Dunraven Beach and Penarth Pier are highlights of the day

The wonderful thing about this project is that every single day that I have been away, whether it’s Wales or Whitby or Worthing, every day throws up at least one supremely amazing discovery. Today is no exception. I travel eastwards from Porthcawl. The beaches and headlands continue to be awesome and I wonder at their magnificence and beauty. Ogmore-by-Sea provides views over the sands back to Porthcawl itself as well as providing a lowtide backdrop of rolling cliffs, exposed sands and craggy outcrops of rocks.

From the cliffs of Southerndown, the headlands and bays of the coast can be seen rolling away into the distance.

One of the most striking out beaches is just outside the village at Dunraven. Down a long descent on a narrow road the beach opens up before the visitor. It is a rough, stoney beach with the occasional patch of smooth sand, that looks like it as been scraped of all loose material by huge earth-movers, leaving lines of jagged bedrock heading towards the surf. Humanity gets lost amongst its scratchy surfaces. Can you spot the group of 30 or so infants?

Any patches of sand are lost by Llantwit Major where smoothed stones and large pebbles and even rounded boulders fight for position on the beach. Here is an excellent tea room and toilet and a free car park.

At Barry there is a change. The town is on an island which is separated by a headland. On the east side the low tide exposes a classy expanse off smooth, drying sand which has captured the skeletons of old boats but which still remains excellent terrain for walking designer dogs.

On the other side of the headland is the main resort. Here the bay is still soft sand but it receives a daily seeing to. The tracks of raking tractors show where the litter has been picked and gathered. It looks like Ben Hur has run half a chariot race around the beach. The shops on the front are rather tatty and require a bit of a facelift to match the modern redevelopment of paths and promenades that run along and around the low cliffs. If you venture into town a lot of building is going on – both residential and commercial.

My favourite sight of the day can be found amongst the cobbles of Penarth beach. Here stands the rather stubby but so elegant Penarth Pier Pavilion. The light and the colour of the stones provides a wonderful contrast to the fresh, bright paintwork. I love its size and compactness reaching out from the classy town of Penarth that lines the cliffs behind it.

Mumbling about the Gower and Mumbles

Llanelli is today’s first settlement of any real size. Modern development, in the shape of commercial centres and residential housing hues taken place along the waterline. This is a bit confusing when the tide is out as these modern, freshly painted estates line a huge, disappearing expanse of mud & silt. A dim marker out in the far distance shows where a vague line of surf must flop onto the flatland of the shore. A row of vans are parked out there too….why? Shell gatherers?

Once over the bridge, it is a glorious drive through the rolling hills and open moorland of the Gower. Roof down, music on, blue sky above, wild ponies grazing beside the road…life is good. This wonderful landscape is punctuated by the most breath-taking views of lines of estuaries and crescent-staped bays, some of which I go down to and find family-friendly, soft sanded playgrounds backed by the very necessary tea rooms.

The king, or maybe the queen, is the headland at Rhosseli. Wow. It takes your breath away. And half way along a white-washed farmhouse overlooks the whole scene. Someone lives there and wakes every morning to take in this scene. Heaven.

Some of the larger bays along the coast are Port Eynon,


and Caswell

And then we reach the Mumbles at the top end of Langland Bay which stretches around, past Swansea to Port Talbot. Miles of soft, light sand to entice families away from Benidorm & Corfu.

Mumbles is a small resort town with a lot of charm. The pier is its gem. The pier itself, along with its entertainments and cafe, is constructed on a gantry of ironwork attached to the shore. The rest of the structure heads out to sea beside the old lifeboat station, heading towards two newer stations. It all seems the wrong way around but it is very pleasing on the eye.

Around the bay the new buildings of Swansea line the sandy crescent of sand.

Port Talbot is one of those places where the beach is lined with industry and terraced housing. The sand is the same and just as big a draw for families and neighbours.

A surfers beach has been constructed alongside the industrial terminal and I spent time watching the leech-like forms lying stationary in the water waiting for THE right wave to bring them into squiggling action.

Within Tenby’s 13th century walls an artist’s palette waits to be discovered

With a few good days ahead it’s down to South Wales to compete a leg, maybe two, of my coastline project. I head for Manorbier, an ordinary coastal village with a small beach that holds a surprise. Just outside, standing guard above the beach on the low cliffs outside the houses are the amazingly well-preserved ruins of a Norman castle.

