A hot, sunny day towards the end of May; I am ready for another foray to the coast with my daughter. We took a bus from Llantwit Major Bus station to St. Athan WW1 memorial, at Gileston Cross, so that we could walk to Gileston and the beach. This is a narrow road with high hedges which passes Gileston Manor, the Coach House and the Church. Gileston Church is dedicated to St. Giles (St. Mabon) although a Giles family lived in the manor next door to it in 1350. The Grade 2* listed building dates from the 15th century; however, an earlier church had been erected here. At the cross roads in Gileston village is a rare red phone box; we bear right here towards the beach. The Coastal path turns right after the High Tide mark, mentioned in my last walk.
A dirt road takes you past a small walled graveyard on the right and a field of rape can be seen over the wall to the left. The rape is losing its flower and setting seed, much to my delight as the smell of the flowers is not making me cough. A ruddy great tanker is blocking the way but we squeeze past and enter the church yard through two metal gates. There is a well manicured daisy path between rough wild flowers leading to the graves. It is quite sombre with the pine trees over head and the small number of gravestones neatly arrayed. However, a shaft of light bursts through and alights on a wooden bench near the East side, a lovely place for peaceful contemplation. Wild flowers and grasses in profusion, yellows, whites, blues, reds and pinks, vie with the many shades of green: Celendines, Common Mouse-ear (Cerastium fontanum), Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys), Field Madder (Sherardia arvensis), Sheep’s Sorrel (Rumex acetosella), Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata),Annual and Smooth Meadow-grass (Poa annua) (Poa pratense), Common Soft-brome (Bromus hordeaceus subsp. Hordeaceus), Perrennial Rye-grass (Lolium perenne) – and a small mushroom. I have no idea what it is so left well alone. We turn and make our way back to the dirt road; in front of us is a view of the sea, the tank obstructions or coastal defences and the Power Station.
After passing Gileston Farm the road becomes less travelled with hedges on both sides and grass down the middle of the track. The Cow Parsley is everywhere, swaying softly in the wind. Some Bindweed (Calystegia sepium) sprawls across the road, birds fly from side to side and Peacock and Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) butterflies are sunning themselves upon ground. There is a way marker pointing forward but you are faced with an upper and lower field of Wheat or Barley. We took the lower and soon realised our mistake as there was no exit so we turned back and found a small path through nettles and long grass to the upper field. Soon we came upon a kissing gate and proceeded into the next field of cereal which was becoming denser as we traversed it. A second kissing gate this time takes us into a hay field which had been cut but not collected. Another Barley field looking much riper swayed with the wind in a field next to it. A way marker sends you in the right direction around the hay field. It was hard going trudging through as the dried grass seemed to stick to our boots and pull us back. The smell of the mown grass was delicious, a real feel of the country. I know this is a coastal walk; you can see the sea in the distance most of the time. Watch out for nettles and thistles on the side of the path, if you can call it that. It is quite hot now with the sun shining on our backs and the effort of walking through sometimes difficult terrain. Up ahead is some shade with a stile to cross. We rested here awhile taking some refreshment, listening to the birds and watching some Hoverflies (Syrphidae) darting to and fro. The next steps were fraught with danger as the path was overgrown with brambles and the now obligatory nettles. Thankfully there were some dock leaves also growing along here, so armed with these we hacked our way through, slightly stung but not too worse for wear. The dock leaves were very handy; they really do work and took the sting out of your limbs.
Another kissing gate and another field of Barley, this time almost head height. We are still slogging through on the narrow path around the field with quite substantial vegetation on our left and the cereal to our right. Common Burdock ( Articum lappa) with its huge leaves and large Sweet Cecily plants vie with the grasses and give a jungle like feel to the area. There are views of the sea shore with large deposits of driftwood and debris. We push on through a gate into a more manageable walking field and follow the way mark to the left, skirting the field and heading towards the coast, at last.
At the bottom left hand corner of the field is another kissing gate. However, this path leads back to Limpert Bay. Well I never, in hindsight perhaps it may have been better to go all the way to the beach from Gileston village and find the other end of it, but the Wales Coastal Path is clearly marked the way we have slogged. Does this track take you all the way to Limpert Bay; rhetorically who knows? Would the track peter out at the Walls Pools which are behind the coastal defences? Are the pools impassable? This is obviously an adventure for another time. It certainly did not seem as far to walk as the direction which we took.
We followed the path around the field with sloe trees and brambles to your left and a much more open grass field to the right. Lots of meadow flowers are about and butterflies a plenty. There are some gorgeous little blue ones, a Common Blue (Polyommatacus icaris) and tiny orange ones, Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas). A way mark sign point to the left at the end of the field and leads through dappled shade on to the beach at Penry Bay.
The walk across was slow going with precarious foothold on the loose large pebbles in between which are patches of Rock Samphire and Hoary Cinquefoil (Potentilla argentea) and Rape. Up until now the walk has been devoid of any other human contact. It starts to come alive with people using the opportunity of a sunny day to take in the sea air. Of course the dogs are out, splashing in and out of the waves, shaking and soaking everyone. Thankfully we are at the top of the beach. There is a gang of adults and children, also with dog in tow, preparing a barbecue. Before tackling the steps we decided to take a rest. We have a refreshing glug of water and a chocolate bar, mmm… lovely. I have just noticed a few sailing boats plying in and out of Aberthaw harbour then around the tower in the channel and back. The Somerset coast feels as if you could stretch out and touch it. No distinct features can be seen as it is very hazy. Oh well, it’s time to move on before I stiffen up and cannot walk home.
The path rises up the steps with private property at Summerhouse Bay to the right and views of the tessellated pavements on the shore to the left and below us. Hedges of Hawthorn and Sloe are on both sides and flowers such as Dog Violets and Wild Strawberry peep out beneath. Some of the tree branches are covered with Lichen. Further on there is more shade on the path with a hedge on one side and woodland on the other. Shady plants are growing in amongst the trees:Male ferns, Harts-tongue ferns, Deadly Nightshade ( Atropa belladonna) and the remnants of the Bluebells.
We did not continue on to the Seawatch centre but took the right hand path, before the up and down and up steps. Brambles along here are starting to flower. I hope for a good crop so that I can return in autumn to pick the fruits for a nice Blackberry tart. There are a few Crane Flies ( Tipulidae) hovering about between the sunlight and shade.
This area is well known to me as it is close to home. From the car park at Summerhouse Point it is a long walk up a rough road to the barn conversion cottages then on to a tarmac road until reaching Trebeverad. The road is lined with Evergreen Oaks (Quercus ilex).There are lots of Goldfinches flying about between the hedges and resting on the telephone wires. There are two Pheasants (Phasianus colchicus), one male and one female, leisurely crossing a ploughed field towards the relative safety of the trees. At Trebeverad we cut across the woods and over the stream to home. One last interesting find shading in amongst the stones and dried leaf litter is a pale Peppered Moth (Biston betularia). Home! It is time for a nice cup of tea and to put my feet up. That is the end of yet another wonderful, if tiring, coastal trip.
Wales Coast Path region H map 101