Castlemartin Firing Range in 19 clicks

Aye travellers!

The Tour de Wales goes on! As promised we are back on track again and ready to report about our adventures during the summer. Good news is that November is almost finished and we will be greeting the much more people-friendly December in less than a week! Christmas spirit, better weather and lots of festive markets to go to! We cannot wait to visit the Victorian Fayre in Worcester, and this year we are also planning to see the German Market in Birmingham. As usual, so much to do, so much to see and so little time – oh well, the life of a cultural blogger is a difficult one. Choosing between the places to go can be a heart-breaking task indeed J

Have you missed previous stops on or tour around Wales? Use the links below to see where we have been before:

Ogmore-by-Sea Review Part 1: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/one-castle-a-day-ogmore-by-sea/
Ogmore-by-Sea Review Part 2: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/one-castle-a-day-ogmore-by-sea-part-two/
Saundersfoot in 20 clicks: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/saundersfoot-in-20-clicks/
Barrafundle Bay in 30 clicks: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/barafundle-bay-in-30-clicks/
Broadhaven South in 27 clicks: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/broadhaven-south-in-27-clicks/
St Govan’s Chapel: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/one-castle-a-day-st-govans-chapel/

All right, our last destination was the St Govan’s Chapel – beautiful, tiny place of worship near the village of Bosherton. The chapel is located at Castlemartin Fining Range, a piece of land now owned by Ministry of Defense that once belonged to the posh landowners, the Earls of Cawdor. Castlemartin is worth visiting for its breathtaking sights and truly impressive limestone cliffs but it also has a rich history. Interested? Follow us!

Have you ever wondered where the name Castlemartin came from? If you think it’s a combination of two words “castle” and “martin”, you are very close. The village built on a sandstone peninsula was founded around 5th or 6th century. It had an impressive motte-and bailey castle erected by Norman and Scandinavian invaders in the 11th century and large farms that supplied food for local residents and Marcher Lords. The castle didn’t survive to our times but the remains can be seen even today. They are quite extensive and measure 70m x 60m. Well preserved remains of a ring-bank and remnants of the outer ditch can also be located. Amateur archaeologists will be delighted to know that Normans have used foundation of an earlier building to create the castle, probably an Iron Age Roman fort.

Excellent photographs of the castle remains can be found here:

http://map.coflein.gov.uk/index.php?action=do_details&numlink=305415&cache_name=cG5tcnNuYW1lLGhhZm9kIGNvcHBlcndvcmtzX3NlYXJjaHR5cGUsYWR2YW5jZWQ

The village grew steadily around the castle and in the 13th century a Catholic church dedicated to St Martin has been added to the community. Within few years, the village became known as the Martel Castell, the Castle of St Martin, or Castlemartin for short. The church is still standing and has been renovated in the 19th century thanks to the generous donations by the Cawdor family. Today the parish is known as St Michael and All Angels. There is a different church also known as St Michael and All Angels in Stackpole. In Wales things just cannot be simple! We haven’t seen the churches yet, but next time we are in Pembroke, Rita is going to photograph them from every angle. You have her word for that.

Once again, please visit the website of Royal Commission on the ancient and historical monuments of Wales. This excellent site offers the best and most accurate information on almost any listed building in Pembrokshire:
http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/308940/details/ST+MICHAEL’S+CHURCH,+CASTLEMARTIN/

Castlemartin nowadays is a sleepy village that offers good BB accommodation to tourists and climbing enthusiasts. It may not be impressive but not many people realize that it is one of few remaining places in Wales that has been entirely English-speaking for the last 900 years or more.

