Caught by the River

Brighter Later

Brian David Stevens | 4th July 2012

5. Glamorgan

Brighter Later is a journey around the British Isles looking outward from the coastline of each county.

Glamorgan’s terrain has been inhabited by mankind for over 200,000 years. The County of Glamorgan was established in 1535 and my family have lived there for donkey’s years.

Choosing a location was difficult, there were so many places that I could have chosen, Porthcawl, Port Talbot, all had that conection with childhood, all half remembered and half forgotten but in the end I settled on Barry. I first visited Barry in 1977 with my cousin Kevin. To a seven year old who had been living in the flatlands of Cambridgeshire, where the height of excitment would have consisted of a small fire in a field or the sighting of a combine harvester, Barry was paradise.

Not only was there a fair operated by men in cut-off denim jackets with scant regard for health and safety or hygiene, there was also a scrapyard. Woodham Brothers Ltd contained nearly 300 withdrawn steam engines lined up waiting to be crawled over and played on once you had successfully breached the fence, as a seven year old it really didn’t get better than this. Nearly 35 years later I’m back with a handful of notes and a rucksack of cameras.

According to Benedictine monk Hugh Paulinus de Cressy (c.1605-1674) Barry (or Barri) took its name from St. Baruc, the hermit, who resided, and was buried there. John Leland (1503 -1552) the father of local history, poet and antiquary said of Barry, “The passage into Barrey isle at ful se is a flite shot over, as much as the Tamise is above the bridge. At low water, there is a broken causey to go over, or els over the shalow streamelet of Barrey-brook on the sands. The isle is about a mile in cumpace, and hath very good corne, grasse, and sum wood; the ferme of it worth aio a yere. There ys no dwelling in the isle, but there is in the middle of it a fair little chapel of St. Barrok, where much pilgrimage was usid”

Thanks to the magic powers of google earth I have the locations worked out to some degree so I head off towards Friars Point and then later to Watch House Bay and shoot looking out into the Bristol channel. It’s a grey seascape alive with possibilities and hope of better things to come.

I wander back along the beach to get a coffee at Marcos the excellent cafe on the seafront, I later learn the ashes of Fred West the British serial killer are scattered here, as he too enjoyed Barry Island as a child. There is no plaque.

Brian David Stevens