It was like that part in a movie where they cut out all sound apart from the music and you watch the characters experience a magical moment in slow motion. It was exactly like that.
Hannah and I didn’t speak for a while as we walked and wandered on the cold, damp sand. Eventually we pointed out how we recognised certain rocks and vantage points (“I’m standing right where David Tennant was 13 years ago!”). We took epic pictures of each other, and then I just had to get a clip of the waves washing away the words “Quite right, too” written in the sand. (Cue the crying.)
It was the most gentle, magical, beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced. I spent so long just being present there, breathing in the air. It was desperately cold, but it didn’t matter that my feet felt like blocks of ice. The place had such a unique beauty that it was entirely captivating.
I still don’t know how long we spent on the beach before we noticed the tide coming in and decided, reluctantly, that we should get going. Hannah started back towards the path that had led us down to the beach while I lingered back, trying to commit every detail to memory.
Suddenly Hannah called, with a hint of panic in her voice: “I don’t see our shoes!”
I rushed over and saw she was right; the water had come up so far that the waves had taken our shoes! Lots of concerned thoughts flashed through my mind in an instant, like having to go all the way back to Cardiff barefoot and losing my brand new shoes.
The area was surrounded by big rocks so I rolled up my pants, got calf-deep in the water, and started looking. I quickly spotted one of Hannah’s tennis shoes floating upside down, trapped between some rocks. “Found one!” I called, starting to feel a little hopeful. I fished the shoe out and found the other one nearby. My shoes were a little harder to find, but find them I did. I still know for certain that it was a miracle from God that I found all of our shoes and was able to retrieve them!
So we had our shoes, but they were sopping wet.
We had planned to hike up the cliff on the edge of the beach, but that was before our shoes had been baptised by the Atlantic Ocean. Hannah still wanted to stick to the plan, but I, for one, was done. I had seen the beach, it had been awesome, and now my legs, feet, and shoes were drenched and I wanted to go home (well, back to the Airbnb we called home, anyway). In the end, I gave in. I could tell that Hannah had really been looking forward to the hike. And besides, how bad could it be?
The answer was bad at first, because I hate wet shoes (and soggy stuff in general) so I had to walk barefoot and avoid sheep poop as best I could. But there was this beautiful field of yellow flowers at the start of the hike, and that cheered me up a bit. Not long after, we came across a wooden door set in an ancient, crumbling wall. It seriously looked like something straight out of medieval times with its dark wood and round black iron handle. There was no sign to tell what it was. Hannah and I debated whether or not we should open it, and of course curiosity won out. We opened the door, and it led into the secret garden.
I had no idea how or why, but there was this beautiful space hidden on the way up this cliff in the middle of nowhere. It was so inexplicable that we thought maybe we’d found Narnia. The space was a lot bigger than I’d thought; there was a beautiful green field, lots of plants, and an old tower in the far corner. (Apparently Hannah’s going to get married there one day.) We felt like we had uncovered some great secret! In reality, though, it’s the remains of a deer park that belonged to Dunraven Castle. Yes, there was actually a castle on the top of the cliff overlooking the bay all the way up until 1963 when it was demolished!
We moved on after moseying around the park. When we came to a wooded area with lots of pointy rocks along the ground I had to put on my shoes, which was a big struggle (Hannah probably still thinks I’m crazy to this day). However, it didn’t take long for me to forget about how uncomfortable my shoes felt when we had some trouble figuring out where we were going. It seemed like that was becoming a theme for the trip. After a couple of wrong turns and “I guess we’ll go this way?” we made it up through the woods and came out through the ruins of Dunraven Castle.
It was an amazing sight looking out over the beach from on top of the cliff. I was instantly glad we had made the hike. After taking some more cool pictures, we started back down the cliff.
Once we got back to the bay, a big issue became apparent: the bus was due in 8 minutes, and we had to walk up the massive hill that had brought us down to the beach.
Thus began the huffing and puffing and “Come on, not much further!” We watched for the bus as we neared the top of the hill. As we finally reached the bus stop across from the pub a couple minutes late we wondered where the bus was, as we hadn’t seen it go by. Figuring it was just a little late, we were more than fine with stopping to catch our breath.
Minutes passed. The bus didn’t come.
We had no cell service, and the pub across the street wasn’t open yet. A few busses passed by that didn’t stop. I wondered what we’d do if we were stuck out there, dare I say it again, in the middle of nowhere. We worried a little bit, sat around, and tried to forget about how cold we were.
When the bus eventually came, we’d had our fill of Southerndown Beach.
Sighing with relief that we wouldn’t be trapped in Bridgend forever, we said goodbye to Dunraven Bay and hello to soggy shoes all the way back to Cardiff.
And I suppose, if it’s my last chance to say it, the end.