Walked 29th August 2012.
Approximate distance: 14 miles. This section is all on level ground and on firm surfaces with no significant climbs. If they are racing at the Pembrey Motor Racing Circuit or firing at the nearby bombing range, you may find their noises a little intrusive for the second half of the walk.
OS map: Explorer 178
This section of the path is within Carmarthenshire. Their Countryside Recreation and Access Manager is Eirian James – a most agreeable man. His email is EWJames@carmarthenshire.gov.uk
This was a day trip for me from home. I thought that I would park at the Pay and Display North Dock car park next to the Millennium Park Discovery Centre, which is just over the bridge from where I finished the last walk. But it only allows parking for 4 hours, so I parked in a nearby street for free. This parking policy is difficult to understand. Many visitors to the park might well wish to stay longer than 4 hours and the car park was nearly empty even though this was in the school holidays.
The website for the Discovery Centre says the buildings’ appearance was designed to “excite people’s imaginations and makes no apologies for its bold appearance.” It is quite striking. As I approached it, it suggested to me a small beached cross-channel fast ferry.
Inside it was quiet and the information desk empty. I went up to the cafe and ordered a takeaway baguette for lunch. Before leaving I discovered the toilets on the ground floor. I also discovered that Joe’s Ice Cream Kiosk was closed. There are great views over the bay.
The Coast Path is shared with a cycle route for several miles, so is wide and on a good surface. It’s a pleasant walk through the landscaped park, passing over the railway line that hugs the shoreline. The railway passengers get the better view of the Loughor Estuary after this as the railway embankment soon blocks the view to the sea.
The walkers view is across Sandy Water Park, a recreation ground with a fancy octagonal sided roof, a sewage works and finally Ashpits Pond and Pwll Nature Reserve.
The ashpits were from a (now demolished) power station. Near the nature reserve a blue plaque informs you that Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, landed near here. Wikipedia has a pic of her in Burry Port (it was a sea plane) so I’m not sure why the plaque is here. Maybe she went here first and opped into Burry Port for a cup of tea and a re-fuel.
Shortly after this, a small track splits off to the left. Take this as the path rises above the railway embankment and gives you some views of the bay. It soon rejoins the cycle way as it re-crosses the railway line.
Passing a small pond on your right, your view ahead is to a striking landform of terraced grass which brought to mind the work of Kim Wilkie -I doubt that he was involved. My picture can’t do it justice as it was taken as it began to rain heavily and my renowned attention to composition was compromised.
The ground rises gently and then drops down to the harbour at Burry Port. This was once the main port for exporting locally mined coal. Now it’s a little marina with moored sailing boats bobbing in the water.
You cross it by a footbridge named, I think, after a local man, Jack Mariti, but I haven’t found his claim to fame. The shops and facilities of Burry Port are only a few hundred yards away if you need supplies or refreshment.
Just before it, turn right and follow the path along the sea wall to dunes and through them briefly to re-join the cycle way. The next mile or so is a grit path on top of a sea wall supported by large boulders.
To the left is a wide saltmarsh with by now familiar vegetation which I have still to identify. On your right are steeply banked sand dunes.
Eventually you reach a pill box and junction with a motley collection of things opposite a rather ugly fenced off building.
The cycle route continues on to skirt the Pembrey Country Park. There are seats here and it’s a nice spot to have lunch. The Coast Path takes a right turn here to follow the edge of the park, passing a football field on the right.
This is effectively a diversion away from the coast as my map would suggest that it is possible to follow the coast for another two miles before it would reach an area where entry is not allowed due to it being an RAF bombing range. In a typical year pilots will conduct 10,000 passes to target, drop 1,500 bombs and fire 120,000 rounds of ammunition. Perhaps it’s best to give this area a wide berth.
At a T junction near the country park entrance turn right and then immediately left where a Forestry Commission sign announces that this is Pembrey Forest. The Coast Path crosses St Iltyds Walk at this point which starts in the country park and finishes in Margam country park.
Depending on the acuity of your hearing and the activities at the racing circuit and the bombing range, this may not be the peaceful walk you might wish for. I had the restless buzzing of the changing gears of racing cars mingled with the rustling trees and birdsong for the rest of the walk. But the sound levels from the cars were not that high – I can’t comment on what it sounds like when they are doing bombing training.