We have mentioned in our previous entry that Castlemartin Training Range has been established in 1939, just before the start of WW2 as a place where the British Army and fleet could train undetected. This remote coastal location was perfect for this goal and Ministry of Defense used every possible legal trick to take the land away from the noble family. The range covers 2,390 hectares and 12 nautical miles off the coast. It consists of two parts: Range East available to tourists (this is where St Govan’s Chapel is located) and Range West that is closed off to visitors and you need a special permission to enter. The permission is granted quite often these days and many organized climbing groups come here to conquer some of the most impressive limestone walls. We have seen several red metal climbing poles on Range East but we didn’t have the chance to see the climbers in action. Rita is secretly planning to team up with some local climbing expedition and go with them to take some pictures – we tell you it will be some truly magnificent photo-session. If you’d like to enter Range West, be prepared for a 40 minute military style briefing about security and safety! Here’s another very interested link and several times when the briefing will be held in 2015: https://www.thebmc.co.uk

Range West is known for its wonderful fauna (you can spot rare wild orchids there as well) but Range East is also very interesting. There is an old training ground used by military personnel, tanks and vehicles during the war, Cold War helicopter landing pads made out of stone, antishelters, bunkers and even small rail tracks for heavy cannons. Urban legends mention that several secret weapons were tested in those shelters but the data is classified and nobody knows anything for sure. Our guide has mentioned several big transmitters and radars being created here in 1950’s and 1960 but majority of them went out of use before our birth and what remains are the stone pillars and bare foundations. Those who like reading about military equipment will be delighted to know that Range East is considered unique and is preserved for its historical and educational value. An excellent article about the can be found here: http://content.yudu.com/Library/A1qcir/PembrokeshireMilitar/resources/15.htm

Here are our favourites pictures from the Castlemartin Range tour:

1.

Castlemartin Range

Castlemartin Range

2.

View from the top

View from the top

3.

Castlemartin Range near the St Gowan's Chapel

Castlemartin Range near the St Gowan’s Chapel

4.

High Cliffs

High Cliffs

5.

Beach below with a sharp rock knowns as The Beacon or The Lighthouse

Beach below with a sharp rock known as The Beacon or The Lighthouse

6.

Closer look at The Beacon

Closer look at The Beacon

7.

Large beach at the other side of the Range

Large stone beach at the other side of the Range

8.

Red climbing post near the old bunkers

Red climbing post near the old bunkers

9.

Stone circles - they were used as a practice targets for military planes

Stone circles – they were used as a practice targets for military planes

10.

Closer look at the circles, this one was made in early 1960's

Closer look at the circles, this one was made in early 1960’s

11.

Don't look down!

Don’t look down!

12.

Old bunkers from The Cold War era are not longer used by the military and their entrances have been bricked up.

Old bunkers from Cold War era are not longer used by the military and their entrances have been bricked up.

13.

Castlemartin Range information board for the tourists. The range is closed for 44 weeks a year

Castlemartin Range information board for the tourists. The range is closed for 44 weeks a year

14.

Long ravine with derelict train tracks

Long ravine with derelict train tracks

15.

Old navigation station is actually still operational and is being used to monitor the weather conditions alongside the Pembroke coast

Old navigation station is actually still operational and is being used to monitor the weather conditions alongside the Pembroke coast

16.

Rockly plateau is now home to hundreds of rabbits

Rocky plateau is now home to hundreds of rabbits

17.

The magnificient coastline looks splendid in the sun

The magnificent coastline looks splendid in the sun

18.

Cracked stone surface crates mini lakes and rock pools

Cracked stone surface crates mini lakes and rock pools

19.

It may look nice and calm, but the ocean is very dangerous around the range with many hidden vortexes and strong currents

It may look nice and calm, but the ocean is very dangerous around the range with many hidden vortexes and strong currents

You want to know more? Look no further, we have selected the best websites to give you more information about the subject:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castlemartin_Training_Area
http://www.milfordmarina.com/castlemartin-range-1/
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/castlemartin-firing-notice–2

Click to access Castlemartin.pdf


https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/43344/dte_info_leaflet_pembroke.pdf
http://www.pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk/website/m/enjoy/mEnjoy00.asp?a=106

http://cy.nationaltrail.co.uk/pembrokeshire-coast-path/blog/national-trail-officers-survey-7-castlemartin-range-trail

And if you meed something extra: A great info about the range – print the map if you want to discover all roads and walking trails – castlemartin_range_trail

We are leaving Castlemartin behind and moving onto something bigger and better (in our humble opinion of course). The last stop on our Tour de Wales will be the lovely town of Pembroke. If you haven’t seen the grand castle there, you haven’t seen the beauty and splendor of medieval Wales!

