Dunraven Bay (Southerndown) to Ogmore Castle (Ogmore-by-sea).
Taking the bus to the Three Golden Cups Southerndown, it’s the 303 again, then following the road to the car park above Dunraven Bay to join the Coastal Path there. This is definitely a coastal trek, very close to the sea for most of the way. The scrubby grassland, enclosed by dry stone walls in places with sheep grazing upon it, stretches into the distance. Not a soul to be seen. In the air the seagulls fly accompanied by an orange and white remote control aeroplane, so there must be somebody about, hidden out of view. Below my feet the grass is springy with patches of Wild Thyme (Thymus polytrichus), Lesser Celendine, Mouse-ear Hawkweed (Pilosella officinarum) and Red and White Clover. Around the bend is the remote control man steering his plane deftly in the sky, swooping down towards the sea and then up somersaulting as it goes. The tide seems to be on its way in as there are some rocks below which are getting wetter as the waves steadily rise higher. The Tusker Rocks out in the channel are almost covered. Large signs remind you to keep away from the cliffs as they are liable to collapse. There are a few stumpy bushes leaning away from the sea, typical of this area. The Barn at West Farm appears to the right, but the Cafe is closed: renovations seem to be taking place.
Although there were a few small Spear Thistles (Cirsium vulgare) here and there the path is becoming thickly populated on both sides with both Spear and Musk Thistles (Carduus mutans) together with Nettles. A ‘valley’ then presents itself. A choice is to be made either to first descend then ascend, or take the longer way around and onto the road. One of those “you shall not pass” moments has arisen: a sheep stands on the path to the road and is looking not too friendly. So the choice has been made for me. Down and up I go. My stick helps me over the more tricky parts. On the other side of the ‘valley’ the Thistles are Creeping ones and large swathes of Gorse (Ulexeuropaeus) cover the sides of the hill nearly to the cliff edge. I think that the bottom of the valley would lead to a path parallel to the cliff. I have ascended now so shall plod on. I am rewarded with the sound: a striking see take tak and sight of a young Stonechat feeding on the seed heads of the thistle and insects in the Gorse. Further along a Blackbird shoos me away with a shrill srreee from a nest in the Gorse. I make my way close to the road and through the closely packed bushes. It is quite a busy place for birds and I am sure other unseen fauna up here amongst the Gorse, but that is not the only thing growing in the vicinity. Tucked in between the prickly yellow masses are Bittersweet, Brambles, Honeysuckle and Dog-roses. Further along, the Gorse gives way to Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) and Nettles with a few Creeping thistles (Cirsium arvense) and just two spikes of yellow Mullein (Verbascum thapus). The path then slopes towards the sea. As I mentioned earlier, there is definitely a path parallel to the coast because I saw people walking there while I took the path near the road. This is the Black Rocks area. I was probably so intent on watching the Stonechat that I must have missed the way.
In fact, as I get back to the beach area, Bwlch y Gro, there are many more walkers and dog-walkers along this stretch. The sea looks quite rough and I sit for awhile, dangling my legs over a ledge, watching the waves crash upon the rocks below. It is not very high and the sea is within easy reach across rocks. I take some pictures of the waves and spray which are bursting with energy.
There are little sandy coves here and there: Bwlch Kate Anthony and Bwlch Gwyn where fishermen were setting their lines on the incoming tide. Porthcawl can be seen clearly in the distance. At the end of the wall that I have been following there is access to the beach. I remember bringing my children and mother here some years ago. We would park on the road at the top and walk down through the play area to this beach: mostly rocky but with many sheltered flat areas where we would sit and have a picnic. When the tide was out there were patches of sand where the children could paddle or swim in the sea. In fact, one outing did not end very well as my Mum fell and we eventually found that she had broken two ribs; she was in a lot of pain.
