On a hot summer’s day I took a gentle stroll along the River Ogmore and the village of Merthyr Mawr in South Wales. Wales is ‘the land of my fathers’ and will always be one of my favourite places to be. I was joined by my father and ‘Belle’, the family’s golden retriever. Now in her later years, she is a stately old lady – and while she still enjoys the occasional frolic, today she prefers more civilised walks…

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The picturesque Ogmore River Valley of today is popular with visitors and anglers. The River Ogmore’s tributaries are the Rivers Llynfi, the River Garw and the River Ewenny. Eventually it flows out to the sea between Ogmore-by-Sea and the sand dunes of Merthr Mawr.

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We started our walk at New Inn Bridge, known locally as the ‘dipping bridge’. This wonderful stone bridge dates back to the fifteenth century and the holes along its length were once used by farmers who would push their reluctant sheep into the river below for a quick, cleaning dip.

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The beautiful river scenes of today are a far cry from the River basin during the Industrial Revolution, when at its height, mining and heavy industry caused major pollution and the waters ran black with coal dust…

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Keeping close to the river where the trees offered lots of shade for the dog, we passed a herd of sheep sheltering from the blazing sun in the shade of a large tree.

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Lining the wire fence along the river were remnants of their fleecy wool, hung out as if to dry on a tiny washing line. I then began to notice the wool everywhere – in all the places that a sheep may brush past – on fences and twigs, sometimes in large clumps like patches of melting snow. These fleecy patches are a welcome bounty for birds collecting soft lining for their nests…

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A little further along the river, I climbed over a stile – a traditional walker’s gate in the pasture lands of the British Countryside. (Belle and my father used a more recently added gateway for dog walkers instead – she would have been far too heavy for us to lift anyway!)

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We walked across a bridge to the other side of the river. Here it was much cooler in the shade of the woodland. It was a chance to listen to the flowing river, to breathe in the fresh woodland smell – and for Belle to feel the cool soil beneath her paws.

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Before heading home for a cup of tea, we paid a quick visit to Merthyr Mawr – one of the most picturesque little villages I know. Visitors can see pretty thatched cottages, a village green and St Teilo’s Church, which is surrounded by traditional dry stone walls and lanes full of wild flowers.

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Hope you enjoyed this gentle summer stroll…