A visit to my mother in South Wales allows me a day to do some walking along the south coast. The weather is perfect, a sea mist which will blow away by 10 o’clock, the bus driver assures me – and he’s right. Memories of family holidays come floating through the window of the bus, the smell of sheep and warm grass, the sand dunes where I played with my cousins. Round the corner the lane down to the beach at Southerndown, where early birds are staking their claims with windbreaks and brightly coloured towels.
The coastal path winds steeply up the cliff and from the top I have a wonderful view of the wild sweep of Dunraven Bay (originally Dyndryfan) – vast beaches of golden sand, separated by craggy headlands and behind me, lolling in the sunshine, a herd of cows.
Walking along the top of the cliffs I soon come to my first stile, fashioned from stone and concrete with a pretty yellow, white and blue plaque set into the stone – this is the logo of the Wales Coast Path. I am to come across quite a few of these lovely stiles, some of them with perfectly placed stone handles for the weary legged.
After a while the path leaves the cliff edge and dives into a lush green forest, the bright purples, pinks and yellows of wild flowers, nodding in the pools of sunlight – I try a photograph but neither the camera nor myself are up to the job. Another pretty stile leads me out of the cool shade of the forest where I stand blinking in the sun – to my left ancient cliffs of layered limestone and shale lord over a deserted beach.
Walking on in the hot sun I come to a battered old shed which serves as a family run tea house, Nanny and Grandad settled in white plastic chairs, the one supervising proceedings the other glued to the rugby on the small TV. Coy grandchildren serve me a mug of strong tea which I take with me to the edge of the cliff to lie down for a rest. The faint sound of a bell from the sea puzzles me until I’m told it’s the buoy marking the entrance to the Bristol Channel.
I walk on and just up the path is Nash Lighthouse, standing proud against the bright blue blue sky, its fog horn making me jump as I walk past. From now on it’s plain sailing along the cliff path down into another wood and following the happy shrieks of children playing in the sea I walk down concrete steps to the beach below the fortress of St. Donats. I am by now so hot and sweaty I tear off my clothes and hurl myself into the waves. Refreshed I walk on to Llantwit Major, stopping to admire the line up of motorcycles and scooters outside the beach cafe.
Twenty minutes later I’m sitting in a bus that will take me back to Cardiff and the train home.