Sand Dunes and Water Pools and Steelworks – Kenfig

What a landscape Kenfig has. Without realising it you are walking over thousands of years of history. All of it is hidden away under deep mounds of sand. Archeological evidence shows that there has been human habitation here from at least the Bronze Age. But the most successful time was between the 12 and 14th centuries after the Normals seized the area and building a stone castle and thriving town. Kenfig was once the largest town in Glamorgan, but today there is very little to see, and even that is easily missed. 

Although many of the pools are semi-permanent and only dry out in long spells dry weather, the amount of rain we’ve had this winter means that it’s only possible to get around by walking along the tops of the dunes.

The town was probably founded by the Earl of Gloucester in around 1140 as the Normans continued their conquest of Wales. Protected by its castle the town thrived and in 1349 there were 134 burgesses recorded. Now the Welsh being a belligerent lot attacked the town on a number of occasions, but it was natural forces that rang the death knell of the town. Plague, a series of storms and continual encroachment of sand dunes forced people to move further north. It was probably all over by the late 15th century. The following two websites contain a lot more information on the area and Kenfig the Complete History.

This sizeable body of water is known as Kenfig Pool. Though not very deep is has attracted a number of local legends. You can just see the Port Talbot Steelworks in the background.

The area is now a national nauture reserve and I was really looking forward to visiting. What you have to bear in mind is that the temperature was only just above freezing, with a cold north easterly making it feel even colder. Even though the winter has been very mild and wet, there wasn’t really very much in the way of wildlife to see. That’s not a real surprise for the end of February. Aunty was glad of that, which meant that I didn’t keep on stopping every 5 minutes to start fossicing in the undergrowth, muttering to myself “I wonder what that is?”. So this will just be a short show and tell for now. But I have agreement from Aunty that we can go back later in the spring.

Many of the sand dunes are pretty high. This cut through the dunes shows how the layers of sand have built up over the years.

Down on the beach it becomes difficult to ignore the steelworks perched as it is right on the shore. The contrast is emphasised by the length of the beach and the expanse of sand that borders the industrial behemoth.

Port Talbot Steelworks


And it gets better. The beach even has it’s own romantic ship wreck. But in reality this was probably only a coal barge.

What more could you want – a ship wreck

Looking east towards Sker Point creates and eerie image, full of emptiness. It would be easy to forget the steelworks in the other direction.

Looking east along the deserted beach.

OK so I can’t resist a little nature geekiness. I’ve been intrigued by lichens for as long as a I can remember. The concept of two very different living things being so dependent upon each other so they not only survive, but create a different living organism. Now that really is fascinating. Each species of lichen is made up of a symbiosis of a fungus and an algae, different combinations create differ the types of lichen. More on this is another post maybe. One of my favourite lichens though is Ramalina farinacea. It just seems to be so ridiculously fragile, that it couldn’t possibly survive hanging from the tree as it does, exposed to gales, rain, frost and everything else that the elements can through at it. But survive it does.

Ramalina farinacea – a whispy fragile looking lichen

Flavoparmelia caperata, or the Common Shield Lichen is common. The hint I suppose is in the name. It can grow on both trees and rocks, and has a distinctive circular light green growth pattern. The etymology of the Latin name comes from Latin flavus meaning yellow, parmula for shield and the Greek kapa meaning cape. Work has been undertaken to try and extract antibiotics from Flavoparmelia. But I’m not certain of how successful this process has been.

Flavoparmelia caperata – Common Shield Lichen

History, landscape, heavy industry and nature all sharing one space. What more can you ask for? It is just crying out to be visited again at different times of the year. Now I wonder that little beasty is called that I just saw disappearing into that tuft of grass over there? Just tell Aunty I’ll be along in a few minutes.

2 thoughts on “Sand Dunes and Water Pools and Steelworks – Kenfig

  1. You certainly make me want to visit, Paul.


  2. Definitely go! But maybe a little later when there is more life. But be careful, the first time I was there a couple of years ago it was also very wet and I got a little disorientated and had to wade through knee high water to get back on track!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close