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/

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