Post image for Wales Coast Path: Ogmore to Port Talbot

Wales Coast Path: Ogmore to Port Talbot

September 3, 2012 · 15 comments

Walked 29th June 2012.

Approximate distance: 15 miles. At first the route can be tiring as you are walking on sandy ground and some dunes. From Porthcawl the path is firm through to Kenfig when it is through dunes again. After that I made life more difficult for myself and strayed off the official path as you will see.

I had decided to walk for two days to Swansea with a stop-over in Port Talbot. I had worked out that a train from Swansea would get me back to Bridgend and that I could get a bus or taxi back to Ogmore. So I left the car near Ogmore castle. Then I read the flood warnings in the little car park by the river and moved it up the lane a bit.

From the point where you cross the Ogmore River to the bridge crossing the River Kenfig, this part of the path is within Bridgend Council’s area.

Their Coastal Access Projects Officer is Alison Roberts. Email: Alison.Roberts@bridgend.gov.uk

From the Pelican  in her Piety pub, the path continues by the road for ¼ mile or so to a bus stop after a cattle grid. You turn left off the road here and cross over a footbridge spanning a small tributary of the Ogmore River. After crossing a field, from where there is a nice view back to Ogmore Castle,  a rather untidy suspension bridge crosses the Ogmore River and from here the path follows a minor road briefly to the hamlet of Merthyr Mawr.  Bear left at a green and follow the road past the victorian St Teilo’s church on your right.

St Teilo's church, Merthyr Mawr photographed from the Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

Continue down this minor road for about half a mile, with woodland on your left within which Candleston Campsite is situated. On your right are open fields.

You arrive at a large car park, glimpsing the ruins of the 14th century fortified Manor House known as Candeston Castle over to your right. It’s worth a small detour to have a look around.

Candeston Castle photographed from the wales Coast path by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

In the car park you want to leave in the far left hand corner from where you entered, and follow the soft sandy path that doubles up as a bridleway.  After passing though some woodland this becomes an undulating area of sand dunes, criss-crossed with many small paths.

It is quite difficult to keep track of the official coast path but if you continue roughly in a south-westerly direction you should arrive at near the mouth of the Ogmore River, at which point the path heads north-west, roughly following the Mean High Water line. Rather than trudge over the soft path of the dunes, the far more pleasant route to take (at least at low tide) is  along the wide sandy beach that leads to a flat rocky outcrop known as Black Rocks.

Beach near Black Rocks photographed from The Wales Coast path by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

The path continues round the bay and turns a corner near Newton Point, then skirts a static caravan park above Tresco Bay before following a raised walkway leading to the funfair and to a line of kiosks selling take away food, beach items and a load of tat. This is Porthcawl! To my uneducated eye the funfair looks about as shabby as the one at Barry.

The path now follows the route of the road around the sea front. There are plenty of opportunities for refreshment (mine’s an ice cream) and accommodation here. After walking about half a mile by the road it seems that the official footpath follows a cycle track that continues by the road, but a nicer route is to walk on the perfectly good grassy paths that runs closer to the sea across Locks Common.

The Lifeguard station from Locks Common near portcawl, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

You need to drop down briefly to the roadside at the lifeguard station. If you want refreshments or a toilet here , a path runs up the hillside to a car park and a café . You can’t actually see them from the coast but they are only just over the brow of the hill and an easy detour. Anne and I used to come here occasionally –  it was alright but then we found that Gower wasn’t that much further and was much nicer.

The path then leaves the road again just at the entrance to the Porthcawl Golf club and returns to the seaside. The thoughtful people of Bridgend County Council have laid down the most wonderful broadwalk which runs for the next half a mile or so above Rest Bay.

Broadwalk by the Goldf course photographed from the Wales Coast Path by Charles hawes. Walking in Wales.

This is a super stretch, with the sea just below you to the left and the golf course to the right.  Shortly after the golf course finishes over to the right in the distance is the intriguing  yellow painted Sker House . Originally a 12th century Cistercian monastic grange, it is said to be one of the most important buildings in Wales.  Sadly it is not open to the public.

View to Sker House photographed from the wales Coast path by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

Ahead is your first view of the industrial complex of Port Talbot. You’ll be getting up close and personal with this in a while.  The path continues to follow the Mean High Water line with Kenfig sands to your left and the dunes and pools of Kenfig Burrows to your right.  At the time of my walk there was a wonderful display of wild flowers on the dunes. (Note to self- must learn more names of them).

