MEETING at Rhoose Railway Station car park under overcast skies the group of twelve walkers joining Joy for a Shortish Strides half day walk were greeted with a very blustery cool wind - so it was to their advantage to get going especially as heavy showers were forecast for later on.

Heading across the main Vale railway line, some pavement bashing through the village of Rhoose saw them following a narrow path where the sun burst forth as they headed around the perimeter of Cardiff Airport, to join the road past The Highwayman Inn and through Nurston.

Darting out of the way of oncoming traffic in a narrow lane their first stile led them into a field where archery practise takes place, but not on this day, and descending to a muddy stile they entered Fonmon Wood. After recent heavy rainfall there was a flow of water in the Ffwl-y-mwn Brook and tramping along the muddy path covered in autumnal leaves brought them up steps through the pretty woodland where bushcraft and woodland activities take place and onto the road.

Fonmon Pond was teeming with ducks making a racket as they thought some food might be on the way and turning off the road and climbing steps led them back into bare woodland to exit into a cropped field.

Carefully heading around the field boundary a few more stiles led them along a narrow track and back out into an open meadow leading to Port Road, which they followed southwards past the huge Aberthaw Quarry to reach the thatched Blue Anchor Inn that dates to 1380.

A descent at Well Road led below the railway arch and along a narrow path below the railway line to enter East Aberthaw Nature Reserve which is classed as an SSSI and a pause by the reed beds to hear some local history. The name derives from aber meaning rivermouth or estuary and in this case the River Thaw and Roman pottery and tiles have been found indicating settlement in this area probably dates to the 2nd or 3rd centuries.

During the medieval period a small village stood between Port Road and Well Road which was previously called Marshe Way, as it led to marshland and a ford across the River Thaw. A thriving port stood there with ships making daily passage to north Somerset and by the 17th century boats were departing to England and France, Spain and Ireland. Smuggling was rife in the area and illegally found goods no doubt were hidden in the village.

Heading through the reed beds to the sea wall they gazed across the lake to the ruined Aberthaw Limeworks which opened in 1888. Its two kilns produced 40 tons of burnt lime per day from pebbles collected from the nearby beach that were moved up a tramway and dropped into the kilns. This blue lias limestone also has hydraulic qualities so could be used in the building of locks, canals, docks and lighthouses.

Some steps led them across the sea wall and a stop was made utilising the wall as a backrest in glorious warm sunshine out of the breeze for their refreshment break, whilst they overlooked the full salt lagoons and the sandy dunes. Then onward across the salt flats for the short steep climb up the refurbished cliff steps to enter Fontygary Leisure Park, following the Wales Coast Path along the clifftop past caravans with their dramatic sea views as the wind began to whip up again.

Continuing along the WCP the long distance views across the Bristol Channel were obscured by mist and the waves were beginning to thunder in at Fontygary Bay as they passed the disused limestone quarries beside the coast path. Then descending and ascending steps a gusty wind blew them along the cliff path towards Rhoose Point, where they headed inland overlooking the flooded Rhoose quarries and across a last field which led back to the start, fortunately still in dry weather.

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