Return soon
XXX
Rita and Malicia Dabrowicz

One castle a day – Ogmore-By-Sea part two

Ahoy!

Welcome back again!

Thank you kindly for returning back so soon! We are thrilled that so many people have read the first part of our review from the trip to Ogmore-by-Sea! It seems that our column, One Castle a day, generates a lot of traffic for our little blog. It is a cheering thought that we are not the only ones who love history, local legends and visiting all the strange places! If you have missed the previous entry, here’s the link to the article:
https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/one-castle-a-day-ogmore-by-sea/

Castell Ogwr

Castell Ogwr

Ogmore Castle photographed from the entrance

Ogmore Castle photographed from the entrance

Today, we will try to interest our readers in Ogmore Castle, a tiny ruined Norman fortress that is sadly overlooked by tourists. It is a truly romantic place and we cannot think of a reason why, it doesn’t get much coverage. When we started researching the topic in preparation for this entry, we couldn’t find many historical facts and a trip to local library was necessary to be able to learn more. Yet, our efforts were rewarded and we will be happy to share the knowledge we have gained!

Main ruined wall  and the former courtyard

Main ruined wall and the former courtyard

Main wall - the biggest original fragment of the castle still standing

Main wall – the biggest original fragment of the castle still standing

Compared to the castles we have seen in the past, Ogmore Castle may not look as impressive or grand. Indeed, it has been constructed not as a seat for the king or a local lord, but simply as a protective fortress overlooking the newly conquered lands. We don’t know when exactly the castle has been built, but the chronicles mention that “Ogor Castelle” was being completed sometime around 1106. An earlier fort or fortified manor might have existed before the castle, as the crossing between River Ogmore and River Ewenny was an important strategic point and a trade route for the Welsh tribes since at least the 10th century.

The Keep

The Keep

Stone Pillar located in the middle of the courtyard. There is an recorded information about the castle installed nearby

Stone Pillar located in the middle of the courtyard. There is an recorded information about the castle installed nearby

Known to the Welsh as Castell Ogwr, Ogmore Castle played an important part in a defensive line against the Welsh attack on barely established Norman domain in Glamorgan Vale. Along with two other fortresses, Coity Castle and Newcastle Castle in Bridgend, Ogmore served as a fortified border separating the Welsh from Norman invaders. Creation of such barrier was essential – the political situation of the region was complicated after the major Norman victory and successful campaign of Robert Fitzhamon in 1075.

Lower part of the castle

Lower part of the castle

Entrance to lower castle in greater details

Entrance to lower castle in greater details

This additional building  was probably a prison. After torrential rains, it is filled with water

This additional building was probably a prison. After torrential rains, it is filled with water

To understand why Ogmore Castle was so vital to Normans, we need to tell you more about Robert Fitzhamon himself and his connections at the royal court in London. Robert was a proud grandchild of Hamon Dentatus, a powerful noble man, holder of many titles and lands in Normandy. He didn’t fight at the battle of Hastings and is not mentioned in Doomsday book, but several of his close relatives are. Robert probably arrived to England after 1066, after being called by the new king – William the Conqueror. The reason for his arrival is not certain, but Robert quickly has been dispatched deep into Wales, continuing William’s policy of conquest and unification of the British Isles. His skills and bravery quickly won him the respect of other knights and by 1075 Robert won several battles in Glamorgan area, successfully driving the Welsh army away. In recognition for his service, Fitzhamon was named the first Lord of Glamorgan.  By 1088, Robert’s position was so strong that he has been chosen as an adviser of William Rufus (Wiliam the Red), William the Conqueror’s son in his struggles against his older brother Robert Curthose. The events known now as Rebellion of 1088 had serious consequences: Robert Curthose has not been successful in claiming the English throne and Wiliam Rufus became the most powerful ruler in Europe, not only being crowned the King of England but also taking much power away from Robert in Normandy.  Fitzhamon found himself working for the richest ruler in the world and his faithful service has been rewarded greatly  – he received the feudal barony of Gloucester with over 200 fortified manors. As baron, Robert Fitzhamon became the most powerful of the Marcher Lords and continued his conquest of Southern Wales until his death in 1107. A popular legend mentions Robert and his Twelve Knights of Glamorgan winning numerous battles against the Welsh royalty and cunningly gaining the Cardiff Castle for themselves. You can learn more about their heroic deeds here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_Knights_of_Glamorgan

The lower castle as seen from the side of the stepping stones

The lower castle as seen from the side of the stepping stones

Another look at the castle from the stepping stones

Another look at the castle from the stepping stones

Ogmore Castle from the parking (a bit distant picture!)

