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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.