Six won­ders of the se­cret shore

Country Walking Magazine (UK) - - Discover -

1 The church of St Ill­tyd in Llantwit Ma­jor is known as the ‘West­min­ster Abbey of Wales’ and was de­scribed by John Wes­ley in 1777 as ‘abun­dantly the most beau­ti­ful par­ish church in Wales’. It stands just a mile from the coast path on the site of the old­est school in Bri­tain, Cor Tewdws, which was es­tab­lished in 395AD in hon­our of Ro­man Em­peror Theo­do­sius I.

2 The shift­ing sands of Merthyr Mawr (right) form one of the largest dune sys­tems in Europe, where the grains stack 200 feet high and fringe the ivy-decked ruins of Can­dle­ston Cas­tle. They also pro­vided the desert back­drop for scenes with Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Ara­bia (1962).

3 ‘Want buy cas­tle in Eng­land. St Donat’s per­haps sat­is­fac­tory at proper price’ read the wire from news­pa­per mogul Wil­liam Ran­dolph Hearst in 1925. Two months later he owned the fort on the Welsh cliffs and set about gath­er­ing ar­chi­tec­tural treasures from across Europe to re­de­velop it. Of­ten con­tro­ver­sial – par­tic­u­larly when he bought and plun­dered Braden­stoke Pri­ory in Wilt­shire – his vis­i­tors in­cluded Win­ston Churchill, JFK, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, and Char­lie Chap­lin. Col­laps­ing for­tunes forced Hearst to sell in 1937 and it’s now an in­ter­na­tional col­lege.

4 The mes­sage said: ‘Are you ready?’ The sec­ond one said: ‘Can you hear me?’ It was May 1897 at Lav­er­nock Point near Pe­narth, and Guglielmo Mar­coni was at­tempt­ing to trans­mit the first ra­dio mes­sage across open sea, three miles to Flat Holm Is­land in the Bris­tol Chan­nel. Then the beeps of Morse code came through: ‘Yes, loud and clear’. You can walk at the point – it’s now a na­ture re­serve – and see the com­mem­o­ra­tive plaque in the church­yard of St Lawrence.

5 A few miles in­land, just south of the vil­lage of St Ni­cholas, you can walk to the

6000-year old cham­bered tomb of Tink­inswood which has the largest cap­stone in Bri­tain. It weighs a quite lit­er­ally stag­ger­ing 40 tons, mea­sures 24 by 14 feet, and would have taken 200 peo­ple to lift it.

6 Or­chid lovers can con­tinue a cou­ple of miles be­yond Porth­cawl to the na­tional na­ture re­serve at Ken­fig to spot a host of species – pyra­mi­dal, fra­grant, early-pur­ple, early marsh, heath spot­ted, bee and the rare fen or­chid (above). By con­trast, Port Tal­bot’s steel­works sit on the hori­zon, said to have in­spired Ri­d­ley Scott’s Blade Run­ner.

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