Porthcawl (//, Welsh: [pɔrθˈkaul]) is a town and community on the south coast of Wales in the county borough of Bridgend, 25 miles (40 km) west of the capital city, Cardiff and 19 miles (31 km) southeast of Swansea. Historically part of Glamorgan and situated on a low limestone headland on the South Wales coast, overlooking the Bristol Channel, Porthcawl developed as a coal port during the 19th century, but its trade was soon taken over by more rapidly developing ports such as Barry. Northwest of the town, in the dunes known as Kenfig Burrows, are hidden the last remnants of the town and Kenfig Castle, which were overwhelmed by sand about 1400.
Porth is a common Welsh element, here it means harbour, but the second element is disputed. Local tradition states that cawl is a corruption of Gaul, and that the area was an ancient landing point for Gaulish and Breton, or later Frankish and Norman knights. A modern, if unlikely, interpretation is Cawl harbour.
Porthcawl is a holiday resort in South Wales and is home to a large static caravan park known as Trecco Bay, which is owned and operated by Parkdean Resorts. It has an extensive promenade and several beaches, two of which[which?] are Blue Flag beaches: a tourist-oriented beach at Trecco Bay, at the east end of the town; a sandy beach at Rest Bay, which lies to the northwest of the town; and the quiet and sandy Pink Bay leading out towards Sker Point where a tarmac-covered car park serves a sandy beach.
There are many hotels (including the prominent Seabank Hotel) and guest houses as well as a funfair called Coney Beach. Four rocky points line the shore: Hutchwns Point [sic], Porthcawl Point (on which a lighthouse stands), Rhych Point and Newton Point.
Porthcawl, like many British resorts, has suffered a decline in its holiday trade over recent years, especially since most of the South Wales Valleys coal pits closed. A major feature of the summer was the miners' fortnight, when large numbers of miners took their annual break.
Built in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, Porthcawl's promenade runs along the seafront from Lock's Common in the west to the harbour, before joining the Eastern Promenade and leading to Coney Beach and Griffin Park. The promenade was restored in 1996. There are many cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels along the promenade, which offers views across the Bristol Channel.
The Grand Pavilion, built at a cost of £25,000 in 1932, is the venue for popular shows, including the annual pantomime. The singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson once performed 'live' at the Pavilion via a transatlantic telephone link.
Controversial luxury flats now dominate the seafront on the site previously occupied by the Esplanade Hotel, which dated back to the late 1880s. The Royal Society of Architects in Wales awarded 'Esplanade House' a Welsh Housing Design Award in 2006, but the architecture has proved unpopular with many local residents who have nicknamed it "the bottle bank".
Porthcawl Lifeboat Station, purpose-built in 1995, is situated near the harbour. The station operates an inshore B class Atlantic 85 lifeboat and a D class IB1. 'Cosy Corner' is a park area, which over the years has housed a theatre, cinema, roller skating rink and ballroom. The Jennings Building, built in 1832, is a grade II listed building and Wales' oldest maritime warehouse, and is currently vacant. The building has been identified as a potentially important facility as part of the Porthcawl Regeneration Strategy.
At the end of Porthcawl Pier stands a white lighthouse built in 1860. The lighthouse is currently in use as a navigational aid. Porthcawl Lighthouse was the last coal and gas-powered lighthouse in the UK. It switched to being powered by North Sea gas in 1974, before becoming powered by electricity in 1997. The pier and surrounding area are popular spots for sea fishing.
There are 6 schools in Porthcawl: 4 primary schools, 1 comprehensive school and 1 private school.
Porthcawl Comprehensive School on the western side of the town has approximately 1,500 pupils, ages 11–18 and 80 teaching staff. The headteacher is Mr. A Slade. Both Ruth Jones and Rob Brydon attended this school. The Chairperson of the Governing body is Mrs M. Carlson. Porthcawl Comprehensive School is the only school to have received a new Band 1 assessment  in the Bridgend County from the Welsh Government.
St Clare's School, Newton is an coeducational independent school, located in the village of Newton (an eastern part of Porthcawl), in Bridgend County Borough, South Wales. The school provides preparatory, secondary and tertiary education leading to GCSE and A-level qualifications. Originally a Roman Catholic girls' school, the school is now owned and operated by the Cognita Group.
