Wales Vale Of Glamorgan County Borough
The Vale of Glamorgan, often referred to as The Vale, (Welsh: Bro Morgannwg is a county borough in Wales. With an economy based largely on agriculture and chemicals, it is the southernmost unitary authority in Wales. Attractions include Barry Island Pleasure Park (known for the BBC sitcom, Gavin & Stacey), the Barry Tourist Railway, Porthkerry Park, St Donat's Castle, Cosmeston Lakes Country Park and Cosmeston Medieval Village. It is also the location of Atlantic College, one of the United World Colleges. The largest town is Barry. Other towns include Penarth, Llantwit Major and Cowbridge.
Located immediately to the west of Cardiff between the M4 motorway and the Severn Estuary, the Vale of Glamorgan covers 130 square miles and has 33 miles of coastline. Much of the population inhabits villages, hamlets and individual farms. The area is low-lying, with a maximum height of 450 feet above sea level at Tair Onnen to the east of Cowbridge.
It borders Cardiff to the north east, Rhondda Cynon Taf to the north, Bridgend to the north west and the Bristol Channel to the south.
As the Glamorgan Heritage Coast faces westwards out to the Atlantic, it bears the brunt of onshore, westerly and south-westerly winds: ideal for surfing, but a nuisance for ships sailing up the Bristol Channel to Cardiff. As in North Cornwall and South-West Ireland, the fierce Atlantic gales created ideal conditions for deliberate shipwrecking, which until 100 years ago was very common along the coast.
Its best known nature reserve is Cosmeston Lakes Country Park.
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An early morning visit is recommended here, so as to avoid the hoards of dog walkers, which come here. Walk swiftly away from the tame flock of Mute Swans and the motley collection of ducks on the first pond in front of the visiting centre, by following the boardwalk to the left. This crosses a small area of reeds, which has breeding Reed Buntings, Reed and Sedge Warblers. In this area it splits, but it doesn't really matter which branch you take, as both come out onto the same bridleway, in front of the second pool. This area of bushes is worth a few minutes, for birds like Garden Warbler, Blackcap and Bullfinch. This second pool is much better for birds than the first, being reed-lined in places and less prone to disturbance. Turn right along the bridleway until you come to a bridge over a small channel which connects the two ponds - this gives a good view over both ponds, and especially over the largest expanse of reeds at the far side of the second pool. Last winter this area of reeds held a couple of Bitterns and a Pied-billed Grebe. At the top end of the second pool, a path leads off left, and circles the whole pool, rejoining the bridleway at the mock medieval village near the visitor centre. This walk is a lot quieter than most of the rest.
This is undoubtedly the best sea watching spot in Glamorgan, outside the Gower. Although it can't really compete with spots on the south and east coasts of England, or even some of the Pembrokeshire headlands, it regularly produces small numbers of seabirds, including Gannet, Manx Shearwaters and skuas. It is also an excellent spot for migrants, in both spring and autumn, with good scrubby cover along the cliff top. Rarities are often recorded among the usual summer visitors, and have included Bonelli's Warbler, Richard's Pipit and Firecrest.
Philip Bristow - East Glamorgan County Recorder
2 Forest Oak Close, Cyncoed, Cardiff CF23 6QN
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Birds of Glamorgan
Clive Hurford and Peter Lansdown 228 pages, 30 col & 17 b/w photos, line illus, maps. 1995
ISBN: 1872808344Buy this book from NHBS.com
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Places to Stay
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