Todays quest was to find a beach, but we concentrated on the cliffs. There are some easy but spectacular walks along the Wales Coastal Path just to the west of Cardiff. We parked in a small car park next to a farm near to Monksnash, and I duly posted my £2 into the honesty box. There was already about 10 cars lined up in the field, and it was still only about 10am. People don’t tend to get up and out very early in South Wales, but when we do get up we certainly get out!
After a short walk down a narrow lane we came to the entrance to the Blaen Cwm Nash nature reserve. This is a short narrow valley following a river cutting its way though a lime stone valley. Just across the river is a large house, but to me the stables are far more attractive when viewed through the trees.
This is a fantastic little valley, full of life. The trees are just coming into leaf, and all of a sudden he whole countryside seems to be growing fast and fresh. Before the leaves shade the forest floor the flowers are blooming with fierce intent. The floor is carpeted with lesser celandine, providing a splash of yellow when the sunshine through.
This tiny valley has another surprise awaiting anyone wandering through, as Cwm Nash harbours special geological interest. Tufa (calcium carbonate that is being precipitated out of the stream water) is actively forming in the valley, and is creating a series of small cascading waterfalls, creating a delightful sound and sight as the water tumbles over the low walls. This tufa is interbedded with scree and slope deposits. This sequence of deposits provides a complete record of rocks formed over the last 12,000 years. Abundant fossil snails within this sequence permit the reconstruction of climate change over this period, from the latest glacial period up to the present day.
It was an easy little walk from there onto the cliff tops. Although the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud disgracing the sky, the wind was a little brisk and sharp at times. Mind you, I think Aunty was over doing it a little, looking as if she was dressed ready for a major snow storm in winter. I gave up counting how many layers she was wearing underneath the coat. Mind you we passed man people walking around in shorts and t-shirts.
We found a sheltered spot for a cup of coffee and gazed over the views. The seagulls were wheeling up the cliff thermals and seemingly appearing from nowhere before gliding overhead. Full of freedom and apparently without a care. All around the sky larks were singing on the wing. The effort this must take seems to be phenomenal, to be able to rise into the air and hover above their territory while singing at the same time is amazing. Almost like running a 400m race while singing Nesum Dorma at the same time. As I was explaining this to Aunty, she just about managed to suppress a yawn before taking another sip of coffee.
The geology of the cliffs and beach around this section of the South Wales Coast seem to me to have been built out of lego bricks. The layers of rocks are so distinct that they create clearly defined horizontal patterns.
This pattern is repeated on the beac itself. The limestone pavements create carved character almost as if they have been designed. Perhaps the mice from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy are not a work of fiction. Each layer creates a series of steps up the beach to the bottom of the cliffs. in the last we’ve come across ammonite fossils embedded into the limestone on the beach, but not around this area of the beach.