Tenby is a walled, fortified, harbour town. It is a real delight with narrow, quirky streets cross-crossing and overlapping an ancient old town centre.

Steps and alleys cut through between brightly painted terraces hiding their old past behind small windows and narrow doors. B&B accommodation, pubs, sandwich bars, fish & chip shops, tourist shops and independent traders share their space yet in May it is calm, peaceful, civilised. Well worth a visit.

Further along the coast, small settlements are home to tourists to varying degrees. Saundersfoot provides proper tourist facilities in terms of tea, beer, ice cream & fish & chips.

At Wisemans Bridge only a pub and garden serves the line of parking along this beach of hard stones.

Amroth has a few refreshment stops.

Pendine, home of the famous Sands, has a collection of places for the speed king & queen to quench their thirst before venturing out on the sandy flats at low tide to try their luck against their clock. This is one of the places Campbell tried to beat the world land-speed record.

I spend the night at Burry Port, once famous for its metal works, copies in particular. Dusk gives the harbour and marina, and the new lifeboat shed, a lovely golden flow which plays havoc with the shadows that stretch out along the flat, sandy beach.

Two up from Llangrannog and out comes the sun


New Quay is the next village up the coast. Signs advertise boat trips for dolphin watching. At this time of year car parks are half empty and a handful of holiday makers shuffle about eating the compulsory fish & chips out of plastic trays and drinking steaming cups of weak tea. Oh the joys of holidaying in the UK. The carpet of holiday homes on the headland to the side gives an indication of what high season might bring to the village.


The next place up the coast is Aberaeron – a delight. The town car park is filled with resting yachts propped up, up on blocks with their empty rigging playing concertos in the breeze.20170102133840_img_3839

A walk up the estuary of, presumably the river Aeron, beside the empty harbour to the bridge takes the visitor over to the slight bustle of a sizable village/town. Touristy eateries share streets with ordinary shops so tourists and locals are both catered for.




Travel west, young man

Well, I am back in the saddle. I journey to some amazing places around the world and I realised some while back that there are some equally amazing places around the UK that I have never visited. It was then that I started a long term project to visit every settlement on the coast of England, Wales and, maybe, because it’s just so long & wiggly, Scotland. I am going to start to share these adventures with you so you can appreciate, with me, some of the wonderful places that lie on our doorstep.

I bought the new year in by kick starting my travels, after a 4 month lay off, with a visit to west Wales. I left a damp, grey misty, nay foggy Oxfordshire and drove west through the gloom, avoiding traffic and more traffic. The further west I travelled saw fewer and fewer vehicles on increasingly windy and smaller and smaller roads, more and more hills and rivers and valleys and trees and fields, and less and less cloud and gloom, replaced by clear blue sky.

I was heading to Llangrannog, a small village on the coast, north of Cardigan. A final narrow lane, ground down by centurIes of wheels from carts and tractors and wagons and lorries add trucks and cars threads its way towards the promise of ocean and sea ahead. Stone-lined banks, disguised as tall grass walls , and hedges tower above the metal track. Like a horse wearing blinkers there is only one way to go. Glimpses of the natural wonders ahead are caught through the bare trees and the occasional farm gates to the side.


Then the panorama is spread before me like a patchwork feast of farmland with sharp line at the furthest edges where a Stanley knife has precisely cut through the block of countryside butter to create the razor – sharp boundary between land and sea. Is the Iron Man with the glowing red eyes going to appear above the line of running fields. To the side, through a gate, lies one of those moments. The coastline meanders away like a huge mouse has gouged its way into a slab of Cheddar. Small, intricate lines of trees and hedgerows, with their fine detail of spreading branches, are silhouetted on the skyline. Behind, the sky with its setting sun merges its lines of blues and clarets and oranges with the purples and browns and greys of the land until the hues on the artist’s palette simply take one’s breathe away. I have arrived.

Llangrannog is a small village of a hundred or so houses. In the past ships, yes ships not just boats, were built here. Now it has a few houses for locals, a lot of quaint rental properties, a coffee shop, two pubs serving food and a small store. The beach is backed by high cliffs with a huge slab of slate dividing it in two at low tide.