Ogmore Castle from the parking (a bit distant picture!)

According to the legend, one of the Glamorgan Knights was named Sir William de Londres (also known as William of London) and he was given the Ogmore province to govern. At first Williams was pleased with Fitzhamon decision as he found Ogmore to be very beautiful and fertile land. However, he soon realized the whole area was under constant attack from the Welsh and was considered the most dangerous to rule. To keep his borders intact, William constructed “Ogmore triangle” – three castles and Ewanny Priory in the middle. All buildings have been given thick stone walls and natural protection provided by hills and rivers.

Stepping stones  just before the rainfall

Stepping stones just before the rainfall

And the grazing flock not bothered by flocks of tourists

And the grazing flock not bothered by flocks of tourists

Ogmore Castle has been captured only once during the Welsh attack in 1116. William de Londres had to abandon it for a short period of time, but his butler, Arnold led the defense and managed to get the castle back with minimal loss of life. He was later knighted and received the castle and manor of Dunraven as reward.

Ogmore Castle has been rebuild several times. The first person to change the original structure of the building was Maurice de Londres, William’s eldest son, who created an oblong keep, now the highest surviving building and the oldest  keep in Glamorgan. A wooden palisade was replaced by a new stone wall in 1200 and a new bailey has been added later. By the 14th century, the castle enclosed an area of 164 feet (50 m) in length by 115 feet (35 m) in width with well designed courtyard,  additional private buildings, administrative center, a court house and elaborate two story high gateway. Lise Hull writes in her book “Britain’s Medieval Castles” that despite rather basic exterior (consisting of “irregularly shaped field stones, glacial pebbles, Lias limestone slabs held with brown mortar), the interior of the castle was modern and quite luxurious. The castle had round-headed windows decorated with Sutton stone ashlar that was considered uncommon in the 12th century, a great hall with kitchen and an ornate fire place on the first floor, a latrine tower and private chambers on second floor equipped with large garderobes (added roughly 100 years later). Castle rooms were decorated by paintings and tapestries. Sadly, the ruins we can see today are showing only a fragment of the original castle  –  three walls, the keep and some external buildings have survived.

Main entrance to the castle and the wooden bridge above dry motte

Main entrance to the castle and the wooden bridge above dry motte

This arch is the  only fragment remaining today from the original two story gatehouse

This arch is the only fragment remaining today from the original two story gatehouse

Two local legends are connected with Ogmore Castle. We have mentioned the first one in previous entry, but by mistake we called the haunted spirit a Gray Lady. Her true name is Y Ladi Wen (“the White Lady”) and she can be seen around the stepping stones looking for her lost treasures. The other legend is quite interesting and it is worth writing about.

After losing the Ogmore Castle to the Welsh (and then getting it back thanks to the actions of Arnold Butler), Maurice de Londres swore revenge. Each Welshmen captured in the woods belonging to the Norman nobles was to be tortured and then sentenced to death.  One day, during a hunting party, Maurice’s knights found a Welsh poacher aiming at a stag with his arrow. Caught in the act, the proud Welshman was brought to the court at Ogmore to meet his destiny. Entire castle came to the yard to witness the torture and the execution of a mysterious stranger, but despite pain, the young man would not scream or beg for mercy. He introduce himself as a Welsh prince and admitted that hunger suffered by his people forced him to hunt in the forest. The prince refused to apologize, blaming the Norman invaders for the fate of his people. His proud speech and bravery impressed Maurice’s daughter so much that she pleaded with her father for the life of the Welshman to be saved. It was her birthday as well and she wanted no gifts or jewellery, only the prince to be spared. Her father agreed, the Welsh prince would live yet the girl pressed  for more. She begged her father to give the Welsh people a land where they could hunt freely. De Longres wasn’t pleased with such request but yet again he complied, but under one condition. The land given to the Welsh was to be as big as  the distance his daughter would walk barefoot from the moment until the sundown. The girl was offered no shoes and she was to set on her journey at once. The girl didn’t think twice – she left the castle and traveled for miles and miles, over hills and valleys. She stepped on a rock injuring herself but she  would not stop, she kept on going until she reached the sea. Two soldiers followed her and reported to her father how far she went. On the next morning, the Welsh prince has been set free and was told  about the girl’s sacrifice. The distance she covered was given to Welsh as promised and the prince could return home. The girl and the prince have never met again, but her kind deed was known among the Welsh tribes. The beach the girl arrived at is now called Southerndown and the land is known as the Southerndown Common. It has belonged to the public ever since.

Place to rest

Place to rest

Another look at the main wall   - take a look at the  well designed windows

Another look at the main wall – take a look at the well designed windows

You can still see the signs where the second floor once was!

You can still see the signs where the second floor once was!

Southerndown is a popular beach near Ogmore-by-Sea and we plan to visit it next time we go there. Doctor Who fans will recognize it as Bad Wold Bay from “Doomsday”, the place where the 10th Doctor and Rose Tyler said their final goodbye’s.

Additional information about the castle can be found here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogmore_Castle
http://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=498
http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/ogmorecastle/?lang=en
http://www.tipiwales.co.uk/thestoryofogmore.html
http://www.castlewales.com/ogmore.html

Ogmore Castle had  long and thick walls protecting the castle against the Welshmen

Ogmore Castle had long and thick walls protecting the castle against the Welshmen

Once impenetrable, the castle walls are now full of holes and  "back  entrances"

Once impenetrable, the castle walls are now full of holes and “back entrances”

And we are done! We are leaving the beautiful Ogmore behind us and we are moving on to Saundersfoot! Come back in a few days time, our next entry is going to be amazing!

Have a great evening,

lots of xxxx
Rita and Mal D.

One castle a day – Ogmore-By-Sea

Bore-Da Dear Readers!!

We cannot believe that the lovely autumn is finally over. The long, sunny days are now gone and this past week we had a truly winter weather. Of course, the cold doesn’t affect Malicia, as she is living on a beautifully warm Mediterranean island, but Rita had to put a warmer underwear on not to freeze off her backside. Ah the glorious November weather in the rainy United Kingdom. No worries, we refuse to be affected by the sudden temperature drop and we don’t plan to hibernate for the next 6 months. Instead, we have decided to survive the dark days of winter by remembering all those fascinating places we have seen this year. Be prepared to visit some of the most breath-taking sites in West Midlands, historical buildings and wild beaches in Wales with us!

Welcome to the beautiful Ogmore-by-Sea

Welcome to the beautiful Ogmore-by-Sea

To be very honest with you – this year has been all about Wales. We have traveled to Cardiff to see the premiere of Doctor Who Season 8 at St. David’s Hall; we went to Doctor Who Experience, discovered the Cardiff Rift and newly redeveloped Cardiff Bay. We visited the coastal town resorts of Sandersfoot, Tenby, Pembroke and many others. Today, we will start with a small coastal gem named Ogmore-by-Sea that sadly is usually overlooked by tourists and tour guides. It is hard to understand why that happens. Ogmore is beautifully situated, has a large sandy beach that is perfect for swimming and surfing, dramatic coastline and is not crowded at all, even in the high season. You can get there from Cardiff under 15 minutes – this is a perfect place for a family holiday that doesn’t get the tourist traffic it deserves.

Ogmore Beach

Ogmore Beach

There is a lot to do in Ogmore. The village has a small medieval ruined castle located in the same heart of the community, an established riding school well known for its long beach horseback rides, ancient stepping stones allowing the tourists to get across the river and great restaurant called “Pelican in her Piety”.  You don’t have to worry about booking a place to stay for the night – several good quality bed and breakfasts and houses to rent are available all year long.  You can turn long weekend into an affordable mini holidays for the entire family.

