THE first week of the New Year is usually the time when William from Penarth and District Ramblers makes his annual trek to the Blue Anchor for lunch halfway round.

Last year because we were in deep lockdown it never happened and because of the current Covid rules it had to be postponed again, which is probably why only three walkers came out to meet him at the Knap car terrace in perfect walking weather, on a bright and crisp morning to join in a 12-mile replacement walk.

On the hillside just above them are the neat foundations of a Roman Building which contained 22 rooms all grouped around a courtyard with the building being dated to the late 3rd century AD by the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust. It seems a natural harbour was to be found to the east of this area and one theory is that this was a guesthouse connected with naval activity at the harbour as no evidence of a water supply or baths common in villa’s could be found. In the early 1980’s the trust carried out excavations on site and pieces of Roman pottery and tiles were found and a public viewing platform now overlooks the site.

They soon warmed up due to a short but stiff climb onto the clifftop and followed a narrow path through woodland to descend the Golden Stairs into Porthkerry Country Park, where the frost covered board walk led them towards the 110ft Porthkerry Viaduct. Deviating off the cycle path at Robin’s Walk brought them into muddy fields beside the Whitelands Brook for the climb up to join the A4226 opposite Welford and along the verge to cross a stile leading into fields behind Blackton Farm.

A well-worn farm track led to the road for the journey to Penmark Village where they entered the churchyard of St Mary’s for their mid-morning refreshments, utilising the steps on the preaching cross as seating whilst enjoying the warm sunshine. The church dates to the 13th century being mentioned for the first time in 1254 and a few centuries later the tower was added, but most of its medieval traits were lost when it was renovated during the Victorian era.

They continued and joined part of the long distance Valeways Millennium Heritage Trail, through fields on the boundary of Cardiff Airport making towards Fonmon with its lovely duck pond and stunning weeping willow tree which cascades over the water. Then climbing steps into a small wood leading to muddy fields near Home Farm they eventually exited onto Port Road following it southwards to East Aberthaw.

Taking time out they paused at the Blue Anchor for a swift pint outside in the fresh air before following Well Road downhill. This road was previously known as Marshe Way, one would presume because the River Thaw flowed to reach the sea by this route until the Aberthaw Power Station was built and the river was re-routed.

Tramping muddy paths below the main Vale railway line through the nature reserve which is classed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, they headed through the reed beds beside the western end of the delightful lake, overseen by the ruined Aberthaw Limeworks built in 1888, to arrive at the sea defence wall. Heading out onto the beach they found a suitable place for lunch sitting on a washed up tree trunk beside the dunes and overlooking the Bristol Channel and English coastline before continuing along the salt flats.

The beautiful refurbished cliff steps on part of the Wales Coast Path brought them steeply uphill into Fontygary Leisure Park, which was eerily quiet due to the winter months and reaching Fontygary beach, they continued up steps following the coast path past the old disused limestone quarries to reach the southernmost tip of mainland Wales and Rhoose Point. Onward through Porthkerry Holiday Park and the Iron Age hillfort at the Bulwarks, to slither downhill through the woods back into Porthkerry for the steep climb back up the Golden Stairs in order to make their way along the clifftop to Cold Knap, just as the sun was sinking in the western sky.

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