Approximate distance: 11 miles. An easy walk on the level on mostly firm paths with no significant climbs. One soft section at Aberavon sands and a not very nice stretch for about a mile and a half by the A48.
Walked 30 th June 2012
I had had the worst of nights at The Grand Hotel, my sleep interrupted through the night by banging doors just outside my room. Bang, silence, bang, silence, bang. I concluded, in my state of semi-conciousness that some chain smoker had to leave the room every 10 minutes for a fag outside.
Then, just as I was dropping off, the fire alarm went off at 5. And then stopped. And then started again. And then stopped. Now I have read about people dying in the rooms because they can’t be bothered to get up and leave the building when the alarm goes off. So on the third occasion of its calling I got up , dressed and went downstairs. Some youth was looking blankly at an array of flashing lights on a panel but contrary to the impression he gave of knowing anything about anything, assured me that it was a false alarm. So I returned to my room. But not for sleep. That opportunity was behind me. To add insult to injury, I found a silverfish in my bed in the morning. I wrote to complain to the manager and was duly ignored.
For this next leg I was joined by my friend Paul Steer. Apart from the pleasure of conversation this also meant that I took no notes of the walk, so pictures and memory will have to suffice.
This section of the path starts within the Neath Port Talbot Council’s area. Their Rights of way Officer is Catrin Evans.
Her email is email@example.com
From the Grand Hotel our route was not entirely clear to us. We faffed around a bit and found a way under the A48 to join what is a designated cycle route (No.4). Re-checking my map, I think we needed to have picked up this route slightly back along the road towards Margam. Either way, no great sights were lost to us, I think.
The path takes you over a splendid blue painted bridge that crosses the A4241and then crosses the River Afan by an asphalt covered bridge which must have been very fine in its time but has seen better days. A stone plaque announces that it was opened by the Aberavon Corporation in 1903.
Re-united by this time with the cycle route, the path heads away from the harbour and makes for Aberavon beach and some interesting sculptures.
And a very fine stretch of path it is too, with a substantial white painted railing, strong enough to resist any cyclist who might be at risk of careering over the edge. A green space separates the edge of Port Talbot from this beach side promenade. It feels like they were not sure what to do with it. There are rather pathetic remains of a children’s park (Paul tells me that they have now been removed) and some more sculptures. Aberavon Sands are outstanding, and on this slightly dull (at times but not when I took this pic!) and windy day, all but deserted.
As the path rounds Baglan Bay we could not resist an attempt to keep closer to the coast than the path decrees. This was a mistake as the sand is very soft and hard to walk on. I had warned my companion of my tendency to walk “off piste” so I take no responsibility for his inconvenience. We did get a very nice view of the River Neath as it nears its confluence.
Near here, Paul, being an artist, took some pictures of debris on the sand. This is one of mine. His are probably better.
There being no bridge across the river at this point, (“shame”, you say) the path heads inland, skirting the gas fired Baglan Bay power station (hooray, another power station, that’s 5 since I started the Coast Path; I can’t get enough of them)
Ahead are the two bridges of the M4 and A48 which cross the river. The path will take the latter, passing the Brunel Tower which housed a hydraulic ram, and near which are the remains of the Britton Ferry Floating Dock, designed by Sir Marc Brunel (Father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel), and now renamed the Brunel Dock (we didn’t actually see this). A trust was formed in 2005 to further its restoration.
The rather noisy trek across the A48 bridge does give an excellent view over the local re-cycling station and of the River Neath , but you’ll still want to get this over with as quickly as possible. Sadly there is another mile of walking alongside the A 48 to go as the path turns left to turn back towards the coast. It does not make it though, turning right onto the B4290 and passing a pub/ restaurant with an attractive brick tower in its car park.
Shortly after passing this it is a relief to turn left off the road and follow the tow path of the Tennant Canal, which opened in 1824 and was part of a larger canal system which was largely used to transport coal from the Neath Valley. It closed for navigation around 1930.
This is a delightful and peaceful section of the path, still shared with No.4 cycle route . The narrow strip of grass between the path and the canal side has a wonderful colony of orchids. As the path approaches the docks of Swansea it passes through a little wood. It crosses a splendid modern bridge near the Prince of Wales Dock (opened 1881) and then turns to meet the side of the dock .
Pause to try and imagine this place as a busy waterway. The path runs along the north side of the Prince of Wales Dock. A Norwegian Church, very similar to the one at Cardiff marina, has been built on the corner of the dock. This area is being completely transformed from a busy functional dock sided by manufactures’ of all kinds (human interest moment: Paul once worked here in a factory which imported sausage skins and fell in love for the first time) to smart apartments, cafes and a marina. Pause to get ice cream or hot drink from café as the temperature dictates.
We may have gone slightly off-path here, crossing a wide bridge over a lock a little nearer the sea than the official route, which, I think, passes through the marina.
It makes no odds and possibly brings you to the wide promenade at the edge of some of these smart apartments a little sooner. You are back at the coast, and the sea of Swansea Bay is a welcome sight.
After the apartments, the path keeps to the coast on asphalt that the dunes are trying to bury and runs behind the Civic Centre before emerging next to the busy A 4067, which runs along the edge of Swansea Bay.
At this point we headed through Swansea to the train station where I caught a train back to Bridgend. From there a short taxi ride took me back to my car at Ogmore. I was the first ride that he had had all afternoon – I tipped him well.