A hot sunny day, so I prepared myself with hat, sunscreen and plenty of water. The usual sustenance of Fruit Pastilles and a Snickers Bar, together with wet weather wear, were already in my pack, although these last items I probably would not need. I parked the car at Rest Bay, where a parking fee was required. Then my husband took me to Newton. Waving farewell to him I proceeded to walk towards Newton Point. There were lots of people on the beach, paddle-boarders and ski bikes were in the sea. As I walked along the beach I could see the tide was going out, leaving ripples in the wet sand and also loads of Lugworm (Arenicola marina) casts. I ascended some steps to the road which passed the static caravans on the outskirts of Trecco bay Caravan Park. Black-headed gulls were paddling in the seaweed at edge of the water. Buttercups, Common Ragwort, Rock Samphire in flower and Seaside Daisies (Erigeron glaucus) lined the path which led to a parking area. From the parking area, at Newton Point, looking east the expanse of Newton beach, Merthyr Mawr sand dunes, Ogmore, Southerndown and Nash Point can be viewed.
Ragwort, Bird’s-foot trefoil, Strawberry clover (Trifolium fragiferum), Marram-grass and Scentless Mayweed are scattered among the rocks which are covered with yellow lichen. The fishermen are out again setting their lines into the out-going tide. Further around the Point, masses of White Clover are growing and the Creeping Thistles are losing their fluffy seed heads; as you brush passed they waft dainty, spidery fairy like seeds into the air, which float suspended for a little while before gently landing among the grasses.
Trecco Bay and Sandy Bay are curving to the west with Porthcawl harbour wall being the furthest point on the horizon. Hundreds of caravans are crammed onto the area behind the Bay, many of them resplendent with gaily coloured gardens. Some of the white cultivated Allysum plants have escaped and are dotted along the side of the path. Other plants have also colonised the area making a colourful scene above the beach: Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill (Geranium molle), Evening Primrose (Oenothera erythrosepala), Sea Buckthorn, Sea Beet (Bea vulgaris ssp. maritima), Sea Rocket (Cakile maritima), Charlock (Sinapis arvensis),Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina).
Trecco Bay was full of holiday makers, some of whom were investigating the rock pools. You know that I love probing these little oases of life, so I joined them. I walked down the beach past the flotsam and seaweed to the rocks. First a small pool with Thong Weed, then a larger pool with small fish, Sea Lettuce and Lug-worm casts. Other pools revealed Common Periwinkles, Flat Wrack, translucent shrimps more fish and seaweeds. Before I returned to the path I looked across the bay. The view was of a Watch or Observational Tower and in the background Porthcawl Harbour and the Light-house
Back upon the path the colourful edges persist with the addition of Yarrow, Common Stork’s-bill, Common Plantain, Sand-grass, Sea Rocket, Sea Beet and various grasses. Near the end of the bay is a beach cafe selling food, drink and ice cream. I did not succumb this time but walked on. Between Trecco and Sandy Bay at the top of a dune was a Life Guard hut which kept an eye on both beaches. It was really needed as tides and wind here can be dangerous and there were plenty of people partaking of the waters on this hot day. A white conical observation or lookout tower is located upon Rhych Point further down the promontory than the Life Guard Hut.
Although the promontory is mainly flat there are sand dunes at the top and a large wasteland area upon it. On this waste land area there was an interesting mix of wildlife. Among the Marram-grass and other grasses were yellow patches of Ragwort and Evening Primrose, blue spikes of Vipers Bugloss, green spires of Evening Primrose in seed and Horestails, while on the margins were Celery-leaved Buttercups (Ranunculus scleratus), Sea Spurge (Euphorbia paralias), Rock Samphire and pink Clover. Racing through all the vegetation was white Field Bindweed. Butterflies and moths were everywhere and such a variety: both a Five and a Six-spot Burnet, Meadow Browns in abundance, a few Large Whites and a Silver Y (Autographa gamma). There were also hundreds of small snails hidden out of the sun under and between leaves and seeds. The sand dunes stretched all along the top of Sandy Bay, where the crowds were enjoying the water and the sun. Undisturbed patches of sand displayed bird footprints, probably Seagulls, making a pretty picture.
Sandy Bay, better known as Coney Beach, was buzzing with Holiday makers. The amusement park, together with colourful stalls selling beach gifts, clothes, food, drink, toys and the obligatory buckets and spades were in full swing.Coney Beach Pleasure has been in operation since 1920.Originally built to entertain American troops returning from World War I, the park was named as a tribute to the famous New York amusement park on Coney Island. A Figure Eight, a wooden roller coaster, continued to operate until July 1981, when it was dropped as part of an attempt to modernise the look of the park for contemporary audiences of the 1980s. The Water Chute opened in 1932 and operated until 1995. In September 1939 following the outbreak of World War 2, the park temporarily closed for several years as the 15th battalion of the Welsh Regiment was based at the site. Later on, the Belgian Brigade’s armoured car division were also billeted here until the unit left Porthcawl in 1942. Normal was service was resumed in April 1946 after the war came to an end. It was in the 1950s that the park experienced its first boom in popularity. Events such as boxing matches, firework displays and aerial acrobat shows organised by the Royal Air Force drew in crowds of hundreds from all over Wales. Despite the number of visitors steadily falling over the course of the 1990s, the park still continues to operate; it should celebrate its 95th birthday in 2015.
