The days are short, the air warm, grey and damp: when would be a better time to walk a bit of coast east from Cardiff? In a rare glimpse of sun, we left our van, called Tweetie on account of its happy squeaks, off a roundabout where Ocean Way meets Rover Way. Everywhere was wet.
There is a trick to appreciating urban walks. The eye filters what you don’t want to see but the camera ruthlessly records. A colourful bit of graffiti behind the trees, or the bright logo of the Western Mail offices over a bramble, are hard to see on a photo.
I like the strong lines and inventiveness of urban life and industrial sites – pipes, uprights and naughty paths not on any map.
The logos took us over to the right, nearly to a pavement end, but there was a sign down to a dying buddliea-lined path by another steel fence, some reflective blankets and, suddenly, the sea – or estuary to be accurate, for this is the Bristol Channel.
When the tidal Cardiff mud flats were transformed by the barrage, affecting the many birds when the water became non-tidal and permanent, it was a guess what would happen environmentally. The birds maybe adapted, and were part of the huge flock that took off from the beach below the path. We met several rod-and-line anglers too.
On one side was the regular whirr of machinary, on the other the soft lapping of the waves. Inside the steel fence were more shapes and patterns. I was being told to hurry up, the light was going, and what was I photographing anyway?
Sewage works came up next, flat and dull like the mud underfoot. On the water side, there was gorse in bloom and views across to Wentloog and the Gwent wetlands.
They are strange, these wetlands and tips between road, industry and water. I am not sure which way this camera is pointing, smart and white above the scrubby bushes and more steel. We wandered off the path and into a bike track, with a couple of trial bikes using it.
The warm winter is confusing plants, like this bright green mix of mosses and emerging seedlings – totally out of season like the gorse.
To get out of the track, we scrambled down and waited to cross the busy, noisy Rover Way, then walked by Pengam Green, where there were ponies wandering and grazing. Rover Way is one of Cardiff’s Gypsy and Traveller residential sites with about 20 pitches – there is a need for over 100 – and their horses and ponies were tethered on parts of the verges, moving over very politely to let us pass.
Now the light was almost gone, it was past four, and we headed for the lights of a supermarket, thankful to also find a bus stop and a Sunday bus due in five minutes. It went through Tremorfa and saved us from walking Rover Way in the dark. We had completed more of the coast from Ocean Way to the Rhymney River.