What a strange and heady mix of aesthetics is the coast between Llanelli and Kidwelly. In the middle is Bury Port, a town which owes its entire existence to the demands of 19th century heavy industry. All that bit of coast was good for then was to enable ships to get coal out and metal ores in. All the town was good for was to provide basic housing for the servants of heavy industry. Nothing else mattered. Did anyone ever stop to think that the houses were ugly or that the coast was beautiful? Pembury was a site for the manufacture of explosives. Llanelli was Tinopolis. The whole conglomeration depended on speeding up the burning of fossil fuel to serve the needs of heavy industry. In the twentieth century, that industry made us wealthy enough to pay other countries to do the dirty stuff, and quite suddenly a raft of towns, with a tradition of hard labour and workers’ solidarity, find themselves in the leisure business. Several generations who had never given a thought to concepts like beautiful architecture or nature conservation, find their utilitarian attitude to where they live completely upended. To me, coming from a completely different tradition, I am simply grateful for all that has been done by these poor communities to improve their surroundings.
Wind the clock back 18 years and something really wonderful was created. The celebration of the clock ticking over from 1999 to 2000 gave the world some nasty white elephants like the dome in London, but it also gave us the Millenium Coastal Path, and I can’t find words of praise enough for the legacy of what was done then.
In the winter I try to find free places to stay in the camper, and I have stayed without problem at two in this area. One is on the east side of Bury Port harbour and the other is at the old Pembury harbour. This week I spent an afternoon at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Penclacwyth (do you hear the ducks clacking their bills?) and then went back to Bury Port to camp and experience the early morning light. It’s cold again and there are only a few crows, gulls and cormorants to be seen. When I get back to the van the sun is warm and I am sorting things out with the door open to the glorious view of the dunes and the beaches and the sea.
A man on a scooter approaches me.
“Nice spot to camp!”
“Not bad eh?”
“Have you come far?” English voice. I tell him no – just Llandovery. He then goes on to tell me all about his love of the area from having worked here:
“See that roof over there? That’s what I was working on.”
We talk about the cycle path and I tell him I have cycled all of it, but he then starts to tell me about a bird hide in the Pembury burrows. I’m curious – never seen a hide anywhere near Pembury. He then starts to tell me about a track which winds here and there – lots of hand gestures – and a long walk out to the hide. (Note to myself: don’t retreat from such conversations as I so often do. Take the man’s picture and give him a card with the link to this site. That’s what the cards are for!)
At 9:30 I am back at the reserve where I spent most of the morning away from the hides, exploring the “Millennium Wetlands”, a large area with many winding paths, woodland, lots of open water, ditches, reed beds, scrub and this pair of buzzards “sky-dancing”.
In the afternoon I decide to investigate the Pembury Burrows. The map shows a track which looks like the one the scooter man described. I take the road down to the Pembury Country Park and get to a gate where you have to put £2 in a machine to pass. I backtrack and find a track leading off to the left. Just as I turn that way an old white van with a chimney in the roof and a girl with dreadlocks driving, goes the same way. What does she know? She’s driving quickly and confidently, and my guess is that she and a few other “alternative culture” people have a camp down there. So I follow, but when I get to a little car park on the cycle track she drives further on. My GPS tells me I am in the right place so I gather up my kit – binoculars, camera and long lens, hand warmers (because despite the warm sun the wind is cold), gloves, windproof jacket and walking boots. Within minutes I am in a huge landscape of dunes and marshes. It’s a long and lovely walk to what turns out to be more of an information point with a roof than a hide. The only birds in sight are a few shelduck and this kestrel, but I’m thrilled to have discovered yet another bit of this coast to explore.
Friday 9 March
Here are more pictures of Pembury Burrows in the early morning: