Rest Bay - Porthcawl - Merthyr Mawr - Bridgend

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The walk begins at Rest Bay, a popular sandy beach to the west of Porthcawl. A lovely section across Lock's Common leads to the promenade and an easy stroll along the front. After passing the town's compact tidal harbour, two sandy beaches are crossed (at Sandy Bay and Trecco Bay) before a third, much larger beach (Traeth yr Afon) is reached near Newton. This marks the start of the fourteen-mile Glamorgan Heritage Coast, a Countryside Council designation that acknowledges the beauty and scientific importance of particular stretches of coastline. The bustle of Porthcawl is quickly left behind.

The direct route to Ogmore-by-Sea is blocked by the tidal Ogmore River (it is possible to wade this with care at low tide, though not without getting wet), so about halfway along the beach the route turns inland to cross Merthyr-mawr Warren. This was once part of the largest dune system in Europe, linking up with Kenfig Burrows and stretching as far as Mumbles in Swansea. Today the remnants of this great dune system provide an important habitat for a number of rare plants and animals. The dunes have also proved useful to filmmakers: parts of David Lean's epic movie, Lawrence of Arabia (1962), were shot here. Though Arabian temperatures are unlikely, loose sand and undulating terrain can be hard work; getting lost is also a strong possibility.

You will hopefully emerge from the dunes by the ruins of Candleston Castle, a fourteenth-century, fortified manor-house that was abandoned after its surrounding estates were buried by encroaching sand. A hundred years ago, the thatched houses of Merthyr Mawr, a short distance up the road, were threatened with a similar fate after rabbits stripped the dunes of their stabilising vegetation. Buckthorn bushes were planted along the edge of the dunes to prevent the sand from advancing further.

From Merthyr Mawr, paths along the Ogmore River lead away from the coast to Bridgend, a former market town that has expanded considerably in recent years. However, the New Inn Bridge, a famous sheep-dipping bridge where farmers once pushed their stock into the river through holes in the parapets, is still untouched by housing developments. The New Inn itself was demolished over a hundred years ago, revealing in the process a gruesome history. Local folklore had long suspected that the inn's landlord, known as 'Cap Coch' ('Red Cap'), had systematically robbed and murdered travellers and these rumours were confirmed by the discovery of numerous bodies during the inn's demolition. This was too late for justice, as the landlord had been hanged for stealing sheep over eighty years earlier. A novel based on these events, The Inn of Fear (1980), has been published by local author Alun Morgan.

Wales - South Wales - Vale of Glamorgan - Coast


Butterflies, Cafe, Castle, Church, Flowers, Good for Kids, Mostly Flat, Pub, Public Transport, River, Sea, Toilets, Wildlife

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