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Newton Beach, Porthcawl – 7th Sept, 2003

With a forecast F 3-4 S, and heavy rain, the prospects didn't really look too great. But as Newton is actually one of the closer beaches for me, I decided to give it a go.

The first disturbing indicator of non-windiness was crossing the old Severn Bridge: The glassy smooth surface of these normally turbulent waters completely failed to belie the total absence of air movement. The second was the frozen-like appearance of leaves - only the passing of large trucks was going to make these move today!

Ah well - onwards & upwards!

I arrived at the beach, but not before Gerry & Chris - who's miniature figures could be seen in the far distance, down by the waterline. There were a number of other people around - obviously been fooled the same way I had: Ex-Nomads Nigel Walker & Bob Jones. Nigel trying to fly his kite, hoping there was going to be enough wind for that, and getting disappointed.

For the next hour or so, as decisive as usual, we faffed around - going to the caff for cups of tea, walking down the beach and back up it again, avoiding the dog poo all over the rigging embankment & chatting in groups (always better than chatting to oneself, I find).

Eventually, 2 intrepid souls decided to go out on big boards, big sails (~8.5m). With all eyes upon them, they proceeded out in a leisurely fashion, resisting all notions of planing. More cups & tea & several conversations later, & I noticed that the guys were occasionally planing & that Nigel's kite had made it aloft.

If they could do it with 8.5m, then I was pretty certain I could do likewise with a 9.4m. So it's out with the monster board, monster fin & monster sail. Rig up whilst desperately trying to avoid the dog turds. Struggled down to the distant but rapidly approaching waterline just as the skies began to darken ominously.

Got out and was planing immediately. If fact within about 5 mins, was beginning to get suicidally overpowered. Crashing out over the chop with the monster bouncing almost uncontrollably wasn't too much like fun, but flying back in was good.

Another couple of minutes & the heavens opened up - big time. With rain lashing down, the wind began to drop & I started to head back for the beach when a huge explosion rocked the area. My board doesn't normally do that sort of thing, so that was an unlikely source. I then heard a plane above - a big one, a 747 - clearly just taken off from Cardiff. Hoping it wasn't the plane & was perhaps just lightning, I made it back to the shore.

The plane was clearly in trouble. Ascent & engines cut right back, it began a very slow turn to the right, put his wheels down & then started heading slowly out to sea. The pilot seemed to be trying a number of manouvers - like, turn, descend, turn back - before eventually heading back towards Cardiff.

Others said the plane had been hit by lightning. Anyway, it failed to make the evening news back in Brizzle, so clearly wasn't a setting for the next disaster movie.

Windwise - end of play for the day. 10 mins, & that was it. Time to clear some more dog turds onto my sail.

Rather disturbingly, following the downpour, the storm drain in the middle of the beach began to discharge what - from the smell of it - could only be described as raw sewage. Even had the wind picked up again, there was no way I was going back in the water. (I reported this incident to both Surfers Against Sewage & The Marine Conservation Society (publishers of the Good Beach Guide). SAS have included it on their "incident database" & MCS emailed me back. (email included here.)

I think I'm correct in saying that I was the only Nomad (aka: idiot) who sailed that day. Others who turned-up: Jeremy Diamond, Chris & Gerry Sanders, Brian Derrick, Steve Thornton, Ian & Neroli, and a couple of others - but I can't for the life of me remember who they were.

Martin Farrimond

Dear Martin,

Thank you for your email concerning Porthcawl - Newton Beach; it was interesting to see your comments. You will of course know that Newton Beach is not an MCS recommended beach, although other Porthcawl beaches (Rest Bay, Sandy Bay, Trecco Bay) are. If the drain was definitely discharging sewage, it is likely to be a CSO (combined sewer overflow). On average they discharge about 10 times annually (per drain), and are legally permitted to discharge 3 times per bathing season, which is classed as May to September. MCS wants to see CSO's designed to discharge only during a 1 in 20 year storm event, with all effluent being screened and stored in tanks prior to treatment to the necessary level before discharge. The Government acknowledges the problems with CSO's, and announced an improvement plan in September 1998; around 4,600 unsatisfactory CSO's should be improved between 2000-2005. MCS would like to see year-round monitoring of all designated recreational and bathing waters - after all, many watersports are carried out all year round which makes the May-September window look rather short-sighted.
Thank you again for sending in your comments.
Ann Hunt
Enquiries Officer
Marine Conservation Society
9 Gloucester Road
Ross-on-Wye
Herefordshire HR9 5BU
Tel: 01989 566017
Fax: 01989 567815
Email: info@mcsuk.org
Website: www.mcsuk.org

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is
the UK charity dedicated to the protection
of the marine environment and its wildlife.
Please join us - visit our website at www.mcsuk.org

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