Nash Point (Marcross) to Dunraven Bay (Southerndown).
It’s the 303 again to Marcross this time. I retrace my steps from the Horseshoes pub to Nash Point, but took the road and not through the Nature Reserve. There was a swift Westerly wind blowing as I navigated the slope down to the valley then up the other side. The valley was full of lush vegetation: Sweet Cecily now coming into flower, Red Campions now past their best, Nettles, Grasses and Brambles. The up slope was also very verdant with Honeysuckle, Dog-Roses, Rosebay Willow herb, Wild Carrot, Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) and Thistles mingling with the Gorse, the Elder trees now also in flower and Hawthorn trees beginning to grow their berries. The thistles were of two types: Musk Thistle (Carduus nutans ) and Creeping Thistle. A Large Skipper (Ochlodes venata ) butterfly is taking shelter among the Brambles. At least here in the valley and up the slope it is relatively calm. However, I can hear the bell on the buoy in the channel clanging away as the waves toss it from side to side in the rough sea. A glimpse of the said buoy can be seen from the top of the slope. There is a stone stile to cross here; this leads into a meadow of mixed grasses, Red and White Clover . The grasses are ever shifting in the breeze and soft rustling sounds can be heard, together with the cawing of the House Martins as they quarter the field, scooping up the insects as they fly low over the waving grasses. Also hiding among the grasses is a Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) butterfly. Below me is the beach of Traeth Mawr. Cross over another stile, a wooden one this time, and into field upon field of Rape. The farmer has cut a large swathe of grass between the Rape and the cliff top to allow access to the Coastal Path. Along the edges of both there are a number of flowering plants growing: Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris), Sea Cabbage (Crambe maritima ), together with incumbent guest snail, Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra ), Wood Crane’s-bill (Geranium sylvaticum), Ground-ivy (Glechoma hederacea ), Common Field Speedwell (Veronica persica ), Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis ), Common Ragwort, Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) with its triangular purse-like pods, seed heads of Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) and Field Madder (Sherardia arvensis ). As the path bends, the tall striated cliffs can be seen descending to the pebbly beach below. Other sections of cliff have large cave entrances, flatter rock shelves leading into them. I think this is the area called The Stairs. Erosion is visible at many points, some of which are quite recent.
The path passes through a number of fields, all bounded by dry stone walls which are covered in yellow lichen. Some areas of the cliff top have long waving grasses, while others have spongy grasses with short purple stumpy flowers of Wild Thyme (Thymus polytrichus ) , yellow Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Silverweed growing through them. The image is of a fine tapestry carpet of colour, while Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum ) makes an appearance in the longer grass. Nettles and Curled Dock (Rumex crispus) cluster beside the dry stone walls, some of which are in a sorry state. Yellow and white Lichen encrust the stones. The Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) definitely have a bird’s eye view of the cliff with its myriad of plants as they rise on the thermals up the cliff face or are blown on the wind high above the meadows, squawking as they soar, wings outspread and feet tucked safely underneath them.
I am still walking through fields with Spear Thistles and Buttercups everywhere until I arrive at a steep downhill stretch that leads to Cwm Bach and the valley trail that takes you to Monknash. A fisherman’s stone shelter lies on the other side of the valley. I descend the hill on sheep tracks to the bottom where a stream is flowing to the sea. Here there is a stone stile and a plaque carved into the wall stating “TIDE TIMES…, CARE – THE INCOMING TIDE MAY PREVENT YOUR ESCAPE”, however, no times are marked. What comes down must go back up, so I ascend the cliff again up a sheep track, past the hut to the top. A Drinker Moth (Euthrix potatoria )caterpillar leisurely creeps across the path. At the top there a number of sheep. I sit down to catch my breath and take a drink. All the while the sheep stare at me wondering what on earth I was doing. Not surprisingly, as I have just noticed the path should have followed the valley for a bit and then returned to the cliff top. Oh well, I am here now so I will just plod on. The sheep seem to be imitating Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings bleating, “You shall not Pass”. I am going whatever they think, carefully of course, not to spook them. A look back gives me an excellent view of the beach below: the waves crashing upon the rocks and some rock pools heavy with green seaweed.
Over yet another wooden stile I climb and into another meadow also with sheep grazing on it. The wind is picking up again and I struggle to put on another layer of clothing as it is getting colder. The House Martins do not care as they swoop down and skim along the fields. Of course I try to photograph them again, but to no avail; they are too fast for me.
The striated cliffs plunge down to the bright white pebbles on the beach and as the tide recedes large swathes of sand are uncovered. Another field with similar plants to others I have walked through, but flurries of Sun Spurge (Euphobia helioscopa) peep through the grass; the yellow-green flowers like whorls of tiny saucers face upwards, gazing at the sky. Also, here and there , sprawling along the ground or entwining itself around other plants are Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis )flowers. Hiding from the wind hunkered down on the earth among the grasses is a Meadow Brown.