The beach at Ogmore has a sandy part but majority of the coast is covered by stones

The beach at Ogmore has a sandy part but majority of the coast is covered by stones

The weather can be  very unpredictable  - the sunshine is quickly followed by rain

The weather can be very unpredictable – the sunshine is quickly followed by rain

One word of advice though. Ogmore is what we call a one street town. All attractions the village has to offer, rented accommodations, pubs, castle, riding school and the beach are located quite far from each other. To explain it better: the castle and riding school are located in the same heart of the village. River Ogmore estuary and picnic areas with picturesque walking trails are on the outskirts near water plant facility. The beach is situated about a mile outside the village. Everything is located along one very busy road that runs through the entire area. You will not find any sidewalk or even a safe public path to move between the places worth seeing. We are discouraging anyone from walking along the road, you will have to drive and look for a free parking space.

The stones from the beach are  a popular paving materials - many drives in the village are paved with them

The stones from the beach are a popular paving materials – many drives in the village are paved with them

The stones can serve as  house decorations as well - they look truly elegant in the bathroom (we have a marine theme)

The stones can serve as house decorations as well – they look truly elegant in the bathroom (we have a marine theme)

We have been to Ogmore many times in the past and almost every single time we are witnessing some sort of traffic incident. The drivers (locals and tourists) are racing through the village at about 70 m/per hour without thinking about pedestrians and animals. The number of cars that are literally thrown out of the road into the private drives is simply scary. During our last visit, we have seen three drivers losing control of their vehicles and nearly crushing into sheep or people. Ogmore farmers are using grazing techniques to feed sheep and horses and keep the local hills well cultivated. The animals roam freely and sometimes the flock decides to move to the other side of the road quite unexpectedly. If you don’t mind traveling short distances to see different parts of the same village (it is still worth it) please visit Ogmore. In other case, consider taking your kids to Doctor Who Experience or to Barry Island.

This green fields are the flooding plains for the River Ogmore. At the high tide, the plains located near the estuary, are completely covered by water

Those green fields are the flooding plains for the River Ogmore. At the high tide, the plains located near the estuary, are completely covered by water

The constant tides have left a permanent scars  along the flooding fields

The constant tides have left a permanent scars along the flooding fields

Now, we have complained a lot, but in reality, Ogmore is pretty as a picture. Once you find a good parking space and you are moving far from the roads, you are as safe as rich person’s money on a Swiss account. Ogmore-by-Sea is located in the Vale of Glamorgan, one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. The entire village, hills, beach, coastline, Merthyr Mawr Sand Dunes, churches and even the old bridges are considered an area of special scientific interest and are protected. Don’t be surprised if you met local researchers or biologists taking samples of water, soil or flowers – such sights are considered pretty normal around here. Those who come to Ogmore quite regularly can tell you which parts of the beach/sand dunes would be off limits to the public during the research. We have seen a group of  Glamorgan University students collecting data about the marine life from the rocks and it was pretty epic. All the scared students running up and down the beach with probes and reporting to their professor – it felt so good to watch them work hard while we were sun bathing 🙂 Life is not fair kids!

River Ogmore estuary - the currents are dangerously strong, be careful when crossing!

River Ogmore estuary – the currents are dangerously strong, be careful when crossing!

Flooding plains turning into grass sand dunes

Flooding plains turning into grass sand dunes

The Welsh name for Ogmore-by-Sea, Aberogwr, means the Mouth of River Ogmore. The river Ogmore flows into the sea just outside of the village creating a wide estuary. It may look like a shallow place to cross to the other side (the dunes are perfect for a long walk), but be careful, the water currents are very strong here and we had to give up in the middle of our journey. The water is very cold even at the height of summer and the currents  go in all directions. They can sweep an adult man off his feet! Walking along the estuary is hard and we recommend a pair of  sturdy shoes for the excursion. Don’t ask what happened to Rita’s pair of sandals after a short distance. Spare yourself the horrors of destroying your favorite summer shoes and go for Karrimors. Your feet will thank you, believe us!

