Distance: 23.90 miles
Max Altitude: 79 m
Min Altitude: 4 m
Height Gain: 592 m
Height Loss: 591 m
Before I set out I had decided that today needed to be a mammoth hike, no matter what. I wanted to arrive in Cardiff Bay on the 1st of November, the start of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. It was an opportunity too important to miss. So even if my legs dropped off, I was determined to go the distance, as they say.
I set off from Ogmore Castle on the Wales Coast Path, and flanked the Afon Ogwr beside me. Across the water was the Merthyr Mawr dunes, with what’s known as ‘the Big Dipper’ (a huge energy-sapping, leg-killing sand mountain) peeking out.
I rounded the opening of the estuary onto Aberogwr (Ogmore-by-Sea). Here’s where the coastline changes dramatically. It’s the beginning of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast, a 14 mile stretch of sheer beauty. Also my most familiar stretch of the Wales Coast Path, as I’ve walked this section so many times. It never ceases to amaze me how this part gets overlooked in favour of, say, Pembrokeshire. To me it is just as stunning as any other part of our coastline, if not more so.
I left Ogmore on a narrow track high above the cliff edge.
Why do I love it so? Well, quite simply, look –
I’m sure some could go into a lengthy geological diatribe, but instead, I think it’s just best to appreciate the layered cliffs for what they are visually. Again, I was annoyed that the weather wasn’t finer for better pictures, especially since I was arriving into yet another of my favourite beaches, Southerndown, the much beloved destination for local surfers.
Also in Southerndown is the secret cliff top garden. In summer it’s a joy.
Coming to Trwyn y Witch, I looked out upon a view that never ceases to take my breath away, and I’ve stood on this clifftop dozens and dozens of times.
Again, I wish for a blue sky. But even under the murky grey, it looks spectacular.
And then I reached somewhere that I’d been looking forward to getting to for the entire trip; probably one of my favourite places on earth – Nash Point. By now, reader, you know my penchant for lighthouses and this happens to be one of the best on the whole path. This one dates from 1831 and was placed here because of the treacherous nature of Nash Sands. It first became electrified in 1968 and was the last manned lighthouse in Wales before it became automated in 1998. There are actually two lights, a high light and a low light, as well as a fog horn (but that only gets sounded a couple of times each month for visitors these days).
My next port of call was Castell Sain Dunwyd (St Donat’s Castle).
This particular castle has to have one of the most colourful histories in Wales. The earliest bits of it date from the late 12th century. However, it was in the 20th century that its notoriety came into its own because upon spotting it in a magazine in 1925, the newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst decided he wanted it. He spent a fortune renovating it and bringing electricity to it for the first time; he even brought electricity to the local neighbourhood. Some of Hearst’s famous guests included guests included Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, John F Kennedy and George Bernard Shaw. Incredible.
After his newspaper empire fell on hard times, the castle was put up for sale but used by troops during the Second World War. Eventually, it became what it is now – Atlantic College, founded in 1962.
As with other parts of the path, there were WWII defences dotted about.
Just a short walk from St Donat’s was Llanilltud Fawr (also known as Llantwit Major, which always makes me wince). This is another of my beloved local beaches and the beach cafe does splendid cliffs.
I come here often for a cup of tea and a marvel at the cliffs.
I continued east towards towards Sain Tathan (St Athan).
On the way is the Seawatch Centre but sadly looking overgrown and unloved.
The Glamorgan Heritage Coast was at an end and the beast of Aberthaw Power Station came into full view. This used to be a golf course before this lump got dumped on the landscape in 1968. The pollution it emits has recently come under scrutiny but heaven only knows what that means for its future.
On the beach leading up to the power station are these cubes which line the beach. They are anti-invasion defences which date back to the Second World War that formed part of the Western Command’s coastal defences.
Out in the water is the power station’s caisson.
The sea wall has some interesting graffiti daubed on it.
By now I was walking right next to the power station. The Wales Coast Path takes you as close to it as you could be.
When it was built the Afon Ddawan (Thaw) was rerouted down this channel.
Looking back, it’s a beautiful area, in spite of the power station.
I hiked past Fontygary and towards Trwyn y Rhws (Rhoose Point), which claims to be the most southerly point of mainland Wales.
I came to Porthkerry caravan park and ended up hiking past this inviting swimming pool. Anyone fancy a dip? No, I didn’t think so.
I was in autopilot having trodden this route on so many occasions. I came past the Porthkerry Viaduct.
This is when those layered cliffs reappear, just before Cold Knap.
The tide was out so I was able to walk across the pebble beach rather than take the higher route through the forest above. And for that I was thankful!
These cliffs really are magnificent and present themselves differently every time I walk past.
Shattered, I had made it as far as I could. It was my longest day yet on the Wales Coast Path and I was beaten. There was nothing left but to watch the sun disappear into the water in front of me.