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What can you say about a place of such beauty it leaves you speechless?

Byline: By Peter Collins South Wales Echo

Standing on the clifftop overlooking Cwm Colhugh beach at Llantwit Major on a glorious summer's day, my wife turned to me and asked: "Do you call this work?" In truth, I did feel a little guilty about being there in the middle of the working week while my colleagues laboured back in the office. But it was a job and somebody had to do it.

My good lady loves being on the coast at Llantwit Major. So, when I told her that I was planning to feature the place in the latest in this Postcard from... series, she asked if she could come along.

I didn't want to deny her the opportunity of seeing a great man at work, even if she didn't regard it as proper labour.

So we arrived together on what was probably the best day of the summer so far. It was then I realised that my job would be difficult. After all, what can you say about a place which has such an ineffable beauty that it leaves you, well, without words?

The silence is the first thing a visitor might notice. There were a good number of people there for a Wednesday morning, but they hardly made a sound as they gazed out over the dazzling sea or read the morning newspapers before deciding how to spend a lazy day.

This spot is never crowded. It is a sparkling gem along the South Wales coast and one of the area's best kept secrets. Those who cherish it hope it remains that way.

While other places we have featured in this series - Barry Island, Penarth and Porthcawl - look to the future with some trepidation, Llantwit Major remains unchanged and largely unchanging. Look carefully and you can still see the footprints of the dinosaurs that once roamed here.

However, while the atmosphere and the character of the place may not change, one look at the cliffs will tell you that coastal erosion has brought about physical change and will continue to do so.

There are no noisy attractions here, just one cafe and a lifeguard station.

While it is becoming more and more popular with surfers, its tranquility and beauty (it lies at the heart of the Heritage Coast) are its strengths and it needs nothing else to impress or please those who return here time and again.

Janet Bailey, 55, had just finished her breakfast and was looking out to sea as her husband, Macneil, 63, was washing the dishes inside their camper van, parked on the seafront car park.

Their grandchildren, Carly, six, and Alex, 10, were excitedly preparing to go fossil hunting on the beach.

Janet, who lives in Gloucester, said: "We come here regularly, four or five times in the summer if the weather is fine. We love the serenity and the beauty. There are no problems here and we just love it."

As children, Janet and Macneil were brought to Barry Island on Sunday school trips. But they long ago spurned the brashness of the traditional seaside resort for the more mature pleasures of Llantwit Major.

"We've been coming here for 10 years at least," said Macneil. "And we'll keep coming back. It has lost none of its charm. Nothing changes here and the people who come here are very nice."

Maria Hughes, who owns the beach cafe, has worked here for most of her 48 years, her father having owned the cafe before her.

She said: "It's a popular place all year round, although people love to come here on a beautiful day like today.

"People come here from all over the world and they keep coming back. It's a way of life for me. We're open every day except Christmas Day. I don't think the place will ever change, certainly not while I'm here. I don't think people would want it to."

That said, Maria is planning to build a new cafe. The current building is not the most attractive place you'll ever see, but her plans a few years ago to increase its height and appearance were slapped down by planners who said it was not in keeping with the character of the place. She is now putting the finishing touches to plans for a "green cafe" which she hopes will meet the strict planning requirements.

Back on the beach and Michelle Durney, 33, and her sons, five-year-old John and eight-year-old Robert, were collecting shells.

Michelle, from Southport, said: "This is our first time here and it is absolutely lovely. It's so quiet. It is a lot different to Barry Island. It is really peaceful." Reluctant to leave, my wife and I went to the clifftop and walked for a while along the Heritage Coast trail. We gazed in silence out over the sparkling Bristol Channel and along the coast to Atlantic College. The silence was broken by a fellow walker who stopped, bade us good morning and said: "It's just so beautiful," before moving on. We returned to the town where we had a fine lunch in one of the many pubs there. Does life get any better than this, I wondered. Probably not. Then it was back to work - "proper work" that is.: WHAT'S AT LLANTWIT MAJOR?:Llantwit Major, or Llanilltud Fawr, is on the 14-mile Heritage Coast which extends from Gileston in the east to Newton Point in the west. It is an historic town which has been occupied for more than 3,000 years and boasts many hidden features and scenic areas.

Bronze Age and Iron Age people and the Romans lived here before the Celtic Church made this a place of national importance, but the oldest buildings now seen in the town were built by the Normans.

The beach is very rocky and there are many fossils and caves to be found. A coastal path runs along the cliff tops, joining the narrow valleys which lead down to the sea.

On the east side of the beach is a large Iron Age hill fort, Castle Ditches, and there are others at Summerhouse Point, reached from Boverton, and at Nash Point further west.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 29, 2007
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