Too noisy at Nash
I planned to cover the twenty miles from Penarth to Nash Point along the smallest roads on the map, but they turned out to be pretty busy nonetheless. I circled Cardiff Airport, and then a substantial Ministry of Defence site at St Athan. The village square in Llantwit Major is gorgeous, and I was tempted to stop at the Old White Hart for coffee, or perhaps even an early pint. But it was barely ten o’clock. I was becoming accustomed to finding attractive pubs, in pretty villages, at inconvenient times.
John and Judy drove from Penarth, and timed their departure perfectly because we reached Nash Point at almost exactly the same time. The headland is popular with walkers and hikers, and the car park was packed. We wandered along the broad path that runs directly in front of the two lighthouse towers, and there still seemed to be plenty of family news to catch up on as we did so. The lighthouse buildings are licensed as a wedding venue, and as we passed one of the stone buildings adjoining the tower, a portly and red-faced man stuck his head out of the window and shouted: ‘Shut the fuck up. Don’t you know there are people getting married in here?’
I was desperate to respond with a witty, perhaps sarcastic, retort but nothing came to me. Instead, we simply walked on in silence.
At the entrance to the Bristol Channel, a range of sandbanks known as Nash Sands make navigation for shipping hazardous. When the passenger steamer Frolic was wrecked in 1830, with many lives lost, Trinity House engineer James Walker was commissioned to design a pair of lights at Nash Point. The high and low towers, set 330 yards apart, formed leading lights that indicated safe passage through the sandbanks.
The high light is a tall, circular stone tower with gallery and lantern. Standing 122 feet tall, it shows an occulting white light, visible for sixteen miles. It also shows a red sector visible for ten miles.
The low light originally had a shorter, sixty-foot-tall, conical tower with lantern and gallery. It was decommissioned in the 1920s, and the lantern was removed some time afterwards.
Surrounding each of the towers are a range of outbuildings and keepers’ accommodation. There is also a fog signal building between the two towers, with an imposing foghorn on its roof that is sounded on visitor tours and as part of the many wedding ceremonies the lighthouse hosts.
Nash Point was the last lighthouse in Wales to be fully automated, in 1998.
— Edward Peppitt (@thebeaconbike) June 20, 2015
Before saying goodbye to John and Judy, they treated me to lunch at the Horseshoe Inn at Marcross. We sat outside, and every few seconds the absurdly loud foghorn sounded at Nash Point. I thought about the effect that it would be having on the rude man from the wedding party, and grinned. But I discovered later that the foghorn was an important highlight of every wedding at Nash Point, so it was probably sounding at his request. We ate well, and the pub served a bitter that was new to me, called Cwrw Braf from the Tomas Watkin brewery. I may not have been able to pronounce it, but it tasted pretty good. When we were finished, I hated saying goodbye to John and Judy, who had been hugely welcoming and genial hosts.
My final destination for the day was The Great House at Laleston, just outside Bridgend. Matthew and Suzanne, my brother and sister-in-law, had arranged to meet me there and to treat me to a posh meal and overnight stay. I found them in the courtyard where they were already on their second pot of tea, and I helped them to get through two more. No one drinks more tea than my brother.
Matthew is a keen hiker and hillwalker, and he and Suzanne seem to know much of the countryside in forensic detail. As we debated the highlights of my expedition so far, they knew almost all the places I mentioned, and were even able to list a number of sites of historical or archaeological interest that evidently I had missed along the way.
They have always been able to find interesting places to visit, no matter where they are. I remember Matthew once visiting me at a grotty B&B in an unmemorable suburb of Leicester. I lived there for a few months when I managed to get onto a graduate trainee programme for Aldi Supermarkets, when they first entered the UK food market. With just a few hours’ notice, Matthew had devised an eight-mile circular walk that took in several places of historical interest, including the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field. I only lasted at Aldi six months, but that walk is still fresh in my memory nearly thirty years later.
Over a dinner that included the most tender lamb I’d eaten in years, we caught up with family news, including making a tally of the nephews’ and nieces’ birthdays we’d each forgotten. Matthew always feels guilty about missing one, although I am just as culpable. My solution is usually just to write my nephew, Ed, a slightly bigger cheque each Christmas.
Suzanne says less than my brother, but what she does say always makes me laugh. A few years ago we arranged a short holiday in the Brecon Beacons that included as many members of our family as were prepared to come. I announced that I was planning to visit the local town, where it was market day, and asked if anyone wanted to join me. Suzanne looked a little dubious: ‘What sort of market is it? Is it a proper market selling local crafts and produce? Or is it a ’nylon pants’ sort of market?’
It turned out to be a ’nylon pants’ sort of market, and I have not been able to look at many British market towns in the same way since.
Lovely evening with my brother Matthew and his wife Suzanne in Laleston, between Nash Point & Porthcawl lighthouses! pic.twitter.com/a6YKGd5B9A
— Edward Peppitt (@thebeaconbike) June 21, 2015