Kenfig sands photographed from the Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

In theory this very particular landscape should accompany you for the next mile and a half until a new bridge crosses the Cynffig river and the path crosses Margam Moors at the edge of the industrial landscape of Port Talbot. But at the time of writing the bridge had not been opened and the route of the path afterwards had not been made ready. So a diversion  half way along this stretch, sends the frustrated walker due East inland for over a mile, passing under the M4 Motorway and then a further mile East to town of Pyle. From Pyle this diverted route then intends you to walk three miles alongside the busy A 48 into Margam.

Well, I did not fancy this diversion one bit. So I carried on the official route. What I found was a splendid new footbridge bridge spanning the Kenfig river- but with either end left in mid-air and with no work taking place. This just felt to me like an affront. So duly affronted I climbed up the side of the bridge, and gleefully crossed over, carefully jumping off the other end and replacing the flimsy barriers at either end as I did so.

I am really pleased to report that negotiations with Neath/PortTalbot council are advanced with Tata Steel to provide a much better route through their property, which I undersatnd will keep more to the coast. I will update this post when such a route is open. I wrote to Tata Steel but did not get a reply.

From this point the path comes within the Neath Port Talbot Council’s area. Their Rights of way Officer is Catrin Evans.

Her email is c.e.evans@neath-porttalbot.gov.uk

Of course there were no waymark signs on the other side. I kept to the coast as far as possible and found myself walking along a wide stone track looking back that was also being used by massive lorries that were coming and going.

The land rises steeply to the right appears to be being re-landscaped. I received a few odd looks from lorry drivers and a passing white van, but no one stopped or challenged me.  After less than a mile a fenced compound appeared with a Man-In A-Hut. My GPS suggested that I was very close to what might be a public right of way that just about reaches the coast.  The Man-In-The-Hut gently pointed out that I was on private land and asked me not to get run over by passing vehicles. He said there was such a track a hundred yards ahead, just after a weigh bridge. He did not know if it was a right of way. Apologising profusely for endangering my life, I reached the track. I was somewhat relived to be on a green dotted line on the map and delighted with myself for having avoided the undoubtedly tedious detour.

I must stress at this point that I do not suggest that you follow in my footsteps.

This track runs inland for half a mile or so alongside the Port Talbot works  and after crossing several railway lines which serve the massive industrial works to the north and south of you, it becomes  an asphalt surface.

Tata works, Port Talbot near the Wales Coast Path, photographed by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

It passes the Eglwys Reservoir (although there are no views of this large lake from here- a fine view of it is to be had from the M4 though you should keep your eyes on the road!) before skirting the  Western Wood Energy Plant (the first commercial scale Biomass power plant in Wales) to join the official footpath route at Junction 38 of the M4 that links to the A48.

After about a mile or so of trekking along by the road you come across the rather attractive looking pub/hotel called The Twelve Knights. It has rooms and I wish that I had stayed there rather than walking the further tedious mile and a half  through the shabby streets of Margam.  Still it has to be done at some point. Margam is a sad and run-down looking place and Port Talbot not any more attractive.

Margam, on the wales Coast Path, photographed by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

You pass its Memorial Park, and then the large and  very plain parish church, and the sadly boarded up Plaza Cinema, before arriving at Port Talbot Parkway Station. Opposite is the looming bulk of the Grand Hotel. I had been recommended that I stay here for the night (you know who you are and you will not be getting a Christmas card). 

At reception there was metal grill. Not a good sign. I asked for a quiet room and was put on the second floor.  Whoopee- a bath! I was very content after a perfectly OK meal in the busy bar and a nice couple of pints. I retreated as the live music began to set up opposite me.  I had been entertained enough today. You’ll have to wait for the next blog to find out why I won’t be staying there again.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Steer September 3, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Sker House looks interesting, and now I know where you get your hair styled, that could be your profile on the door of Valerie’s and Jonathan’s !

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Charles September 4, 2012 at 7:52 am

I’d love to visit Sker House, too. Perhaps a bit more than Valerie and Johnathan’s.Your profile will be significant in the next blog.

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Sandy September 4, 2012 at 6:55 am

Not dangerous just adventurous. first part of this walk really interesting, I don’t know this area and the church, although mid 19th century looked like its been there since Norman times. Can’t wait to find out the tale of the hotel – already thinking up numerous storylines. Margam looks dire, must remember to remove that from my must visit list! Agree that Sker House looks interesting.

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Charles September 4, 2012 at 7:57 am

Well it was a bit of a jump at the far end of the bridge.The decline of South Wales industry has had a dramatic effect on communities and the fabric of the villages and towns that the Path passes through. Llanelli – to follow in a few weeks time- was a real eye opener.

