I fear this post will be a bit patchy as I have been too busy to get down to writing and the 4th May seems such a long time ago – but here goes……
Having spent the night in Bridgend the taxi drops us off at Rest Bay where we will unfortunately be diverted away from the coast. A few days previously I had rung Bridgend Town Council to ask about the closure of the boardwalk that runs parallel with the coast – they assured me that it was closed. Damian is sceptical but I take the good girl route and head off towards the golf club.
After a few wrong turns in a world full of bungalows and neat lawns we eventually find the path that leads around the golf course and back to the sea. Arriving back at the coast I sheepishly concede that indeed there were walkers on the boardwalk coming from Porthcawl. “Did you walk from Rest Bay along the boardwalk?” I ask tentatively. “Oh yes ” is the reply “there’s a bit of digging going on round the corner but we just walked around it!” my humiliation is complete.
Moving on we find a clear grassy path leading westwards and soon pass Sker House off to the right. Once home to Cistercian monks over 900 years ago, it lay derelict for centuries, providing a setting for many a ghost story and the famous Welsh ballad “The Maid of Sker”. This was one of my father’s fascinations when walking the Kenfig dunes on family holidays. Now restored at great expense, it is a private dwelling in the hands of someone who obviously adores yellow.
The sun is hot on an unprotected head and as we tramp through Kenfig Dunes I feel I could be in a wild stretch of desert country instead of South Wales heading for one of the country’s biggest industrial complexes.
Closer and closer we get, until we cannot go any further and are diverted around Tata Steel country, up the side of a huge mound of sand and down to the bridge over the Kenfig River. This has been built recently, a solid wooden structure that looks like it was built to carry a herd of stampeding cows rather than the occasional walker.
Crossing the bridge the path is now clearly marked, leading us down through a pleasant stretch of woodland, over two boardwalks and up to a disused railway line. We then follow a wide grassy path through some scrubland until we end up back to civilisation in the form of a railway crossing.
We stop to watch a goods train grinding slowly along, the track buckling beneath its weight, the wheels screeching like stuck pigs.
On the other side of the crossing the path follows the perimeter fence of the gasworks which is part of the vast complex we are now circumnavigating – it is time for lunch and a cup of tea but the landscape does not look promising.
Misinterpretation of the map (can happen to us all) sees us meandering around a stark landscape of newly tarmaced service roads, tall concrete walls painted a blinding white, metal turnstiles demanding entry codes, sentry lights which I’ll swear house CCTV cameras and not a soul in sight to ask for directions. Any minute I’m expecting the flat tones of a loud disembodied voice to shatter the ominous silence, asking us to get off what is so obviously private property – but then I am a good girl.
Eventually, we find our way out, under a bridge and into the sad streets of Margam – still no sign of a cafe – we do in fact pass one but it’s closed!
Turning a corner we come out onto a wide road and in the distance a pub – with tables outside. Wearily we sink into the wooden benches, now too hot for a cup of tea so we brave the local ale………Brains……..a bit of a mistake. As we sit demolishing huge bacon sandwiches, a band starts setting up and I groan inwardly thinking this is going to be LOUD. And it is, but fun, and it’s amazing what two small pieces of tissue paper can do. The two lead singers have good voices and the young guitarist is trying very hard, he has a Led Zeppelin t-shirt on, I like him already.
From now on the walk becomes more like a walk as we know it – a narrow path winds up the side of the weir in the direction of Aberavon. We pass people out for a Sunday afternoon walk and turning a corner we are greeted with the splendid sight of the miles and miles of golden sands that make up Aberavon beach.
On the seafront is a sculpture – the Kitetail – Wales’ largest sculpture, standing at 12 metres high and weighing 11 tonnes. Designed by Carmarthenshire-based artist and sculptor Andrew Rowe, it tells another story, the historical importance of the steelworks for the area. I like the combination of the massive steel components and the notion of a kite flying high up in the blue sky.