The path became sandier from here passing Bwlch Bach, Bwlch Caehalen and Bwlch Ffynnon Orange. The grass was sparse, short and tufty, and was suitable for pushchairs if care was taken. Very small dunes covered in Maram grass and other grasses were around: Saltmarsh-grass (Puccinellia maritima ), Early Sand-grass (Mibora minima ), Wall Barley (Hordeum murinum ), and Blue grass. If the tide is out you could walk along the sandy beach but I stayed to the path.Then the car park appeared near The Flats and Trwyn y March. This was very orderly, marked out upon tarmac or rough stones. The cars were not allowed upon the grassed areas. Boulders obstructed access and it was Pay and Display. There were very many cars, people, dogs and children about. Unlike it was when I came here as a girl with my parents, my friends and their parents, it was free. We would park on the grass and string a wind breaker between the cars, set blankets on the ground and settle in for a day of fun, resting and picnicking. The Ice-cream van was still there in its usual place (not the same one as in the 60’s though) and the toilets and lifeguard hut. The Red flag was flying and the men were gathered about the surf rescue boat which was parked at the top of the slipway.
After passing the life guard hut the River Ogwr’s estuary was in front of me. The river can be crossed at low tide but there are warning signs prohibiting bathing in it. A few brave souls were doing just that and of course the dogs were enjoying splashing everyone. The tide sweeping in or out can be very dangerous. There is a vast expanse of sand across the other side; it reaches all the way to Porthcawl. Large pebble bars are in the middle of the river and the water swirls around them.
There is a choice: to walk along the river bank or to travel above on a bracken lined path. I chose the upper path. The Bracken is joined by Nettles, Brambles, Gorse and Thistles as mentioned elsewhere on today’s trek. House Martins, Sparrows, Stonechats and Goldfinches fly above, in, on and around them. I follow the serpentine bends of the river; the low tide has left hummocks of salt resistant grass and small muddy craters along its length. On the other side is a long line of pony trekkers, probably travelling from Merthyr Mawr over the Dunes to the sea.
I make my way closer to the river along wide grass paths dotted with Common Stork’s-bill (Erodium cicutarium ) and Buttercups. In the distance there is a bridge over the river leading to the water works and, beyond, the ruins of Ogmore Castle can be seen. The river is deepening and sand bars in the centre are slowly being covered. On the banks are Shrubby Sea-blight ( Suaeda vera), Sand-grass, Sea Milkwort (Glaux maritima ) and tiny pale pink Thrift. It is very muddy close to the water where bird prints leave pretty patterns and there is lots of driftwood at the high tide mark. Stones branches and tree trunks not quite submerged in the water are covered in green mossy seaweed, some looking like big green teeth sticking out at odd angles. A large green crocodile trunk is beached upon the bank.
In the shallows there are a number of Gulls paddling: Herring and Lesser Black Back (Larus fuscus). In deeper water male and female Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) and Black Headed Gulls are swimming. Upon a stone in the middle of the river is a solitary Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba) surveying its surroundings with great interest. Oh no someone has dumped a refrigerator on the muddy bank. People have no idea, or just don’t care, what problems this utterly disgraceful behaviour causes to the environment and especially to the wild life. Sheep are also grazing along the river and Swans are sunning themselves on the opposite bank while a Buzzard glides above them. There are a few fishermen also on this stretch of the river near the Water Works Bridge. Here you have a view of Ogmore Castle and the confluence of the Ogmore River with the Ewenny River. At the Water Works Bridge the path is overgrown , so I made my way through a field towards the road, which I cross and follow a path parallel to it. It is quite narrow with Nettles, Bracken and Himalayan Balsam starting to encroach upon it. Soon I reach the Pelican in her Piety and time for a rest and some sustenance before catching the 303 back to Llantwit Major.
It was a good walk with plenty to see. Now it is time for home. The 303 is a little late but I have all the rest of the day. We travel but a few miles and the bus breaks down. I am not walking back to Llantwit Major that is for sure. The bus driver advises us to catch the bus going in the opposite direction, to Bridgend, and then return with it, otherwise it would mean waiting on the roadside for it to return in about an hour. So we all took his advice and I had a long bus trip as well. I arrive home tired and much later than expected.
Wales Coast Path region H map 99