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Category: Llwybr Arfordir Pen-y-Bont Ar Ogwr – Bridgend Coastal Path

152. Aberogwr (Ogmore) – Y Barri (Barry)

152. Aberogwr (Ogmore) – Y Barri (Barry)


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).

I had a cup of tea and a banana at the nearby Clifftop Cafe before getting back on the trail. 

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.

The Aberthaw Lime Works were opened in 1888 and was in operation until the mid 1920s. It’s now derelict.

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.

151. Rest Bay – Aberogwr (Ogmore)

151. Rest Bay – Aberogwr (Ogmore)


Distance: 10.80 miles

Max Altitude: 30 m

Min Altitude: 1 m

Height Gain: 143 m

Height Loss: 148 m

It was great to be back at Rest Bay, one of my favourite beaches. It wasn’t often that I had seen it under such grey skies. My memories are of a blue sky, fluffy clouds and hot sun. So I was extra pleased to see the water teeming with surfers, keen to make the most of the windy conditions.

I followed the Wales Coast Path towards Porthcawl and along the seafront. It was quiet with hardly anybody about. The polar opposite of when hundreds of Elvis impersonators descend on the town each year.

I was reverting to type and making a beeline for the….yes you guessed it, the lighthouse! What else?!

This iconic lighthouse was built in 1860 and was the last coal and gas-powered lighthouse in the UK. It switched to being powered by gas in 1974. Incredibly, it had run on a meter placed at the bottom of the tower and brave souls had to feed in coins into it in order to keep the light burning. The lighthouse eventually went electric in 1997.

Porthcawl lighthouse and breakwater is also notorious for its storms. If you want to see how rough the sea can get at this apparently calm spot, then click here.

The Wales Coast Path then diverts inland to avoid Coney Beach Pleasure Park. You can walk through it but I wasn’t much in the mood for neon and flashing lights so I followed the track and came out on Trecco Bay.

I left Porthcawl and the funfair behind and headed across Newton Burrows towards Merthyr Mawr.

The photo that follows hardly does it justice but Merthyr Mawr is the site of some of Europe’s highest sand dunes.

And some of the scenes from the 1962 film, Lawrence of Arabia, were shot right here.

I am kicking myself for not taking some better shots while I was passing through. Many’s the time I’ve struggled up those dunes in the name of exercise.

It all went awry after the dunes. I was routed inland in order to avoid the Afon Ogwr. There were missing waymarks and I ended up in some commune. I was lost.

It was a little creepy to say the least. I needed to get to Ogmore Castle so I was delighted to finally spot this helpful stone waymark to help me.

Rather than cross the Afon Ewenni (Ewenny river) further up stream using a footbridge I chose to use these stepping stones. Many’s the time I’ve padded across these stones trying to avoid clattering into the water. I’ve not fallen in yet and today was no exception! Dry feet all round. Result!

The prize when I reached the other side was one of my favourite castles in Wales, Castell Ogwr or Ogmore Castle. I would have liked a photo of it from the other side of the river featuring the castle and stepping stones, but the tractor and trailer that were parked out front didn’t exactly add to the ambience, so here’s one closer up instead.

I decided to end my day here. It wouldn’t get much better than this after all. I had intended to go further but I believed that I could make up the distance in the coming days.

150. Baglan- Rest Bay

150. Baglan- Rest Bay


Distance: 16.20 miles

Max Altitude: 43 m

Min Altitude: 1 m

Height Gain: 185 m

Height Loss: 177 m

After yesterday, I was well on track to make my end goal, so I woke up sore, shattered but chuffed. I was looking forward to rejoining the coast on the first part of my day’s hike.

Aberafan is a beautiful stretch of coastline with soft sand and decent surf.

Public art adorns the promenade every few metres.

Once again I was grateful for the flat and even surface; nothing short of a godsend for my battered feet.

But all good things must come to an end, they say.

And the beach at Aberafan Sands was no exception.

From here on out, I would be hiking through and around one of South Wales’ most famous industrial landscapes – Port Talbot.

I walked with curiosity. Some people dislike the urban or industrial sections of the Wales Coast Path, preferring the numerous rugged and wild cliffs and so forth, but not me. One of the unique things about the WCP is its variety. When I’m walking past a factory or power station or even an alleyway, it’s as though the trail gives me the chance to look behind the scenes somehow, and offer a glimpse of something I wouldn’t ordinarily see. And me being a nosey sort, well, I find that pleasing.

