Brunel built the railway carrying me on the local train towards Carmarthen. It glides past the flat coastal marshes under the solid remains of Kidwelly Castle and I alight at the little seaside village of Ferryside, once the centre of the cockle industry in Carmarthen Bay and a stopping off point on the pilgrims’ route to St David’s Cathedral to the west. It’s a peaceful place, just a main street following the railway and a few houses beyond. Set by the side of the Tywi, one of three rivers entering the Bay, solitude and the calls of Curlews and Oystercatchers make it special. Just a few steps from the train and I’m on the beach; wide open golden sands stretch in each direction and across the river green fields, woodlands and the 13th century Norman castle at Llanstephan beckon. The old ferry has long gone; only the birds get across quickly now.
The tide runs out swiftly, exposing sandbanks attracting hundreds of Oystercatchers competing with bent figures of cocklers scraping with hand and sieve; I could be in another age. Redshanks, Dunlins, Sanderlings, Cormorants, Grey Herons and Shelducks mix with gulls in a world little affected by the new century. The sandy beach to the south following the path of the railway is long and heads for the open sea beyond the mouth of the Three Rivers. Grey and Pied wagtails and Rock Pipits jostle amongst the flotsam in the warm sunshine looking for newly emerging flies and a migrating Wheatear flits on and off the stone railway embankment. I feel as though I could walk forever, but the tiny parish of St Ishmael tells me I’m entering the mouth of the Gwendraeth where the beach runs out. My plans to take the train home from Kidwelly are in tatters and I plod back to the sanctuary of The White Lion for lunch.