A couple of weekends ago the sun gave a brilliant display all day, and coupled with a light South easterly breeze it made a fantastic day for a walk. This expedition was along the Coastal Path between Redwick to the Newport Wetlands. This time we had bribed Number One Daughter to pick us up and take us back to Redwick to pick up our car. That way we were able to walk 10 miles in one direction, instead of our usual 5 miles there and 5 miles back.
It has to be said that walking along this section of the path is not the most exciting in providing breathtaking views, but with Spring now firmly taking hold there was plenty of interest to distract me and increase Aunties’s exasperation as I would stop and stare before taking a photograph of something. After walking about a kilometre down a muddy lane we arrived at the sea wall with a great view of the Severn Crossing to the east. But it was westward we were heading today. The church in Redwick has a reminder of a major flood on the 30th January, 1607, a mark is scratched on the porch wall. The flood affected the whole of the Severn Estuary and large areas of Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Soth Wales were flooded. South Wales was particularly badly affected, from Laugharne to Chepstow. It is estimated more than 2000 people were drowned, badly affecting the local economy.
The first 5 miles of the walk is along the sea wall, and so is easy going. We saw very few people along this section before reaching Goldcliff, and those we did see were 3 fishermen. With the tide in they were able to fish from the sea wall without venturing out onto the mud flats. All along the shore there are parallel lines of posts sticking up out of the mud still visible above the water as they point out into the estuary. These are the remains of an ancient fishing method called putcher fishing. This technique used the baskets called the “putcher” traditionally made from hazel rods and with (willow) plait, set out against the tides in huge wooden “ranks”. Salmon were trapped in the baskets as the tide receded.
If you want confirmation of Spring we came across one very soon. At one point along the walk just before Goldcliff we followed a pair of Wheatears, who stay just ahead of as we walked along. They would wait until we came within a few meters, then fly ahead and watch us approach. This process was repeated for more than 400m.
As the tide was fully in there was no foreshore or mud exposure to speak of. Consequently there were few shore birds around – a situation that did not upset Karen too much as it meant I didn’t keep on stopping to have a look. But there was a flock of Turnstones among the rocks and seaweed almost underfoot before I saw them. And they were following their job description perfectly. Turning over small stones and seaweed, before scampering forward hunting for the next titbit under a near by stone.
Along the entire 10 miles I counted 14 separate singing Chiffchaff males. I can’t say that I saw them all, but their song is unmistakable. But I did manage to get a few reasonable photos.
We stopped for lunch at the Goldcliff Lagoons. A set of man made lagoons as a tradeoff for the local wildlife due to the habitat loss when the Cardiff Bay Barrage was built. I still have mixed feelings about the barrage. On one side saddened by the loss of mudflats and habitat for wading birds. However, it is now a fantastic leisure resource, and so much more attractive than it was as a set of derelict docks and smelly mud. Because the tide was in the lagoons were full, include a large flock of flighty Black-tailed Godwits. Lunch over we pushed on towards RSPB Newport Wetlands Reserve. I’m glad we did as we discovered a few more bird hides along the way hidden in the fields that I didn’t know about. These were empty, and didn’t appear to be used anywhere near as much as those at Goldcliff. Hidden gems and I’ll have to go back.
So now we walked all the way from Chepstow to Newport. Next will be the Newport to Cardiff section, then we’ll be able to join up with those sections we’ve already completed in an almost continuous progression all the way to Llanelli. Slowly we’re completing the path – a bit disorganised in our approach, but it’s being done.