Bynea Gateway Car Park Lougher to Llanelli Wetlands
On a bright summer day, I started my walk on the Millennium Heritage section of the Wales Coastal Path (WPC). It looked like it was going to be busy on the track, as there were several bikers and walkers getting ready to set off.
Archaeological remains of Mesolithic peoples have been found here. Industrial development in the 18th and 19th century saw canals being built to facilitate the movement of coal and metals, from the rapidly expanding coal mining and metal working in the area, to the coast. Brynea Steelworks once dominated the landscape but traces of this industrial occupation had disappeared by the 21st century.
Right at the start the frothy, yellow flower umbels of the Wild Parsnip were everywhere; they were swaying gently in the breeze and many insects were flying around or nestling amongst its tiny, starry petals. There were also signs along the path announcing the dangers of this poisonous plant.
The path meandered smoothly towards the foot-bridge over the A484. There were sections of leafy shade, supplied by some Willows and Conifers, and open sunny sections which were a riot of colour. There were pinks, reds and purples: Great Willowherb, Hemp Agrimony, Curled Dock and Spear Thistle. There were yellows: Fleabane, Ribbed Melilot, Meadow Vetchling, Common Ragwort and Bristly Oxtongue. There were whites: Hedge Bindweed and Common Mouse-ear.
From the centre of the bridge the view was stunning; the tide was in and the estuary was full and flat, shimmering in the bright sunlight. It wasn’t a very high tide, so the surrounding marsh land was still visible; lush green vegetation grew around muddy ditches and runnels which wound their way down to the water. In amongst the reeds and rushes grew Wild Parsnip, Oxeye Daisy, Buttercup and Shore Dock. Weathered sculptures of wood emerged among the sedges and muddy pools. Across the estuary the sun shone on the hills and pastures around the village of Penclawd. Above me, fluffy white clouds scud across the azure blue sky.
Fishermen were casting their lines. Suddenly a dark shape was swimming against the current way out in the estuary. “Is it a seal or a dolphin “ I asked myself. No, it was a dog. Its owner had just thrown a ball with one of those ball-throwing contraptions into water. Much to the consternation of the fishermen further upstream.
The hedges along the path were starting to put on their autumnal plumage: Brambles were dripping with red and black berries and Blackthorns were sporting plump black fruits. In front of the hedges were growing yellow/white Sea Radishes. They too were carrying seeds: beaded, segregated green pods. Also, Scarlet Pimpernel, Ox-eye Daisy, Marsh Woundwort, Tufted Vetch, Nettles with whorls of tiny pinkish grape like flowers, White Clover and Ribwort Plantain were dotted here and there. The Brambles, still with some flowers and the Sea Radishes were buzzing with Small White Butterflies. The butterflies were flitting about in quite a mesmerising dance. Some singly some in pairs were rising spirally into the air then descending onto and into the flowers and leaves.
Further on, the path opened out to a rockier shoreline on one side and grasses, reeds and sedges on the other. The waves were gently lapping on the rocks which were covered with seaweed. On the shore side stalwart coastal plants such as Sea Beet, Sea Purslane, Biting Stonecrop, Sea Lavender and Sea Aster were growing. Lyme-grass, Sea Couch, Common Reed and Saltmarsh Rush were interspersed with pink Marsh-mallow and yellow Ribbed Melilot on the opposite side. Black-headed Seagulls were paddling, floating on or skimming over the water and a number were rummaging among the seaweed.
As I passed the Gateway Caravan Park, I was so intent on the sights and sounds around me, clicking my camera every which way and whenever, that I was surprised by two things. Firstly, I went into raptures about a raptor flying over the camp. Was it a kite? Yes, it was but not a living one. Once it had turned and caught the sun, I could see its beautifully coloured shape being expertly flown by a man in the field. Secondly, I didn’t notice some pony trekkers trotting towards me, narrowly missing me as they passed.
The path dipped down below a sea-wall, totally obstructing the view of the estuary. Lots of people, bikers and walkers of all ages, were enjoying the summer sunshine; many of them had probably come from the caravan park. A similar picture of vegetation emerged as earlier in the walk: hedges and flowers but with the addition of masses of Knapweed and its attendant insects and in the wetter parts some Bulrushes.
This was supposed to be a coastal walk and the path in front seemed to follow the same aspect with no views of the coast, so at the earliest opportunity I found a path right next to the sea-wall.
A narrow path squeezed between the wall and bushes was ideal. Some places were overgrown with Brambles and Nettles but nothing insurmountable. It was quiet, except for the buzzing of insects and the singing of birds. Views of the estuary were excellent and vegetation not encountered so far was evident: Teasel in flower and baring seed-heads, Hawthorn bushes replete with red berries, mosses and lichen on branches, Harts-tongue and male ferns in shadier sections. As I peeped over the wall I could see flocks of Seagulls, Common Sandpiper, a single Oystercatcher and some russet brown backed waders, all feeding on the seaweed.
A vast expanse of marshland with tussocks and grassy islands stretching out into the estuary, like green knuckles, harboured several birds. Two Little Egrets were patrolling the edges of the tussocks hoping for a tasty meal. A flock of what I thought looked like Skylarks flew out of the reeds and grasses, acrobatically circled around and then disappeared back in to their roosts. They changed colour from brown to golden as they turned and the sunshine caught them.
I re-joined the cycle path, but before continuing I gorged myself on some excellent Blackberries washed down with a slug of water from my platypus.
No more views of the estuary or the saltmarsh but the sea-wall was still in evidence looming above me every now and then. There were many fruiting trees in the area including Blackthorn, Hawthorn and Viburnum. A large swathe of grasses with a variety of flowers: Yarrow, Hemp Agrimony, Great Willowherb, Fleabane, Wild Parsnip, Creeping Thistle and the remnants of Meadowsweet, were buzzing with bees and butterflies. Meadow Browns, Small Whites and Red Admirals were all savouring the nectar from the flowers. Where the taller plants had reduced in number Pink Clover and Silverweed was abundant. More thistles, Sharp Rushes and Fleabane populated the margins of a field where a few horses were grazing.
The seawall was now hidden from view; tall Common Reeds, which grew in front of it, could be seen swaying and heard whispering in the slight breeze. Redshank, Narrow-leaved Willowherb, Pendulous Sedge and more Common Reeds lined an open stretch of the path before it became enclosed by an avenue of trees.
The path now skirted the Wetlands and voices could be heard behind the screen of trees. The track passed under a wooden bridge and led into a shady tunnel of trees. Overhanging branches, Ivy and Lichen covered Oak Tree trunks, bunches of “Helicopter” seeds on the Sycamore trees and leaves gently floating to the ground, gave it an eerie foreboding atmosphere. This bridge connected one part of the Wetlands with another. At the end of the tunnel a road, which entered the Wetlands carpark, crossed the path and this is where I ended my walk. I stopped at the Wetlands for a while but this and other visits here will be written about on another occasion.