Kenfig National Nature Reserve (which includes the area of sand dunes and Kenfig Pool) are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
A brief history:
This beautiful area is one of the UK’s top sand-dune reserves, and makes up part of the largest active sand dune system in Europe. Kenfig itself was once a thriving town which was regularly attacked by Vikings. That was until medieval times, when huge storms engulfed the town beneath tonnes of sand. The only trace left today of the ancient borough is the castle keep which rises out of the sand to the North.
For the last 700 years nature has continued to reclaim the landscape. Kenfig is all that remains of a huge dune system that once stretched along the coastline of southern Wales from the Ogmore River to the Gower peninsular. It is home to Glamorgan's largest natural lake, Kenfig Pool, which offers spectacular views across Swansea Bay to the Gower.
The Reserve is home to a huge variety of rare and endangered species of plants and animals, perhaps most notably the rare fen orchid, Britain’s rarest orchid.
In 2016 the Countryfile magazine team visited the area to go in search of the fen orchid. Magazine editor Fergus Collins met up with head warden David Carrington to aid him in his search.
Just last year The Guardian also came to meet with David and seek out the fen orchid. During his time in the destination, writer Kevin Rushby also explored the neighbouring Merthyr Mawr sand dunes by fat bike as well as learning to ride the Welsh waves with Porthcawl Surf School.
In fact, the Guardian loved their time in Bridgend County so much that they named it one of their top travel discoveries of 2019.
This is also a great spot for bird watching. The reserve is a favourite refuge for wildfoul all year round and is one of the few places in the UK where the bittern can be seen during the winter. Migrant wading birds include dunlin, ringed plover, little ringed plover, little stint, common sandpiper, greenshank and black-tailed godwit.
From the car park, the official circular route takes you through the dry dune system, which is accessible all year round. It's a well signposted path, with wooden markers surfacing every hundred yards or so to keep you on track.
The area is managed to ensure the dunes are not overcome by dense grassland and scrub woodland which would result in the loss of much of the important and diverse wildlife. The reserve is also managed so that the delicate balance of habitats is maintained and visitors can freely wander the area without harming the reserve and its features.
Stop for a drink:
Just a short hop from the reserve is the Prince of Wales pub, which was originally built in 1605 and is said to be haunted. The pub is very popular with locals, serving a wide range of ales and good quality bar meals. It has a welcoming, homely feel to the interior and a nice outdoor area.