Newport must be one of the few cities that has not updated its docklands and as the bus trundles through Pillgwenlly (Pill for short) to the hotel where Damian and I are planning to spend the night, my heart sinks. However, I have a surprise in store. Surrounded by mean streets of grim ugly houses, industrial buildings and shops that look like untidy front rooms, the solid red brick of the Waterloo Hotel stands alone as testament to another era, when the docklands were a hive of industry and accommodation was needed for the sailors coming off the ships.
Once inside it is another world – totally devoid of pretension the hotel is comfortable and intriguing, the food delicious and well presented. Once famous for having the longest bar in the world (to line up the pints waiting for the sailors) the interiors are fabulous.
And yes that’s Damian at the end of the bar……..
To add to the excitement, just outside the hotel is Newport’s famous Transporter Bridge, one of only two in the UK and seven in the world. And yes that’s Damian with the cap…..
Designed by French engineer Ferdinand Arnodin, it was built in 1906 and is still in operation today. The design was chosen because the river banks are very low at the desired crossing point, where an ordinary bridge would need a very long approach ramp to attain sufficient height to allow ships to pass under, and a ferry could not be used during low tide.
The following day Damian tries to persuade me to walk over the top of the bridge but luckily it is temporarily closed. Instead we have to walk the long way round and over another bridge which is not quite so challenging!
After getting a bit lost in a housing estate we are led back to the Transporter Bridge but on the other side of the river Usk. Here, we get a better view of the mechanics of this remarkable feat of engineering.
The blue structure suspended on cables is called a “gondola” . Attached to the other end of the cables is a moving carriage which runs along the high horizontal beam on rail tracks operated from the motor house. The gondola is in fact a ferry in the air, capable of transporting people and vehicles. Amazing…..
Just in front of the bridge is a path off to the left which runs alongside the river with its usual repertoire of derelict wharves and rotting boats. We meet an old man gathering drift wood in a wheelbarrow for his stove. He has a thick South Wales accent and tells us it’s a couple of hours to Magor – I think not. We are now on the Welsh Coast Path.
The path runs inland here through wide open green spaces – it is a lovely day again and people are out walking dogs. A solid newly constructed bridge takes us over an artificial drainage channel called a “reen” on the map and there are quite a few of them criss crossing the landscape.
Over the next stile we are approaching what looks like a pub where we decide to indulge in a cream tea. Opposite the pub is a large church where people are tending graves.
Suitably refreshed we set off across the fields again in the direction of the sea wall – through a nature reserve reclaimed from what used to be a dumping ground for waste from the power station we can see in the distance. It is heartening to see the rebirth of wastelands into wetlands.
The reserve offers a lighthouse, lakes, birdwatching hides and various trails including a sculpture trail. This is one of the “sculptures”:
….and here is the lighthouse, which used to have legs…..
Onward we tramp in the scorching sun – mad dogs and Englishmen but it’s only April! Whatever is growing on the rocks is a very fashionable yellow.
Just before the village of Gold Cliff the path turns inland to avoid marshland. It then dips down again to join the coast, running past a place called Redwick. By now we are both very tired, hot and hungry. It has been a much longer walk than anticipated, I had misjudged the distances on the map and not taken the heat into account.
Onwards – past someone’s attempt at public art and then finally we reach the turn off at Magor Pil which runs past the Sewage Works (just what we need) and up onto a road.
We have 30 minutes more of road walking before we reach our AirBnb. Absolutely exhausted we crawl into our host’s kitchen, wrench off the boots and with the minimum of niceties head for the pub. Damian buys me a pint of weak but ice cold lager (I am only now getting back to drinking alcohol after 9 months abstinence) which goes down a treat.
Distance: 15 miles