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Julia Fogg September 4, 2012 at 8:40 am

Looks a sad landscape but then again could be romantic. I can feel the climate but then your images always gift the weather which is a talent. Vipers bugloss and a bottle of St Chinian would be preferable. I do hope you get to daily blog on the Chemains de Saint Jacques – it’ll make such a great contrast to this walk. Amusez-vous! Exclamation mark not used flippantly.

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Charles September 4, 2012 at 9:22 am

I do think the towns are sad, but having but now got close to the Steel works (and associated sites) and haven driven past them many times over the years, I do find something quite glorious about their belching smoke stacks and flaming chimneys. I’d love a guided tour of the works. I love your description of my images “gifting” the weather. I do try to make the best of it! I doubt that the French networks in the Massif will allow daily blogs and I may be other occupied in the café’s but I will try and do some picture posts. Of course they won’t be “gifted” by Photoshop.

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Julia Fogg September 4, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Well, we are in 21st C here so no excuses before the event and am sure you’ll do great blogging with a glass of something to hand – all the merrier. Have subscribed ‘cos I like the way you write almost as much as pics.

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Charles September 4, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Thanks Julia. A glass of something is never far from hand. That’s nice that you have subscribed. It’s great to think of people being with me on this journey.

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John September 4, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Sker House is now an utterly private dwelling. The restoration cost well over the price it was eventually sold for with the buyer having to open to members of the public by appointment for a number of days a year and for a number of years following purchase. That obligation now having been satisfied, there is little likelihood of visits during the current ownership (for little read nil). I was fortunate enough to be able to tour the interior immediately after restoration and can imagine someone like Christopher Lloyd turning all the lights off before people had got into bed. The bathrooms were accessible only via narrow corridors and precarious steps from most of the bedrooms. We weren’t allowed to take pictures but I will try and track some down if I can. There are plenty available on the web pre-restoration.

The Bridgend section of the Coast Path has now been “officially opened” so I would hope that signage and that bridge are a little better!

As the path coasts along the edge of the Kenfig Dunes Nature Reserve, those fancying a daytime detour might walk inland to visit the Visitor Centre (toilets available) and/or the nearby Prince of Wales Public House which has a good reputation for both food and drink (and toilets).

An interesting fact (for those who do not know it) is that the Parish Church in Pyle was originally at Kenfig and was moved before it got covered by the encroaching dunes. If you look at the Church today, you will notice that, unusually, the smaller stones are at the bottom and the largest at the top – it was rebuilt “upside down” as it were. (The public toilet at Pyle has been demolished.)

Anyone walking this area using an old rights of way map might want to know that there have been a number of changes to public rights of way/footpaths in recent years (including a diversion of the path that used to run immediately adjacent to Sker House) due to quarrying and other industrial activity.

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Charles September 4, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Thanks John for these interesting and helpful additions. This kind of information adds so much to the posts. Actually they still haven’t sorted out the issues around Tata at Port Talbot, so the diversion remains in place and the new bridge closed. When I get told about ameneded route I’ll amend the blog and will plan to re-walk it.

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Chris Baker May 8, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Hi Charles,
Having read your blog I decided to walk alongside the Tata Steel site on the empty beach. No signs that it is private land or barred to the general public. At the end of the beach I made my way up to the road that alas is still inside the 35 square mile site. I got picked up by very polite and helpful security and taken off the site. I gather they are concerned about the general public passing too close to areas where there are potentially toxic gases. So I would echo your point that ,dull as it may be ,the diversion of the path towards the A48 is the only route. Incidentally the bridge in your photo is now complete although there has been a fire of some of the adjacent scrub. This is not the greatest part of what is proving to be a lovely coastal path.

Chris Baker

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Charles May 8, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Hi Chris
Thanks for the update. I feel really pissed off when I think about how Tata Steel are restricting access to this wonderful coastline. I don’t believe a word of the supposed concerns. The Path runs close to all sorts of potentially hazardous sites. Having said that I am also annoyed about how much of the coast is made off limits by the MOD in wonderful areas in Pembrokeshire and in several other places I have come across so far. One day I may just try and mount a campaign about this issue.

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Rhiannon May 28, 2015 at 9:25 pm

Hoping to do part of this walk next week with 2 dogs and perhaps even a dip in the sea. This is part of my childhood memories. My mum was from the valleys and we used to come to Porthcawl for the weekend. It will be interesting to see if I recognise any of it.

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Charles May 28, 2015 at 10:49 pm

Well, it’s a super walk but I would leave it to the dogs to have a swim. Hope you recognise something!

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John May 29, 2015 at 8:33 am

If you’re thinking of a dip in the sea and have two dogs, this link’s worth a read: http://www1.bridgend.gov.uk/media-centre/2014/01-05-2014-dog-ban-on-beaches-begins.aspx. Sorry, it limits your swimming opportunities.

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