174 Kenfig Dunes to Port Talbot

We are staying in a B&B perched high up on a hillside. The access road is bumpy and rough, but gives us stunning views across Port Talbot and Swansea Bay.

01 view over Port Talbot, Ruth's coastal walk

A short drive down the M4, and we reach Mawdlam. From here, my plan is to walk back across the Kenfig Dunes and pick up the Wales Coast Path again.

From the road there is another great view, across the dune system and a lake – the mysterious Kenfig Pool. Somehow, during my tortuous trek across the dunes yesterday, I managed to miss this large patch of water.

02 view over Kenfig Dunes from Mawdlam, Ruth walking in South Wales

I set off along the sandy footpath, through the familiar ups and downs of the vegetated dunes, following the stubby signposts.

03 beginning of walk across Kenfig Dunes, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

This time I am prepared for the water-covered paths.

04 path under water, Kenfig Dunes, Ruth Livingstone

And the marshy pools.

05 path disappears, Ruth walking through Kenfig Dunes

Everything seems clearer in the bright light of a new morning and, despite having to make numerous detours from the marked way, I am less nervous about getting lost.

The ground becomes dryer. Mud gives way to sand again. I must be nearing the sea.

06 sandy dunes, Kenfig, Ruth walking on the Wales Coast Path

And soon I reach the Wales Coast Path, which runs along a track following the shoreline, but still separated from the sea by a further bank of dunes.

It’s Easter Sunday and there are other walkers on the path. It’s not exactly crowded, but still a shock to come across people. Ahead is the industrial complex of steelworks – dominating the surrounding countryside and belching out smoke. No rest from production over Easter.

07 Wales Coast Path, Ruth walking towards Port Talbot

The walkers in front of me disappear, and I realise they must have turned off the path. I follow their footprints through the sand, and find a route down to the beach.

08 Kenfig Sands, Ruth walking the Welsh Coastline

I leave the dunes and walk close to the water. To my left is Swansea Bay. Ahead, the steelworks draw steadily closer.

This is turning out to be a wonderful walk, full of contrasts. I like the juxtaposition of tangled industrial shapes with the flat emptiness of the unspoilt beach, the softening of light caused by the smoggy haze, and the way the reflections of chimneys lie staggered across the wet sands.

09 Port Talbot steel works, across Kenfig Sands, Ruth Livingstone

As usual, I take far too many photographs.

I was hoping to continue along the beach for a while further, but the sands are interrupted by a flowing river. It’s shallow, but wide and fast flowing. I turn inland, following the river bank, until I regain the Wales Coast Path and find a bridge across the water.

10 Margam Moors, Ruth walking the coast in Wales

On the other side, I walk around the edge of an area called Margam Burrows. A huge dune bank rises up on the left hand side. The path surface is very soft and every step is an effort, my footsteps dragging in the deep sand. I’m soon hot, sweaty and puffing hard.

Looking for firmer ground, I climb up the grassy bank on the right hand side of the path. Other people have clearly done the same, because a narrow track has been worn along the top of the ridge. I have to watch my step – it’s narrow and steep – but my pace increases.

11 sandy walk around Margam Moors, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

Looking at my map, I had anticipated this section of the path would run along the outskirts of the industrial area. But, although I can’t see what’s on the other side of the high bank, the path itself runs through an area of surprising beauty. The gorse is in flower. The trees and bushes are just showing their first serious green buds.

12 Ruth on Wales COast Path, skirting Margam Moors

This is a great example of an ‘edgeland‘ – that hinterland between urban and rural landscapes, where ownership is uncertain and the landscape left wild and unmanaged.

To my right I see a railroad siding, with rusting trucks. Abandoned?

13 Railway sidings, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path, Port Talbot

I leave the dune system behind and cross an area of marshland. The Wales Coast Path follows a raised wooden walkway.

14 walkway across marshes, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path, Port Talbot

Then an area of heathland. More gorse. Birds singing. The steelworks in the distance.

15 Talbot Steel Works, seen from the Wales Coast Path, Ruth

And it’s time to cross over the railway tracks. They are obviously still being used. Several trains are shunting around.

16 railway crossing, Wales Coast Path, Port Talbot

On the other side of the tracks, the path turns into a lane. Over the hedges I catch glimpses of industry, but my lane is heading inland, skirting round the Port Talbot works.
17 industrial zone, Ruth walking through Port Talbot

I walk past a BOC complex. It’s not just steel being produced here, but all the related industries too. And a weighbridge. And next a bio-energy plant, seemingly funded through the EU and the Welsh Government.

Then I am standing beside the A48. A busy road, but this section is relatively pleasant because of the unspoilt hillside on the far side.

18 road walking, Ruth on Wales Coast Path, Port Talbot

A mile later, and the Wales Coast Path turns off the main road. But this is not the end of road walking today, and so I begin a tedious journey along the streets of Port Talbot.

I was anticipating finding a café at this point, or a pub. I’m tired and hungry. But these are quiet residential roads and I don’t pass anywhere where I can stop for a rest and a drink – not even a local shop. I’ve brought water and my usual snacks, but there are no parks or benches to sit on, just rows of front gardens. And people engaged in the Sunday ritual of washing their cars, staring at me as I trudge along.

