Day 076: Swanbridge to Llantwit Major
Distance: 18.69 miles
Ascent: 2437 feet
Weather: SNowy Blizzards Most of Day
Accommodation: Rachel & Geoff's House
Well I woke early, and it was absolutely freezing. I was fine in my sleeping bag, but as soon as any part left the sleeping bag it got cold very quickly. On top of this I could sense that the sides of the tent were slightly bulging inwards, and the only reason for this could be snow, and on getting my head torch on it became clear that my tent was indeed covered/surrounded in snow.
For a brief moment I thought about staying in the sleeping bag for a couple of hours, but with the temperature not meant to improve and the blizzardy conditions meant to continue for several hours it didn’t seem worth it and I would get bored in the tent anyway. So I got ready as quickly as I could, I packed my bag with my hands steadily getting colder, then came the tent which I shook the snow off and as I needed use of hands couldn’t use my thick gloves, before stuffing it in its sack with by now my hands getting very cold. I just about managed to get all the straps done up on my backpack and attach tent before I fully lost use of my hands. But by about 7:30 I was on my way, and having put hand warmers in my gloves before beginning to pack I had a roasty pair of gloves to put on.
I set of in blizzardy conditions with fairly strong winds and a fair amount of snow falling, but once I started I quite quickly started to warm up and my hands were back to relative normality within 15 minutes or so. This first part took me towards Barry Docks and its plethora of different industrial uses, where the path had to divert inland and along roads into Barry. I had promised myself in the morning that after the first 6 miles to Barry I would stop for a tea and a snack to warm up and get some more energy. On reaching the marina there in front of me was a Brewers Fayre, this was in fact the second one I have used on the walk and both have come at the ideal time even if they are not somewhere I would normally go. This one had just two options eat as much as you like cold, or hot/cold, I went hot/cold and ate everything bacon, sausages, eggs, beans, hash browns, toast, granola, fruit, multiple pastries and the person on the table next to me was laughing by the end. I never knew a Brewers Fayre could make a man so happy, but I was now fully ready for the day.
It was still very blizzardy, as I walked over to Barry Island, which was bigger and higher than I had expected, and after a little loop I arrived at the main promenade to see what’s occurring. On a fairly bleak day like today, the amusements didn’t seem so amusing but this looked like a nice place to visit in Summer, especially for any Gavin and Stacey fans.
I was lucky and at the Barry Harbour Arm it was low tide and it looked like I could walk straight across the harbour sands to the beach at Watch House Bay. I did not know if this was safe but asked a dog walker who said it was fine to walk across, just a little sludgy in the middle, so gained a little shortcut here, that actually kept me even closer to the coast.
At this point the path headed up onto the low cliffs, where there were loads of kids (and a few parents) sledging and even snowboarding, and unsurprisingly I was more exposed for a while, The path dropped back down near Porthkerry into a stunning little valley with an impressive arched viaduct which at this moment was in the midst of a particularly strong part of the blizzards. As the path climbed back up it joined a series of disused quarries, some parts of which had been turned into a lovely nature reserve.
The path next dropped back down at Leys Beach, which was stunning especially viewed from the cliffs and quite unlike anything I had seen on the walk so far, with a rocky ledge out to sea sort of forming a lagoon with parts developing into salt marsh and with a dusting of snow it looked quite magical.
After Aberthaw power station, the OS map shows the Wales Coast Path going in land, but during planning I could not see why. So I followed the track just behind the beach and barring a bit of flooding the path was fine all the way up to the point it rejoined the ‘official WCP’. In fact there were many new gates, and a couple of new bridges and I would guess the WCP may be being rerouted closer to the sea at this point very soon.
The final part of the day followed the undulating cliffs, and a couple of kilometres from the end I met my hosts for the rest day, Rachel (Jake's Mum to any of my uni friends) and Geoff, walking towards me and we finished the day together with the snow having finally stopped and even the wind starting to lighten a bit. I was very happy to get to a warm house, and after a lovely home-cooked dinner, and a much needed shower after 3 nights of camping, I was somewhat recuperated but also incredibly sleepy. I am very fortunate/grateful to have this kind offer of a bed for my rest day, and by the looks of it a significant amount of healthy food.
The end of quite a full on week in the end, and I am ready to have a rest and get prepared for a very busy next couple of weeks in South Wales with quite a few people joining the walk which I am looking forward to.