The 1950’s was a time when my family would have partaken of the famous frivolities in Porthcawl. My father was a miner and it was here that we would often visit for holidays and also on the occasional weekend. Mum would drive an Austin A40 Devon to Porthcawl, usually on back roads. Many of the roads today were not there, so this was the only way to get there. We would sit on the beach making sand castles with our buckets and spades, eat some ice cream or candy floss, swim in the sea, it wasn’t as clean then as it is today. We would then have a few rides in the amusement park followed by fish and chips from Beale’s Chip Shop, still operating nearby, a game of putting in the park and a ride on the swings then home and contentment. We were the lucky ones as others found it difficult to afford all of this.
I bought a dish of prawns and sauce from a seafood vender and sat on the sea wall to eat them, watching the people on the beach. There were horse rides going on; it used to be donkeys when I was a kid. There were still sand castles being built and everyone enjoying themselves. I then followed the sea wall around to the harbour and the light house. I passed the Marina, the Lifeboat Station and the slip way where every Christmas morning since 1965 there is a very cold swim. There are a number of plaques along the wall commemorating specific events. Notable among them is The Dyffryn Llynfi &Porthcawl Railway Company 1825 – 1860; a small section of rails have been left there. The harbour was a busy port when the coal and iron industries were at their peak but with their decline the harbour also declined. The harbour is now a marina, opened in April 2014, for housing many yachts and motor boats. People are swimming from the slipway and there is also a person on a jet-ski. The light house area, Porthcawl Point, is clustered with fisher men, their lines are everywhere and it is difficult to get passed them.
After the harbour it is on to the Promenade. This was built in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. The bay in front of the Promenade, Seafront or Town Beach, is a mixture of rocks, shingle and a tarmac beach. This was laid in the 1980’s to repair the sea defences. Again it being the holiday season the walkway is crowded; paddle boarders and canoeists are in the water. Many cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels are located along the promenade, which offers spectacular views across the Bristol Channel. The Grand Pavilion is also located along the promenade; it was built in 1932 and is a popular venue for shows and pantomimes. The Esplanade Hotel built in the 1880’s, one of the biggest in Porthcawl as I remember, is no longer and has been replaced by luxury apartments. Although winning a prestigious design award in 2006 it is unpopular with local residents and has been nicknamed “the bottle bank”.
At the end of the Promenade, Hutchwns Point, you can see a concrete square amongst the rocks. Young children are using it to ride their three-wheeler bikes at present, but I remember it as a swimming pool which filled with sea water at each in-coming tide. I have had many an enjoyable time here when I was little. It was never very deep and the water was refreshed twice daily with the incoming tide.
The WCP now follows the pavement and well manicured grass up towards Lock’s Common. There are a few shelters along here where you can sit out of the wind and view Somerset across the water on a good day. Then walk onto rougher grassed areas and the pavement again, before accessing Lock’s Common. The small bays along here are collectively called Gwter Gryn-y-locs. Here the choice is to walk along the periphery or to venture through the Common and closer to the sea. I chose to walk through it. I would probably see more wildlife here than on the periphery. There are walkers and dogs on both paths.
Rough paths run through the usual thistles, brambles, gorse and scrub. Ragwort and Knapweed burst through in colours of yellow and purple. Thick Cotton buds of the thistles, Creeping Thistle and Spear Thistle, are everywhere. As I brush past them the spidery, hairy seed-heads float on the wind. Linnets and Tree Sparrows adorn the burnt-out branches of the gorse. White and pink Clover, Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Betony litter the short grasses, while in the longer brown dry grasses, masses of Ragwort and thistles are growing. The landscape changes to heath-land with low growing gorse mixed with brambles, and heathers, both Bell (Erica cinerea) and Common (Calluna vulgaris). A Gatekeeper (Maiola tithonius) lounges on the bramble leaves. Cat’s-ear and Buttercups cover the short cropped grass where some Black-headed Gulls are parading: that is until a rather smart Border Collie thunders past, frightening the living daylights out of me and the Gulls. Closer to the shore Sea Beet and the last of the Thrift, dried husks intermingling with the dainty pink flowers, are sprouting. Flattish rocks are protruding through the grasses and at one point, surprisingly, a line of white Mushrooms assault my eye-line. I lean closer for a look. They are huge, having a cap with a deep brown middle and concentric rings of brown bits radiating away from the centre and a brownish stem with a collar, possibly a Parasol (Macrolepiota procera). Although it is edible I am taking no chances and won’ touch it.
In the distance is Rest Bay Rest Home and in the further distance is the Port Talbot industrial complex. Rest Bay beach is around the corner where once again there are many tourists. The Life Guards are patrolling the beach and there is a life- boat criss-crossing the bay. Surfers and swimmers are vying for space in the water. Jackdaws (Corvus monedula) are pecking in the grass that leads to the car park. The path is edged with Yarrow, Cat’s Ears, Bristly Oxtongue (Picris echiodes), Betony (Betonica officinalis), Gorse and brambles.
The cafe in the car park served me a ham and cheese toasty washed down with a can of Coke. I reached my car changed my shoes and then rode home. Another surprise: as I was about to open the front door I spied in the porch a butterfly, a beautifully coloured one, yellow, black and white a moth not a butterfly, Magpie Moth (Abraxas grossulariata). A wonderful end to the day.