This is not Broadchurch - the coastal rocks at Ogmore are as impressive as those in Dorset

This is not Broadchurch – the coastal rocks at Ogmore are as impressive as those in Dorset

You will need a pair of sturdy shoes to walk around here!

You will need a pair of sturdy shoes to walk around here!

Now, for such a big history freaks like us, it wouldn’t be fun to visit if Ogmore-by-Sea was just another pretty seaside tourist destination without any historical background or at least a legend to follow. Luckily the town has an ruined castle to admire and a terrible reputation! Sounds interesting? Delightful – we will take a closer look at the castle in another entry, but today we will try to discover more about the fascinating caves on the beach, the stepping stones near the castle and finally learn more about the very unusual name behind the local pub. Off we go!

Ogmore-by-Sea is a favourite swimming spot for  surfers and labladors

Ogmore-by-Sea is a favorite swimming spot for surfers and Labradors

Strong Atlantic winds can be a bit dangerous but the waves are spectacular

Strong Atlantic winds can be a bit dangerous but the waves are spectacular

If you think that Ogmore-By-Sea inherited its name from Ogmore river, then you are mistaken. The Welsh word “Og” means a cave and it’s perfect for a location filled by sharp cliffs and dramatic coastline with shallow rocks, pointy edges and hundreds of caves and coves all over. The caves are now a major tourist attractions drawing crowds of climbers and kids who love to play hide and seek among the maze of stone corridors and tight passages. Since the Middle Ages, Ogmore has been known as a graveyard for ships, a place where strong Atlantic winds and shallow waters were especially dangerous. According to popular local legend, the Ogmore River and its estuary were an important water trade route, allowing the goods to be transported from Bristol and other cities.  To deploy the goods, the ships had to come deep into the bay, as close to the shore as it was possible. If they were successful, the cargo would be then loaded into small boats and taken to the shore. To ensure the safety of such operation, a castle has been built to scare off the pirates and robbers. Unfortunately, the allure of wealth was so strong that the entire area soon was plagued by organized crime. The castle defenders were powerless against the thieves who would put up lanterns on the cliffs at night, tricking ships into believing they were showing a safe passage to the shore. Many ships crashed against the Tusker Rock (also known as Ynys Twsgr, a massive reef about two miles off shore from Ogmore visible only at the low tide) and many people lost their lives. Each victory was well celebrated by the bandits – they would store all stolen riches inside the caves, sit around the campfires, drink and sing loudly. The winds would lift their songs for miles and their voices would ring in the silence of the night even in the village.

Majestic overview of the beach

Majestic overview of the beach

The villagers were terrified and prayed for help. Their prayers have been listened to one morning when a group of pirates woke up after another raid only to find out that the way our of the cave have disappeared, leaving them stranded inside, with almost no air and plenty of gold. For the first time in their lives, the robbers understood the error of their ways and begged the God to be merciful. They promised to abandon their shameful profession and to protect the shores and its inhabitants. God allowed them to leave and the robbers remained true to their word – some of them become monks and traveled all over the Wales preaching the glory of God, some joined the Ogmore castle defense and fought against their former companions and others settled in the village earning their keep in an honest way. The last ship was wrecked near Ogmore on April 23, 1947 claiming the lives of 40 crew members and the rescuers.

The coastline rocks are still very impressive

The coastline rocks are still very impressive

Another look at the rocks - they look beautiful and wild, the pictures don't do them justice

Another look at the rocks – they look beautiful and wild, the pictures don’t do them justice

There is little historical evidence of organized shipwrecking at Ogmore but the tale of plundering and redemption is very vivid, especially if you hear it sitting on the sand surrounded by ancient caves. What we found truly unique about the lime rocks is that they seem to be alive! The Carboniferous limestones are covered in fossils and moussels and they look incredibly beautiful. You can read more about the geological structure of Ogmore at: http://www.swga.org.uk/pdf/ogmore.pdf

