Last Sunday a thick sea fog was just starting to creep its way into our valley as we got up and ready for the day. By the time we’d set off from the mouth of the River Ogmore, on what was to be a brand new walk for us, the fog had been joined by a fine drizzle and visibility was poor at best. Following the coastal footpath the occasional Oystercatcher could be glimpsed down on the beach whilst out on the mill pond like waters of the sea Herring and Black Headed Gulls were about the only inhabitants. Through the murk it was just about possible to make out the impressive shape of the towering cliffs that make up this part of the Heritage Coast. Though they may look stable they are anything but, a fact that one static caravan park a couple of miles further south found out to its cost recently. Fortunately no one was hurt during that collapse but the owners have found their real estate significantly reduced.
After three miles or so we arrived at Dunraven, once the location of a palatial stately home that was, like many such properties locally, blown up in the 1960’s due to a lack of funds to maintain them. I find it a crying shame that all that is left to see of that history and architecture are a few courses of bricks and the walled gardens, even those having lost their once grand majesty. In my mind even leaving the building to fall into ruin would have been a more fitting end, no doubt eventually allowing it to become as integral a part of our landscape as the numerous Welsh castles now are. The feel of the place is captured perfectly in a poem originally written by two visiting solicitors in 1875 and now displayed in the walled gardens.
|Dearly I love Dunraven Bay,
Under its cliffs by night or by day,
Near me the waves on the golden sand,
Roll widely in foam as they dash to the land.
At times it’s so still, I fancy I hear,
Voices of lost ones, melodious and dear.
Even the drift wood seems to say,
Never forget life is ebbing away.
From Dunraven we headed inland and crossed the extensive common lands behind the village of Southerndown before dropping back into the Ogmore valley.
The stretch of river from here to the coast contains a curious blend of traditional river and coastal birds, and can almost be guaranteed to throw up the odd surprise or two. This visit was no exception with a tame Dunlin on the near bank as well as four female Goosanders. Three Grey Wagtails were a very nice find after a pretty barren 2011 for the species which totalled just two birds, one of which was seen half way up Cadair Idris of all places. The highlight as always at this time of year though were the Goldeneye, with thirty two birds seen split between two separate flocks. As I have come to expect they were very wary of people walking past but we still got to witness some classic courtship behaviour including the ever impressive act whereby the males violently throw their heads backwards. I tried to take a few photos and video clips but it was way too dark to get anything usable. The fog that had once hinted at lifting had descended like a heavy quilt and the wind was starting to pick up, so we took our cue and headed back to the car. Despite the weather it had been a very enjoyable walk and we shall have to return one sunny day to fully appreciate the cliffs in all their glory, and to photograph those Goldeneye of course.