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Barry and District Ramblers enjoying the sunshine in Porthkerry

On a beautiful calm and warm sunny Thursday evening which hopefully is the first sign of summer approaching, a group of thirteen walkers joined Joy and Bracken from Penarth and District Ramblers in the Viaduct car park at Porthkerry Country Park, which was populated with people, children and dogs all enjoying some freedom and the good weather.

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Following a quick briefing on the Covid rules the group set off on their socially distanced walk, crossing the old pitch and putt course which is being turned into a wetlands reserve and headed along the coast on part of the Wales Coast Path, with its glorious views across the vast pebble beach of Porthkerry Bay with an incoming tide.

Climbing through shady woodland on a semi muddy path brought them to The Bulwarks, a huge Iron Age Fort believed to have been occupied up to the late 3rd or 4th centuries, although 12th century pottery was later found there by archaeologists. It was defended by tall steep cliffs on its southern side with embankments and ditches on the other sides which are still evident in the surrounding woodland on the western side.

Passing through Porthkerry Leisure Park and gazing back in a south easterly direction the hazy outline of Glastonbury Tor was visible in the distance. Following the main road through the caravan park before circumnavigating the remains of a disused limestone quarry, brought them out onto the clifftop at Rhoose Point. Then the short descent on steps to a field which is the only remnant of Happy Valley before more steps led them up to the continuation of the path bringing them to the southernmost tip of mainland Wales, which is marked by a huge lump of stone from the northernmost tip of Wales.

For centuries this area of coastline from Rhoose to Aberthaw was mined for the extraction of limestone and at the start of the 20th century large industry began in earnest with cement and asbestos works being set up at Rhoose Point, firstly by the Aberthaw and Bristol Channel Portland Cement and Lime Company in 1919, then later in 1983 by Blue Circle. In 1987 the cement works and asbestos factory were closed and demolished and the land was left for nature to take over and with its flooded quarries, is now a haven for wildlife. A pause for a bit of culture in the shape of a poetry reading by WH Davies from William, entitled A May Morning, before continuing their journey through two disused quarries to exit onto Bryn Y Gloyn.

Deviating along the path above a disused quarry which now hosts a housing development brought them uphill for some pavement walking at Trem Echni and Heol Y Sianel, and steps led them to the unmanned Vale railway crossing. Continuing along a path between hedges led them through housing at Golwg y Mor and out onto Porthkerry Road and heading east towards the airport bend there were grand views across the Bristol Channel to the Quantock Hills, Watchet, Blue Anchor and Minehead to the south and a very sunny Weston-Super-Mare and Brean Down to the east.

Leaving the main road and following a quiet lane to Porthkerry village passing the 15th or early 16th century Glebe or Church Farm, thought to have housed the village priest and the delightful St Curig’s Church, a steep muddy pathway downhill through Viaduct Wood brought them back into the south western end of Porthkerry park, somewhat dominated by the Porthkerry Viaduct. Standing 110 feet in height and 343m in length with 16 arches, building began in 1894 but was held up due to subsidence and unsound foundations. In January 1898 one of the stone pillars sank twice and a huge workforce was deployed to make right the damage. Engineers declared that shifting sand under the bedrock together with the high tides sweeping up to the bridge had caused the footings to shift, so a temporary line was built to the north to accommodate the Vale of Glamorgan Railway, which opened that same year until the full opening of the viaduct in 1900.

With only a short walk back to the car park the sun was still shining after what has been a delightful evening walk.

You can follow the group’s exploits before, during and after lockdown on Facebook.

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