This woodland walk, though pleasant enough, did not engage my full attention. I saw little wildlife (one buzzard) and no other people. I began to play “name that tree/shrub/plant”, and didn’t do too badly. (Of the trees – beech, oak, sycamore, birch, poplar, willow, alder, hazel – but the predominant species was a pine and I could not say which one). I couldn’t identify this shrub, either, which seemed very exotic with its golden berries.
I also saw no damage to the trees from deer or squirrel. This led me to reflect rather sadly on Anne and my walk around our own little wood the night before where these pests have been causing no end of damage, and may well have killed a spectacular Ilex Kingiana that has reached 30 feet and which we planted at no more than 3 feet.
Occasional finger posts carrying the Wales Coast Path logo reassure that you are still on the right route. The track becomes a very straight concrete road and then an asphalt one and then, suddenly, after walking within the forest for about 2 miles, the edge of the forest is reached and you are presented with a wide open space.
To the right, some way away, some buildings of the racing circuit are visible and though the roaring engine noise, the pitch rising and falling as they changed gears was louder, now, I could not see the cars. This felt a bit frustrating. I think if you hear a noise it is a natural reaction to try to see its source.
The path zig zags as it makes for the marshes that border the Gwendreath Estuary and then heads east along the top of a sea wall. This is also the boundary of the bombing range. Above the marshes hoards of swallows were skimming the surface in search of flying insects.
To the right this flat plain contains Pembrey Airport though you would hardly know this – I couldn’t see much and no planes took off or landed when I was there.
Wikipdia suggests that there are plans to develop this site further. It occupies part of the site of what was RAF Pembrey. which was the airfield for many of World war II’s flying aces including Wing Commander Gibson of Dambusters fame. It is said that the ex-Prime Minister of Rhodesia, Ian Smith, was also based here. The RAF still use this site to support the bombing range. The racing circuit was built on this site. Considering the use that this area is being put to, I guess I got off lightly as far as noise disturbance goes.
The path heads straight for the railway line and the A484, passing one or two WWII gun emplacements.
It passes through a low tunnel under the railway and turns left to a pavement by the A484 that bypasses Kidwelly. In less than half a mile you turn left off this busy road to take the road into Kidwelly. Less than half a mile along this road and just after Caenewydd Farm (who do B&B – tel 01554890729), you are signposted off to walk up a muddy farm track and cross the railway by a stone bridge.
I stayed subsequently at the excellent B&B of Gerri Tennant in the town, which is written up in the next walk.
Immediately after the bridge go through a metal gate on the right. The path keeps to the edge of a field by the railway line and brings you to a new finger-post for the Camlas Keymer Canal.
This gentle walk by the restored canal is a delightful way to finish the day. Little bridges over the canal have been restored and there are explanatory boards about its use along the way. It finishes at Kidwelly Quay, a promontory by the mouth of the Gwendraeth River. The dock here is preserved.
The canal was constructed in 1768 to carry coal from the Gwendraeth valley colliery to the Quay. It was only three miles long and is said to be the earliest industrial canal of significance built in Wales.
The area around the quay is a designated picnic area and seats are located facing the estuary. It is a very special place. Small flocks of birds were racing low and silently up the river towards the estuary, almost colliding with other neighbors who were coming and going calling all the time. I wished that I could identify the birds but that education will have to happen another time.
I could still hear a faint noise from the racing circuit, but it was not enough to disturb the peacefulness of the place. I sat mesmerised by the rapidly rising tide obliterating the tracks of the wading birds in the muddy banks. Across the water the green low hills typical of the Carmarthenshire countryside.
The train station is just half a mile from the Quay At the entrance to the little cul-de-sac that leads to the station is Anthony’s Hotel – really a pub now, I think. Its sign is of a local brickworks that used to be in Kidwelly.
Once again one is reminded of industry and employment lost to South Wales.
The waiting shelters of the train station are decorated with naive, colourful ceramics done by the local scout troop.
In my day all I remember doing in the community as a scout was Bob -a – Job-week. ( a bob was a pre -decimilasation shilling. That’s 5p in current money. I washed cars and cut grass for this amount, though I think I usually was given 2 shillings.)
My train arrived on time and took precisely 12 minutes to return me back to Llanelli – a walk that had taken me about 5 hours.