick-up zone. For that reason, I don’t take any more photos until I’ve left the area.
From here, the official Wales Coast Path heads up the lane and then across fields. The sea is some hundreds of yards away, on my left. It’s pleasant walking, but a shame you can’t walk along the shore.
After a mile, the road dips back to the beach and there is a short section which involves a precarious scramble across rocks. Is this really a proper path? Yes. I head for the signpost at the far side.
Back on the top of the cliffs and I pass a brick building – the Canolfan Seawatch Centre. Then I am walking across a brown field and am frustrated to find myself on the wrong side of a hedge with no view of the sea.
A short while later and I realise why the path keeps away from the edge. The cliff is crumbling. There have been recent falls. Some fence posts are left dangling in mid-air.
After a half hour of field walking, as the light is growing dim, I meet the first person I’ve seen since the power station. He’s a runner. We say hello when we pass each other.
Shortly after this encounter, the path rounds the crest of a hill and I see a lovely stretch of walking ahead. I think this is Stout Point.
I enjoy a mile of glorious walking along the top of the cliffs with great views over the sea and the rocky shore beneath. Unfortunately the light is fading fast and I am growing increasingly anxious of being caught in the dark. I have a small torch in my rucksack, but didn’t bring my head torch.
Despite my anxiety, I can’t resist this photograph showing these amazing concentric rock formations on the shore.
I cross the beach and walk up the ridge on the other side. Here I follow a long distance trail, marked VMH on my map, and arrive in Llantwit Major railway station at 5pm, a few minutes before sunset.
At the station, I discover I’ve just missed the 4:56 train and have to wait in the cold and dark for an hour until the next one arrives. I don’t bother sitting on the right side of the train, as I planned. It’s too dark to see anything anyway.
[Note: This is the longest walk I’ve ever done on my coastal trek, so I felt very proud of myself when I checked my Garmin and discovered the distance!]
Miles walked today = 18.5 miles
Total miles walked = 1,691