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History of Porthkerry Country Park

Porthkerry Country Park has been mixed meadow, farmland and woodland since medieval times.

 

Once split between the ancient manors of Barry, Porthkerry and Penmark, the area was bought by the Romilly family in 1412, which worked the site on similar lines to an English country estate.

 

The Romilly's produced a ‘model’ farm and buildings using the most modern farming techniques of the time such as crop rotation. The family built the cottages for estate workers and foresters, established stables and a sawmill together with extensive mill leats and drained woods and fields.

 

Porthkerry Park was purchased from the Romilly estates in 1929 by Barry Urban District Council, after which it was used as a large public open park and then even played a role in the build up to the invasion of Normandy in World War II.

 

Wall remains

13th and 14th Century: Cliff Wood Mill

Cliff Wood Mill leat and the mill site were in use in the 13th and 14th centuries, the building probably being destroyed in the Glyndwr revolt in the early 15th century. 20th century excavations showed the building to be a dry stone, two-roomed structure, with the mill leat running for around 450 metres. The site of the medieval mill and mill leat is designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

cwm ciddy house postcard

Mid-13th Century:  Cwm Cidi (Cwmcidy) Medieval Village

Cwm Cidi (Cwmcidy) Medieval Village was originally constructed and inhabited before the mid-13th century. With fertile lands of 280 acres, enough surplus was produced to also support a parish church. In 1622 Cwmcidy contained five houses with three other dwellings nearby. Further depopulation occurred in the 18th century leaving only three cottages and a farmhouse, which, with the exception of the latter disappeared with the formation of Porthkerry Park by the Romilly family.

 

A fulling mill (for degreasing cloth) once stood at the edge of Cwm Barri stream. Very few remains are now visible.

1583: Cliff Wood Cottage

Cliff Wood Cottage was originally built in 1583 by Owen William and the most notable occupant was Ann Jenkin - convicted for witchcraft! The cottage was completely rebuilt around 1781 and represented a building style typical of the time.

17th / 18th Century: Oyster Storage Pit

A 17/18 century oyster storage pit can be seen cut into the rock shelves of the foreshore around 100m from the exit of the stream through the pebble bank. Wooden posts from a fish trap can also be seen nearby.

1835: The Saw Mill

The Saw Mill (in Millwood) and twin leats constructed c.1835 for Porthkerry Estate with a fifteen-foot diameter, overshot mill wheel. The mill walls were excavated, artefacts conserved and the walls consolidated in the early 1990s to prevent further degradation.

1845: Cwm Barri Cottage

Cwm Barri Cottage was built c.1845 and was a large, gabled structure to house the estate forester and his family. The building was demolished in 1972 and all that remains now is a low boundary wall. Fruit trees from the cottage garden can still be found within Cwm Barri woodland.

1850: Nightingale Cottage

Nightingale Cottage was constructed c.1850 by the Romilly estate as two worker’s dwellings. The cottages have been converted into one building.

Porthkerry Viaduct

1890s: Porthkerry Viaduct

Porthkerry viaduct was built during the construction of the Vale of Glamorgan Railway in the 1890s. Remaining one of the notable industrial monuments of the area, it was constructed of stone with thirteen 50 feet and three 45 feet arches, reaching a maximum height of 110 feet. Work on the viaduct was troubled by subsidence in 1896 causing the temporary closure and the construction of a loop line. The viaduct finally opened to traffic in 1900.

Trees in Porthkerry

1940s - 1950s: World War II

During World War II, large areas of the park were occupied by British and American armed forces in the preparation for D-Day and extensive anti-invasion earthworks and defences were constructed along the shoreline. The sawmill became derelict and the woods no longer were worked for timber.

 

Much of the meadowland was used for rough grazing and large areas of scrub developed. In the mid 1950s a large woodland planting scheme created new plantations of beech and larch, with further blocks of cedar, Scot’s pine and chestnut.

 

WWII artefacts remain from when Barry was one of the main cargo ports and storage depots. Porthkerry Park was used as a vehicle park and ordnance store, with temporary hard stands installed. In the build-up to D-Day the American use of Barry and Porthkerry increased, eventually transporting 15,000 tons of equipment (including 1,269 vehicles) and 4,000 troops from the Docks to Normandy.

1960S and 1970s: Willow, Saltmarsh and Meadow

During the 1960s and early 1970s further plantings of willow and the development of a coastal saltmarsh and meadow took place. The increased use of motorcars led to car parks being developed which further boosted visitor numbers to the park.

 

Cliff Wood was recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and designated as such in 1962 and re-notified in 1983. Due to its importance, the Nature Conservancy Council also declared it a Local Nature Reserve in 1970.

Porthkerry logo

1976: Porthkerry Designated as a Country Park.

In 1976 the Vale of Glamorgan County Council designated Porthkerry as a country park.

Volunteers and rangers

1979: Ranger Service

In 1979 a ranger service was introduced at the park to manage for public use and for the benefit of our wildlife. Management is carried out working with volunteer groups and other organisations.

Mill intact - 1930

2016:  Lottery Funding for Porthkerry 'Wood to Wheel' Project  

Porthkerry Country Park has been awarded £63,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund for an exciting project, Wood to Wheel – the story of a mill. 

 

Led by the ranger service, and involving the local community, the project will focus on the ruins of Cwm Ciddy Saw mill and the surrounding woodlands of Millwood. The money awarded will be used to stabilise sections of the Old Saw Mill in the Millwood area of the Porthkerry Country Park so that it can be opened up to visitors, including local schools.


A new footpath will be constructed, the existing steps to the pool repaired, and a new walking route established along the leat. The project aims to also illustrate that a living tree can be converted into something useful and that this can be accomplished sustainably, without damaging the environment.


Once completed the ranger team will hold a variety of activities in the renovated mill including chainsaw and traditional felling methods, shire horses demonstrations, willow weaving, and wood turning. Ten schools have already signed up to take part and two event days are planned.


The team at Porthkerry are now appealing to anyone who remembers the mill when it was in use either as a saw mill, or as a scout hut, or who have any old photos of the site.

 

The park is now enjoyed by around 250,000 visitors each year, providing access to a local green space and a point for environmental education. The range of habitats promotes a high diversity of flora and fauna and the continuing management of this and the public amenity value is critical if the park is to continue in its role.

 

 

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