Down a slope and up again, watching my step all the way but having a chance to see fishermen casting their lines off the sandy shore as the tide quickly ebbs. The chalky hill is a good vantage point, not only for the view, but also for a Blue Butterfly to sit among the stones of the path. I can only see the underside of the butterfly so I cannot identify it fully. It is still windy but a little warmer and the weather seems to have coaxed a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui ) to sun itself upon a Spear Thistle together with a Bumblebee. The sand below has disappeared and been replaced by curving lines of flat rocks and shifting boulders. It is quite ethereal.
Soon a gravel path treks inland, at first between bushes of Elder, Hawthorn, Buckthorn, Sloe and Brambles. Wild Carrot, Groundsel, Red Campion and Traveller’s Joy mingle with the bushes as the path descends by way of widely spaced steps.It then enters a more wooded area where Ferns and the remains of the Bluebells vie for space among the Ivy and Mosses: Common Pocket-moss (Fissidens taxifolius), Common Feather-moss (Kindbergia praelonga ) and Overleaf Pellia. Hidden amongst these are the Tutsan shrubs (Hypericum androsaemum). The yellow flowers have faded and the egg shaped berries are beginning to form. Deciduous trees are clothed with Lichens, Liverworts and Mosses. Creeping Fingerwort (Lepidozia reptans) and Common Greenshield Lichen (Flavoparmelia caperata ) are among those present. At the bottom of the steps I cross a wooden bridge over a dry stream bed and then begin my climb again. The wide spaced steps here look newly finished but plants have already colonised the edges between the bushes. Stinking Iris (Iris foetidissima) flowers poke out from their green strap-like leaves through the Brambles. A few Great Mullein (Verbascum thapus) plants with their furry leaves have taken root in the gravelly soil together with its nemesis the Mullein Moth (Cucullia verbasci) caterpillars. Some white Field roses (Rosa arvensis), Honeysuckle and Wild Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) above, Black Medick (Medicago lupulina), Field Madder, Wood Sage(Teucrium scorodonia) and Hedge Woundwort below them can also be seen as I climb. At the top is a dry stone wall framed with Groundsel, Nettles, Teasel, Wild Carrot , Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris), which is just ready to flower, and Curled Dock. The other side of the wall I take the left path towards Southerndown, to the right is a wooden stile signposted Tir Gofal, which translated means Land Care, and a yellow and black ominous sign of a bull saying “ bull in field”. Not for me. I’m glad that my path is in the opposite direction.
The footpath traverses the cliff top and views of the rocky bay which opens out from Cwm y Buarth can be seen. Splashes of emerald green seaweed emerge between the rocks. It looks like rivers of green paint flowing and fanning out from the cliff face towards the sea. The swirling flat rocks, called shore platforms, make an intriguing picture.
If you take the right hand road it will lead you past and through the walled gardens and the Ice house. The left hand path leads you through trees to the site of the now demolished Dunraven Castle on the promontory of Witches Point (Trwyn y Witch). Information boards are sited above the bay telling the story of the cliffs along the Heritage coast. The rocks are known as Blue Lias because they were laid down during the Liassic period, part of the early Jurassic times, 180 million years ago when dinosaurs walked the earth. More notice boards can be read about the castle and its environs since Celtic times. There were buildings on the site from the 12th Century. The Vaughn family lived in a mansion here in the 16th Century . Many a tale has been uttered about their tragedy and the Blue Lady ghost. The Wyndham family inhabited it since 1642, and the Castle or fortified mansion was built it in 1803 by them; it was demolished in 1996. It was also used as a convalescent hospital during WWI and WWII and later as a Tourist Authority guest house.
Dunraven Castle from a book by the Earl of Dunraven 1926. This famous Landmark overlooked Southerndown Beach until 1960.
If you tread carefully you may spot some Pyramidal Orchids. I saw a few. I also happened to see a Burnet Companion Moth . Then to make my way down to Dunraven Bay , the Dancing Stones and the car park. There are toilets here and a cafe. I did not tarry long but started the ascent to the top car park and road leading to the Three Golden Cups hostelry for a well earned glass of cider. The path is lined with log posts, Gorse and assorted vegetation. There are clumps of yellow Lady’s Bedstraw, Ground Ivy and two creepers: yellow Creeping Cinquefoil (Potentilla reptans) and pink Common Restharrow (Ononis repens). Among the gorse there are birds chattering; on one of the posts is a male Stonechat (Saxicola torquata), black head and rufous breast, while the dowdier, rustier female is calling to him from the top of a Gorse bush. They are both making such a fuss, there must be a nest in the Gorse somewhere. The walls along-side the road are sprouting Navelwort ( Umbilicus rupestris) and Wall-rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria ) ferns.
Another stretch of the Coastal path completed, slowly with easy steps, but I will complete it someday.
Wales Coast Path Region H maps 99 and 100.