Lime stones covered by sea weed and fossils

Lime stones covered by sea weed and fossils

Fans of Pirates of the Caribbean series will be delighted to know that there is also a cave known as Davy Jones Locker. You can visit it, but you’d need a professional climbing equipment: http://www.southwalesmountaineering.org.uk/wiki/Davy_Jones%27_Locker_and_the_Sea_Caves

Another interesting legend connected with Ogmore-by-Sea is the tale of two lovers living on the opposite sides of River Ewenny. Ewenny is a tributary of River Ogmore and flows just behind the Ogmore castle.  The lovers were able to see each other only when the tide on the river was low and the separation took a huge toll on the love-struck youngsters. When the girl fell ill, the boy was not able to see her for many days and  became very worried. According to tradition, he asked his fellow villagers for help and together they created a stone pathway to the other side. The couple was reunited and soon after the whole village was celebrating their union in marriage.

People crossing the Ewenny river using the ancient stepping stones

People crossing the Ewenny river using the ancient stepping stones

There is also a different version of this legend. The stepping stones were created for a wealthy lady, an occupant of the Ogmore Castle. Her riches were so great, she had to hide her possessions in a secret storage outside of the castle walls as she was running out of places in the treasure vaults. She would visit the storage every night to try on her priceless jewelery and admire her reflection. One fateful evening returning home, she slipped and fell into the dark waters. The secret storage has never been found but the gray lady is still protecting the gold. Some travelers have seen her standing on the shore looking in the direction of grass sand dunes. Maybe the treasure is hidden there? Who knows? The stepping stones were probably placed across the river around 11th of 12th century and originally there were 52 stones. Today the number is smaller but you can still reach the other side without getting wet. The last place we would like to mention in this entry is the pub – Pelican in her Piety. This traditional English pub has a very unusual name! It serves an excellent food and each time we arrive in Ogmore, we treat ourselves to a splendid meal.  The interior is beautiful – you can relax in front of a huge fireplace with real logs and dry off your clothes if you got caught in a downpour like we did! The weather in Wales can be moody as a spoiled Persian kitten, we tell you!

Pelican in Her Piety

Pelican in Her Piety

The pub has been in operation for more than 250 years, maybe even more. From the beginning it was connected to the nearby Ewenny Priory, Benedictine abbey founded by either William Londres, lord of Ogmore Castle or by Arnold le Boteler, a Norman knight in service of William. The owners are not sure but before the dissolution of monasteries in 1535, the building was probably used as a food storage for the Benedictine monks. After establishing the Chrurch of England and separation from Rome, the monastery buildings were sold into private hands. Ewenny Priory along with all possessions were purchased by sir Edward Carne in 1546 who took the ancient Christian symbol of a pelican feeding her young with her own blood as his personal coat of arms. In 1741 the pub was passed as a martial gift to Tubervilles Family and the detailed history of the place is now written down on place-mats. You will never be bored again while waiting for your order to arrive!

There is no need to order side dishes - the portions are epic!

There is no need to order side dishes – the portions are epic!

Ewenny Priory on CADW: http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/ewennypriory/?lang=en
Pelican in her Piety official website: http://www.pelicanpub.co.uk
Pelican on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Pelican-in-her-Piety/153241731375609
Pelican on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pelicanogmore

There are few other things worth mentioning. Ogmore is home to Farm Riding Centre, a well known horse riding school that organizes wildly popular two hour treks along the beach, and Ogmore Farm Tea Room, a cozy nice place that serves delicious cheesecake with pineapple and berries. They also have a cat statue  near the entrance!

Ogmore Farm TeaRooms

Ogmore Farm TeaRooms

Official website for the school: http://www.rideonthebeach.co.uk
Trip Advisor entry for the Tearooms: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g186458-d3357524-Reviews-Ogmore_Farm_Tearooms-Bridgend_Vale_of_Glamorgan_Southern_Wales_Wales.html

Few interesting links if you still want to know more:
Please return again shortly as we will go and finally pay a visit to the romantic ruined castle!
Have a great day!!
Rita + Mal Dabrowicz
P.S.

The second installment about Ogmore Castle can be now found at:

https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/one-castle-a-day-ogmore-by-sea-part-two/