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Archive for tag: Kenfig

Survival of the Fittest

Event - Celts Survival Run
Location - Kenfig National Nature Reserve, Porthcawl
Date - 23 August 2014
For more information visit the website

This is most definitely not a gentle fun run.  It's not even a marathon with a few gentle challenges thrown in along the way.  Oh, no. This is the Celts Survival Run - an International Extreme Endurance Event.

At 50km long the course would be tough enough on its own, but this is not a straight forward race.  As well as running that extreme distance, competitors will be expected to overcome a series of brutal obstacles.

The route takes the competitors through the stunning scenery of the Kenfig National Nature Reserve and along the South Wales coast to the huge Merthyr Mawr sand dunes before finishing at Ogmore Castle, not that the runners will have a chance to appreciate their surroundings.

The race will put competitors in true survival mode and challenges along the route may include carrying, climbing, throwing, digging, building and swimming.  Not many people will finish the course; fewer still will have completed all the obstacles along the way.

Most of the challenges will not be revealed until the day of the race, so competitors will have to be ready for anything.

Are you tough enough to give it a go?

(Please note, this is an extremely tough and dangerous race.  It is only for very fit and very experienced ultra-marathon runners.  If that's not you, then do not enter)

Walk around Wales

walk around wales picIn May this year, Wales became the only country in the World to have a dedicated footpath running right around its coast.

At over 800 miles long, theWales Coastal Path runs all the way from Chepstow in the South East, through Cardiff and the traditional seaside resort of Porthcawl and onwards to the beautiful Gower and Pembrokeshire coasts. From there it heads North towards Ceredigion and Snowdonia before finally heading along the North Wales coast to Llandudno before coming to an end in the North East Corner.

In the seven months since the path opened many writers and bloggers have ventured out and have given their opinion on the path or certain sections of it.

One of the most comprehensive I've found is Charles Hawes' blog, who seems to have covered most of the South Wales section of the path.

Also worth reading is the Bald Hiker's (Paul Steele) account of his walk along the path from Merthyr Mawr through Porthcawl and to Kenfig National Nature Reserve. Look out too for some fantastic images.

He describes the pretty hamlet of Merthyr Mawr as "a beautiful small quiet place with historic church and thatched cottages" and Kenfig National Nature Reserve as "a calm, surreal beautiful remnant of what was a huge sand dune system"

Have you walked part of the path? What did you think? Let me know which was your favourite part and any tips you have for other walkers setting out.

Back to Nature

Kenfig SafariThe Kenfig National Nature Reserve on the coast near Porthcawl is one of the country's most important nature reserves.   Covering 1300 acres, it boasts one of the finest Wildlife habitats in Wales and one of the last remnants of a huge sand dune system that once stretched along the coast of Southern Wales.  The reserve is home to unique wild orchids, as well as insects and wildlife.

We recently visited the site and were taken on one of the reserve's Land Rover safaris in the company of head warden Dave Carrington. 

Armed with a pair of binoculars and a camera we set off from the visitor centre and headed out into the dunes.  Dave told us all about the site, what animals, birds and flowers we could expect to see.  He also told us about the site's fascinating history.  During the second world war, troops trained on the reserve in preparation for the Normandy D-day landings.

Our tour continued and we arrived at Sker beach to see a Kestrel flying above us.  Sker is one of the area's hidden gems.  So remote that not many people know about its two miles of golden sands, the only way to get there is by trekking through the dunes from the visitor centre.  So even on the hottest of days (we do get them occasionally) this beach is always quiet.

The rare Fen OrchidOnwards, and this time to one of the reserve's most secluded and most secretive areas, and secretive for a very good reason.  Here is the location for the Fen Orchid (or if you're a Latin speaker you'll know it as the Liparis loeselii Var. ovata).  This is one of the rarest plants in the world, only found on a handful of sites worldwide, including here at Kenfig.  We were lead around the area by Dave, being very careful where we walked to avoid trampling this rare species.

Back into the land rover and on to Kenfig Pool, passing the remains of Kenfig Castle on the way.  Kenfig Pool is the largest natural lake in South Wales at 70 acres and it is home to a wide variety of birds throughout the year.

Finally it was time for the final leg of the journey back to the visitor centre.  The whole tour took 2 ½ hours which really emphasised just how big and varied the reserve is.

For more information on Kenfig National Nature Reserve is available here.

The Lost Village of Kenfig

Kenfig CastleWhilst the area around the village of Kenfig is today considered a hugely important ecological site, the massive sand dunes have their own secrets.

Buried beneath the sand is the Medieval Borough of Kenfig, rich in Roman and medieval history, its treasures now buried by the ever changing and drifting dunes.

The ancient settlement was a thriving Walled Town but by the 1600's, sand had swamped it to such a degree that only a handful of people lived there.

Kenfig was a town of some importance as by charter it could levy its own taxes and make its own by-laws. The town had a High Street, a Guildhall and even had a hospital.  Also buried beneath the sands (although the tops of its towers can still be seen poking out) is the 12th century Kenfig Castle.

As you'd expect, this area is full of myths and legends.  Sker House, set in a secluded spot overlooking the sea near a vast lonely beach is one such place.

There are several stories connected to the house. The most fascinating story is one a young woman called Elizabeth Williams who was held for many years in a room within the house by her father Isaac. He had discovered that she was involved in a relationship with a local harpist named Thomas Evans.

Eventually her father forced her into a loveless but lucrative marriage which resulted in her death of a broken heart.  Her ghost has been seen several times, standing by a window upstairs. She is seen peering across the moors awaiting her lover Thomas. People believe that if you see her it is an omen of bad luck - what do you think?

For more information on Kenfig take a look at the Visit Bridgend website

Back to Nature

Newport WetlandsWales is of course well known for it's historic castles and stunning countryside.  But did you also know that there are two very important coastal nature reserves along the south coast that are of international importance.

First up is the Newport Wetlands.  The reserve offers a haven for wildlife on the edge of the city, but is a great place for people too with a new RSPB visitor centre, a café, shop and children's play area.

Cetti's warblers and bearded tits can be seen and heard in the reedbeds, and ducks, geese and swans visit the reserve in large numbers during the winter. You'll enjoy spectacular views of the Severn estuary all year round.

Further along the coast is the Kenfig National Nature Reserve.  Set on in a beautiful area, with spectacular views from Sker beach across Swansea Bay to the Gower.  It is one of the finest Wildlife habitats in Wales and one of the last remnants of a huge sand dune system that once stretched along the coast of Southern Wales.  The reserve is home to unique wild orchids, as well as insects and wildlife.  Kenfig is one of the most important sites in Britain for nature conservation.

Stroll along the boardwalk and stop at one of the bird hides overlooking the 70-acre freshwater pool, a favourite refuge for wildfowl at all times of the year.  Wardens are often on site to answer any queries you may have.