Photographing the Glamorgan Heritage Coast

Nash Point, Glamorgan, Wales, UK

Nash Point

The Glamorgan Heritage Coast stretches from Ogmore-by-Sea in the west to Nash Point in the east. The closest town of any size is Llantwit Major. It’s hard to believe the centre of Cardiff is just 20 miles away. The geology and landscape along this stretch is both interesting and dramatic. At Dunraven Bay and Nash Point the rock is conspicuously stratified, and flat pavements of eroded bedding planes reach out from the base of the cliffs towards the sea.

Cliffs east of Dunraven Bay, Glamorgan, and Nash Point, showing tilted bedding planes and hanging valleys. Stitched panoramic image.

Cliffs east of Dunraven Bay looking towards Nash Point, showing tilted bedding planes and hanging valleys.  This and the previous panorama are created from several stitched images.

Carboniferous limestone pavement and cliff showing sedementary Jurassic sandstone bedding planes. Dunraven Bay, Glamorgan

Carboniferous limestone pavement and cliff showing sedementary Jurassic sandstone bedding planes. Dunraven Bay

Sedimentary rocks, consisting of Carboniferous limestone overlaid with Jurassic sandstone. Southerndown bedding planes, Dunraven Bay, Glamorgan

Sedimentary rocks, consisting of Carboniferous limestone overlaid with Jurassic sandstone. Southerndown bedding planes, Dunraven Bay

There is much to photograph when conditions are suitable: ideally, the tide needs to be out; the sun needs to shine; and the beaches need to be relatively free from people. Bringing all these conditions together is not easy but cold, bright, winter days seem best. And, let’s face it, it would be churlish to complain about a few other people enjoying these beautiful sections of coast; just avoid the height of summer if you want the place (almost) to yourself.

Horizontal bedding planes exposed on a cliff at Nash Point, Glamorgan.

Horizontal bedding planes exposed on a cliff at Nash Point.

The landscape lends itself to panoramic images, and to long exposures showing the encroaching waves lapping around the rocks. When the sun is low in the sky the pavement-like bedding planes are picked out most easily. Details can be found in the shapes of weathered rocks, and in the strange reefs formed by a polychaete worm, Sabellaria alveolata, otherwise known as the Honeycomb Worm. These are only visible at low tide. More exposed shore-life is restricted to species that can cling on tenaciously in the face of the battering seas, like limpets and barnacles, or jam themselves into crevices in the rocks, such as Periwinkles, Top Shells and Dog Whelks. A very rare purple form of the Dog Whelk is found here; it is known from only a few places in the world. The large rocks towards the top of the beach often contain fossil bivalves, Gryphaea, otherwise known as “Devils Toenails”, and ammonites.

Fossil bivalves of the genus Gryphaea, embedded in carboniferous limestone rock. Dunraven Bay, Glamorgan

Fossil bivalves of the genus Gryphaea, embedded in carboniferous limestone rock. Dunraven Bay

Limestone pavement at Dunraven Bay, Glamorgan, with part of a fossil ammonite embedded.

Part of the pavement at Dunraven Bay with a segment of a fossil ammonite embedded.

Part of a colony of Honeycomb Worms, Sabellaria alveolata, a reef-forming polychaete worm, exposed at low tide. Nash Point, Glamorgan, Wales, UK. The tubes are formed from sand grains and shell fragments.

Part of a colony of Honeycomb Worms, Sabellaria alveolata, a reef-forming polychaete worm, exposed at low tide at Nash Point. The tubes are formed from sand grains and shell fragments.

Rare purple form of Dog Whelk, Nucella lapillus, on the shore at Nash Point, Glamorgan.

The very rare purple form of Dog Whelk, Nucella lapillus, on the shore at Nash Point. (Focus-stacked image)

My experience of the area is necessarily limited, having only moved to South Wales quite recently, but the three or four visits I have made so far have convinced me that there is plenty of scope for the photographer and I will certainly return as often as possible.

Limestone pavement at Dunraven Bay, Glamorgan

Visitors enjoy the dying rays of the sun as it grazes the limestone pavement on a winter’s afternoon at Dunraven Bay.

 

 

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