Finally, I come across a track that leads along behind some back gardens. It is strewn with rubbish: paper bags, bottles, a dumped mattress, a pile of abandoned baby toys (why?), and the ubiquitous dog poo. But at one end I find some large stones (placed to deter traffic from using this tiny lane) and I can sit on one of these and have something to eat and drink.

19 residential road walking, Wales Coast Path, Port Talbot

I started this walk struggling with soft sand. Now I am struggling with hard pavements – tough on the feet.

Leaving the residential area, I walk along beside the steel works, following a dual carriageway. This road must be new, because it is not marked on my map – and I feel somewhat disoriented. Also, I am bursting for a pee. But there are no public conveniences and the area is too built up for a quick squat behind a bush. Anyway, there are no bushes.

20 new dual carriageway, Ruth walking through Port Talbot

I’m really grateful to leave the road behind, and follow the Wales Coast Path signs down a track that leads along the south bank of the River Arvan. An old metal bridge, closed to traffic, takes me across the river. I walk towards the sea. The air seems fresher and my heart feels lighter.

I stop to take a photograph of the old, rusty bridge. No wonder it’s closed to traffic. It doesn’t look very safe.

21 bridge over River Avan, Ruth walking into Port Talbot

The industrial zone and docks lie to my left, across the river. I meet dog walkers.

22 looking back up river, Ruth in Port Talbot

And then, at last, I am at the mouth of the river and – round the corner – find the beach.

23 Beach at Port Talbot, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

This is Port Talbot proper. A seaside town, dominated by the steelworks to the south, but with a wonderful beach. I’m walking northwards, and with the industrial zone out of sight and behind me, I can really enjoy the views .

24 Port Talbot sands, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

The sea is a long way out, but I cross the sands and walk close to the water. The sun is low in the sky and the light shines through the clouds in crepuscular rays.

25 Port Talbot and setting sun, Ruth Livingstone

At the end of the beach, I head up to the promenade. Time for an ice cream. And public toilets. And then I buy a cheese fritter from a chip shop – cheap and very filling.

I take one last photo looking back along the beach.

26 Steel works, Port Talbot beach, Ruth Livingstone

My walk today is over.  Tomorrow I should reach the outskirts of Swansea. I am already looking forward to it.

27 Swansea from Port Talbot beach, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Wales

Miles walked today = 14 miles
Total distance = 1,735


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
This entry was posted in 12 South Wales and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to 174 Kenfig Dunes to Port Talbot

  1. paul Sennett says:

    Classification: External Communication

    We looked over from Morte point last Sunday..and guessed you might have been walking by the steaming steel works.. In the beautiful sunshine

  2. dearestbeloved says:

    Ruth, love your blog, but this link doesn’t work – disappointed!

  3. Marie Keates says:

    What an interesting walk. It had a bit of everything, although I’m sure you’d have rather had less of the road walking and maybe a few more loos. Finding a loo, or a decent bush is an eternal problem for me on my walks.

  4. jcombe says:

    On the train now on my to do this walk today. Hoping I dont have too many boggy paths to negotiate!

    • jcombe says:

      Had a good day and thankfully encountered no flooded paths. I started from Port Talbot. I wanted to find something nice to say about this town, but really couldn’t. The piles of dumped rubbish on the path behind the houses, as well as many of the houses with abandonded gardens and some looked derelict. Then an un-inspring walk around the Steel Works. I had an issue here because when I got the M4 junction 38 a sign said that the coast path ahead was closed because of extending the board walk just before the footbridge over the “Afon Cynffig” stream that flows out to the sea here. The sugested alternative was the “inland” route of the coast path (can it really be called a coast path if it goes inland?!). So I decided to follow that minor road anyway and walked over the railway tracks beyond. When the coast path forked left I decided to try my luck on the footpath that continues straight ahead (really a track, which seems to be used by something at the Steel Works). This path seemed not quite to reach the sea but I was in luck as there is a private car park for fisherman employed by the Steel Works and a path beside a fence down to the sea wall. You can then head down the sloping sea wall onto the beach here, which is rather beautiful (but might not be possible at high tide). I then followed the beach west until I reached the river. I had planned to try and find a way through the dunes and hope I could cross via the bridge but in the end, the stream widened out onto the beach so I was able to wade through it. It was cold, but not really cold, and rarely more than ankle deep.

      After that I could follow the beach all the way and it was really beautiful. Porthcawl was nice enough although the area around the Wimpy and arcades at the back of one of the beaches is a bit grim. But this walk was quite interesting, with a contrast between the industry and busy roads of Port Talbot with the unspoilt sandy beaches beyond.

      • Good to see you walking again.
        Poor old Port Talbot. It hasn’t got much going for it and now, with the loss of jobs at the steelworks, I bet it’s even worse than when I walked through it. Glad you found a way through to the beach by the steelworks, even if you had to wade. The section between Port Talbot and Porthcawl is very attractive and I really enjoyed that section.

  5. owdjockey says:

    I’ve decided that Margam is one large fly-tip, even the approach roads/lanes are covered in rubbish.

  6. Karen White says:

    The Kenfig Pool is lovely, and you had other magnificent views on this walk.

I welcome your views

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s