Tuesday, 30 June 2015

PENARTH



You need to be fit to live in Penarth, since it's all up and down.  The town centre is at the top of the hill, and there is a steep descent from there to the promenade in one direction and the Cardiff Bay Barrage in the other.  The nicest route down to the seafront is via Alexandra Park, a steeply sloping Edwardian park with an aviary and a bandstand.  The promenade is quiet and unspoilt, with a pier and 1930s pavilion offering views across the Bristol Channel.  Another pleasant green space open to the public can be found in the grounds of The Kymin, one of the oldest buildings in Penarth, built between 1790 and 1810.  The area formerly occupied by docks in the 19th century is now a marina, and the entrance to the barrage is nearby, from where you can walk across to Cardiff Bay, enjoying views out to sea on one side and across the bay to the Wales Millennium Centre and other attractions on the other side.  

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The pier.

Penarth got into the news recently when an extraordinary discovery was made by two brothers on Lavernock Beach to the south of Penarth: a 200 million years old fossil of a cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex.  The find is believed to be the earliest specimen of a Jurassic era dinosaur to be found in the world.  The creature is described as a meat-eating, fierce hunter that walked on two legs with a fuzzy body.

Map of the area. 

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The seafront.


Saturday, 27 June 2015

BARRY ISLAND



Heading east from Llantwit Major we come to Summerhouse Point with cliff top walks reached by a lane from the village of Boverton.  There is a Seawatch Centre here with displays of weather-forecasting equipment and radar.  Further along, Limpert Bay marks the end of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast Walk which started at Porthcawl.  Further along still, the village of Rhoose nudges the southern end of Cardiff Airport.  After the quiet of the clifftops and the series of small towns and villages, the much larger settlement of Barry represents quite a contrast with its docks forming an alternative to the congested and expensive Cardiff Docks.

Barry Island, which is not actually an island, being accessible from the mainland via the A4055, has long been a family tourist destination.  There used to be a Butlins Holiday Camp here, but this closed in 1996.  However, the 'island' continued to be a magnet for tourists, and it also came to the attention of the Dr Who team during the filming of the series 'Delta and the Bannermen', in which it played the part of the Shangri-La Holiday Camp.  It also featured in 'The Empty Child' and 'The Doctor Dances'.  In the past Barry Island has had something of an image problem, being considered down at heel by many, however there are signs of attempts at an uplift.  A recent online review described the beach as beautiful and clean and pointed out that the dining options are no longer all fish and chips and burgers.  The main attraction on the island is the Pleasure Park, a traditional array of fairground rides and amusement arcades which recently changed ownership and boasts "brand new rides never seen in Barry before".  

Map of the area. 

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Photo by Derek Jones, via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, 11 June 2015

LLANTWIT MAJOR



Looking around Llantwit Major today, it seems hard to imagine that 1,500 years ago this sleepy little village a few miles to the west of Cardiff was an important academic centre, almost the Oxbridge of its day.  Cor Tewdws, Britain's oldest centre of learning, was founded in 395, but was burnt down during a series of raids in the post-Roman period.  Then St Illtud, after whom the Norman church in the village is named, came from Brittany in 508 and re-established the centre.  St Illtud's church stands on the site of Cor Tewdws, the current building dating from the 11th century.  It has a surprisingly imposing exterior for a village church, with some striking carved stones and effigies, earning it the title of the 'Westminster Abbey of Wales'.  Another relic of the area's past is the Roman Villa at Caermead to the north-west of the village.  A short distance from the village centre is the sand and pebble beach, backed by steep cliffs which are prone to erosion.  The beach is popular with surfers, and there is yet more history to be found here in the form of the remains of an Iron Age hill fort called Castle Ditches..  

Map of the area. 

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The beach. Photo by Archangel12, via Wikimedia Commons.