One calm evening we took a stroll along the beach at Barry Island.
Once upon a time Barry was a quiet little rural backwater with an island situated just off shore. However all this was to suddenly change during the industrial revolution.
Tons of coal were being mined in the South Wales Valleys, and the docks that had been built by the Marquess of Bute in Cardiff were soon found to be struggling to keep up with the amount of coal being produced.
Some of the mine owners, including a wealthy businessman named David Davies, the owner of the Ocean Collieries company, got their heads together and came up with an ambitious plan to build a new dock in Barry, to rival that of Cardiff. Work on the first new dock at Barry began in 1884 and was completed in 1889. In the first year of trade alone, one million tons of coal was shipped. More dock basins were subsequently added to accommodate yet more ships, until by 1913 Barry had become the largest coal exporting port in the world.
The flourishing town of Barry had expanded rapidly and the island was by now connected to the mainland by a causeway.
Not only did the railway transport coal, but it also brought miners and their families for day trips to the sea and consequently Barry developed into a seaside resort. In the 1930’s the miners were allowed time off work during the last week in July and the first week in August. During this, Barry’s hey day, thousands of miners’ families would flock to the beach during the “Miners Fortnight”.
Yet with the decline in the trade of coal and the eventual closing of the mines the docks and holiday resort suffered badly and the town fell into a deep depression.
In recent years Welsh government money had been reinvested into the town and the resort has seen something of a revival. The pleasure park has been taken under new ownership. The popular BBC comedy television series “Gavin and Stacey” also helped to promote the town.
Whitmore Bay has a wide sandy beach which stretches between two rocky headlands, Nell’s Point to the east and Friars Point to the west. Around the corner of Nell’s Point is a second sandy beach named Jackson’s Bay.
You can see right across the Bristol Channel to the coast of Somerset and Devon and the islands of Flat Holm and Steep Holm. The Bristol channel has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world which can reach in excess of 15 metres.
The promenade with its brightly coloured beach huts.
Barry Island’s new climbing wall.
Aneurin loved the beach and of course he promised not to get wet.
Whoops !!! Boys will be boys !!!
A “Barrybados” sunset.
The following day we set off to explore some more of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast. We were heading for Southerndown. On our way we stopped off in the village of Ogmore where there is a beautiful ruined Norman castle dating from 1106.
Legend has it that the castle is haunted by a Woman in White who is protecting her buried treasure.
Alongside the castle runs a tidal river that leads to the estuary.
There is a series of stepping stones where the river can be traversed on foot at low tide.
Nearby is a farm and stables where you can hire a horse to ride. Groups of riders can be seen gently trotting through the river and heading on down towards the estuary and the sandy dunes of Merthyr Mawr.
We continued our drive passing through Ogmore-by-Sea, then the village of Southerndown and on to Dunraven Bay. This is my favourite spot along this stretch of Welsh coastline. When we arrived the tide was out. This is the perfect time to explore the exposed rocks and rock pools which are full of molluscs and sea anemones.
The pebbly foreshore, then the rocks and sandy beach beyond.
Nonna and Aneurin exploring.
The sedimentary rocks contain many fossils.
In years gone by, during storms along this stretch of rocky coastline, men known as wreckers would lure unsuspecting ships in the direction of the dangerous shoreline with lights and cause them to flounder so that their cargoes could be plundered.
Nearby are the ruins of Dunraven Castle, an old demolished mansion. You can walk around the beautifully planted walled gardens and enjoy the magnificent views of the Heritage Coast. You can also visit the Heritage Coast Centre at Dunraven. This is where we chose to stop and have our picnic lunch.
A lovely old thatched cottage at Dunraven Bay.
We then drove further along the coast to take a quick look at another local seaside resort named Porthcawl.
The pavillion and town beach.
Here there were yet more rock pools for Aneurin to explore.
*photos by Melinda Abbott
#public domain photos
All other photos by me © Louise Shapcott
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