Apr 15, 2015

Welsh Week: Welsh Waters Run Deep by Chloe Hammond

Welsh Waters Run Deep

By Chloe Hammond

When I was seven my mother succeed in her ambition to move her family to land of her father’s birth; he was born in mid Wales, in Machynlleth, but we moved to the Swansea Valleys. The first memory I have of Wales is the sea lapping the lips of that ‘pretty, shitty city’, Swansea. My most vivid childhood memories are doggy padding gamely in the icy waters off the Gower Coast, in tiny hidden coves like Port Eynon, until I became too blue with cold to move anymore. Then it would be time to crunch sandy sandwiches, and sip salty drinks, everything infested by the beach, no matter how we tried to protect the picnic.
Later we moved up to Kidwelly, where I was spoilt by the spectacular seven mile stretch of smooth sand at Cefn Cidan, contrasting so strongly to the deep, dark green of the fir forests behind. The land there rocks to the rhythms of the tides; a high tide in summer will still cause floods all the way up the valley. I hadn’t considered how much my psyche relied on the soothing sight of empty acres of sea water, like a dark mirror on a calm winter’s day, or the tumultus lashings of stormy waves against a shore.
When I moved to Pontypridd to study Behavioural Sciences and Creative Writing, I found myself unanchored, and I didn’t know why. It was only when my best friend passed her driving test that we could escape to the coast whenever we wanted. We scampered over Merthyr Mawr, burning all the skin off our feet in the white hot sand dunes, and gazed for endless hours at the shockingly elemental rock shore at Ogmore. I was carried off Llantwit Major’s boulder beach by ambulance men, after I slipped and split my knee open. The Welsh Coast line repaired my soul even while it nibbled my body, and eased my late teenage angst.
After graduation I lived in salty, malty Cardiff, and escaped to the docks on nights out, staying later than taxi drivers would come down to pick up fares, so friendly bar staff would have to see us safely home. After I met my husband he took me to the Barry Island for the first time, and I fell in love with Whitmore Bay’s faded, tacky glory. Sat on the walk gazing out to sea we decided to move in together, in Barry. Living here I discovered the aching beauty of hidden Jackson’s Bay, the Knap’s contrasting sand and pebbled sea-sides, and the fossilled horse shoe of the Bendricks, as well as Porthkerry Park, rambling down to its rugged beach of sea smoothed stones.
There really is a beach for every mood, whether you want the cheerfully clashing noises and colours of the fair on the Island, or the quiet contemplation afforded by picking your way over some of the pebbles and squatting, wrapped against the wind that will whip you, as you crouch alone and escape the world for a while on the Cold Knap. 

I’m not the only one to appreciate Barry’s boisterous, multi-faceted charms, not so long after we moved her Ruth Jones and James Corden set wincingly accurate Gavin and Stacey here, and then the producers of Being Human brought their less that human cast to settle here too, to our house no less. Several fun summers ensued, mingling with cast and crew while they filmed at ‘Honolulu Heights’
When I write, I sit at a desk that allows me a view over the Island out to sea, so I can look out, un-focus my eyes, and loose myself in the timeless movement of the seas moods while I explore my characters and their exploits. We are moving soon, to a pretty, smaller house, with breath-taking views, the width of Barry, right along the coast. I cannot wait to set up my desk, and lose myself into the seductive sea, and my writing. I could never live anywhere where I couldn’t see the sea.


From a distance, it seems like any other bay,
But as the water rolls away;
White-capped waves peeling back
Showing all it’s raw black rock.
A sandless shore is revealed-
Like a wound that hasn’t healed.
Eroded stones, like ragged teeth
Rocks pools, like abscesses beneath,
Catch the weak winter light,
But remain as dark as night.



  1. Wow you have covered some of my old haunts. I love swansea and caswell bay. A trip to BArry Island as a child was one of my favourite days. We often pop down there for a wander. Am glad the fair has opened back up.

    1. I love it there too, Tanya has showed me around and it's lovely! I'm a big fan of the series, I think Ruth Jones is very talented.

  2. Waiting for your new more informative post! Keep up working, you're talented one!

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