Besides, the path was perfectly flat, so I wasn’t complaining. And there were things to study every few metres too.

My map told me that I had to cross this bridge. It had been built in 1903 by the Aberavon Corporation.

However –

A gap had been prized open in the fence and a pensioner rode through on his bike, giving me a smile as he did so. But new waymarks were directing me in the opposite direction, different to my map. So I followed them.

I was being led into Aberafan along the pavement.

Incidentally, calling this location ‘Port Talbot’ is a fairly recent thing. Port Talbot is formed from the merging of several villages, including Baglan, Aberafan and Margam. The name Port Talbot came about as a result of the Talbot family, who were local landowners. The Talbots were patrons of Margam Abbey, and also built Margam Castle. An extensive ironworks was built on their property. And they went on to develop a port and railway system too.

After I crossed the above footbridge I was on the lookout for a waymark. Finally I saw one. But I was being led down narrow lanes that I didn’t feel entirely comfortable walking down.

So I decided to walk through the town in order to try to find some food instead.

I ended up back out on the side of the road with the steelworks right in front of me. How many thousands of times have I driven past on the M4 staring a the smoke stacks I wonder? Not once have I stood beneath this behemoth at ground level though.

Everywhere I looked there were pipes and smoke and metal and grime.

The Wales Coast Path then took me through the village of Margam. By now I was far inland and walking past streets and houses on the pavement. Eventually, I was diverted back towards the coast.

Suddenly, the heavy industry disappeared and I ended up in woodland.

On the other side of the spiked fence was Eglwys Nunydd reservoir, a body of water I’d seen so many times from inside a car while whizzing past. It was created to provide water for the Tata steelworks.

I reached the end of the wooded lane and found myself at a level crossing. Only this was the type of level crossing that I hadn’t seen before. Instead of one or two lines, there were at least ten. I imagine one or two were for passenger trains and the rest for the steelworks.

There were warning and health and safety signs everywhere.

And I got to see the steelworks from the other side.

It was eerily quiet and a little creepy, I don’t mind admitting.

I seemed to be in some sort of defunct railway yard.

Pylons towered above me, their wires buzzing with electricity.

The ground became boggy but a purpose built causeway spared my feet from the sog.

Well, almost.

There was no doubt about where I was. The grime and oil from nearby was more than evident.

Continuing, I wasn’t sure of the way, so ascended a sand dune to see where I was in relation to the steelworks and the coast. That’s when this train graveyard appeared.

So I went exploring.

This is somewhere that I’ll definitely return to in the future. But with a proper camera rather than just a mobile phone.

The Wales Coast Path was heading into the Kenfig National Nature Reserve, one of Wales’ top sand-dune reserves.

The steelworks were now behind me. Unlike Shotton or Pembroke Dock for example, Port Talbot had left me feeling empty. Perhaps it was the weather. A blue sky has the ability to give most things a lift, but here I was under grey skies.

Anyway, I was back next to the sea once more so all was well with the world.

Even better was the dedicated track for walkers.

I reached Sker Point, location of one of Wales’ worst sea tragedies, and one which my mother remembers and has told me about. In 1947, the SS Samtampa was a steamship which ran aground at this location. There were 47 deaths, 39 from the ship and eight from volunteer crew of the Mumbles lifeboat. I had walked past that RNLI station only yesterday.

This sign told me that I was nearing the end of my day. I was next to the Royal Porthcawl links golf course.

It meant that I was coming in to one of my favourite beaches, Rest Bay. The sweet memories of long, hot childhood summers came flooding back. Splashing in the sea, building sand castles, exploring rock pools and then gathering bits and bobs quickly before the tide came in. The tidal range in this neck of the woods is the second highest in the world and comes in like an F1 car. One minute you’re padding about on dry sand, the next you’re up to your neck in saltwater if you’re not careful.

It was getting dark so I was grateful for this special EU-funded boardwalk that guided me in to Rest Bay.

My day finished with me looking out at the sea in wonderment. How on earth had I got here? Had I really walked all this way in order to get to one of my favourite beaches? I could scarcely believe it. It seemed nothing short of surreal.

I was still on course to make it back to Cardiff Bay on the date that I had in my mind. The adventure was almost over.

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