St John's School was a coeducational independent school, located in the village of Newton. The school provided preparatory, secondary and tertiary education leading to GCSE qualifications. The school closed at the end of July 2014
Nottage Primary School is a state school located in Porthcawl. It provides education for ages 3–11 and is currently participating in the Foundation Phase. Nottage Primary School is a large primary school, with approximately 500 pupils, surrounded by extensive grounds. It has a conservation area and is in the process of building a pond. It has a large outdoor play area and a sensory garden. There is an outdoor classroom which is used for a range of activities.
West Park Primary School is a state school located in the village Nottage, Porthcawl. The school was built and opened for teaching in 1971 and has since been extended to incorporate the growing needs of the surrounding area and community. The school has been awarded the 'Eco-schools Green Flag' and the 'BECTA ICT excellence award'.
Porthcawl Primary School is a state school located in Porthcawl. The school is a mixed school for boys and girls between the ages of 3 to 11 years which includes a Foundation Phase Area admitting pupils of nursery age.
Newton Primary School is a state school located in Porthcawl. The school is a mixed school with approximately 235 pupils on role.
The Porthcawl Male Voice Choir, or Côr Meibion Porthcawl, is a male voice choir formed in 1980 with 17 members. The choir currently[when?] has 45 members. Each year the choir performs with a celebrity guest, the latest of whom was Leslie Garrett.
Porthcawl has seven beaches.
Newton Beach on the eastern edge of Porthcawl is a long sandy and rocky beach, backed by the Newton Burrows and Merthyr Mawr sand dunes, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, and ending at the mouth of the River Ogmore at Ogmore-by-Sea. Newton Beach and the sand dunes are popular with walkers and horse riders. The beach is popular with windsurfers, jet skiers and power boat users.
Trecco Bay is a large, sandy and rocky Blue Flag beach. Trecco Bay holiday park is situated alongside the beach.
Sandy Bay, with the area in front of the fairground known as Coney Beach, is a large sheltered and sandy beach. The beach has lifeguard cover from May to September and the water quality is rated as excellent. Sandy Bay is popular with families who can enjoy donkey and pony rides on the beach, alongside other facilities such as trampolines and bouncy castles and the adjacent Coney Beach Fun Fair. Sandy Bay is also popular with surfers. Sandy Bay hosts the ever popular Christmas morning swim where hundreds of swimmers, many in fancy dress, have braved the waters on Christmas Day since 1965, drawing in thousands of spectators and raising thousands of pounds for local charities.
Seafront Beach, also known as Town Beach, is a rocky beach in the centre of Porthcawl which was partly tarmaced over in the 1980s to repair sea defences. Swimming is prohibited at the beach and conditions are only suitable for experienced surfers due to the tides and sharp rocks.
Rest Bay is a sandy Blue Flag beach situated in the west of Porthcawl. It is a very popular for water sports, especially surfing. A 'surf cam' shows live conditions from Rest Bay 24-hours-a-day. A lifeguard station overlooks the beach which is patrolled by lifeguards during the summer months.
Pink Bay is a quiet beach, 15 minutes walk from Rest Bay that has a steep pebble bank down onto a flat beach edged by a rocky shoreline. These rocks have a unique pink marbling effect – hence the name Pink Bay.
Sker Beach is the most westerly beach in Porthcawl and is accessible only by walking from Rest Bay or Kenfig National Nature Reserve. Its remote location makes it one of the quieter beaches in Porthcawl. A plaque, in memory of the 47 lives lost on the S.S. Santampa, capsized and wrecked in heavy seas, and the Mumbles RNLI life boat which attempted rescue on 23 April 1947, is visible at low tide. At very low tides wreckage is still being found.
Five rocky points line the Porthcawl shore: From east to west these are Newton Point, Rhych Point, Porthcawl Point, Hutchwns Point and Sker Point.
Newton village dates from the 12th century. St. John's Church, founded by the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem 800 years ago, and originally built as a fortress, overlooks the village green.
The Jolly Sailor pub, the oldest in Porthcawl and the Ancient Briton pub also overlooks the green.
To the south of the church lies St John's Well, the water from which is reputed to have healing properties.
Newton village is home to St John's School, an independent day school that has been in the village since 1921. Newton is also home to St Clare's School which is also an independent day school.
Porthcawl Town Carnival takes place annually in July. A procession of themed floats and acts make their way around the town, collecting money for charity, and competing for the prize of best float. The procession makes its way to the carnival field where there are stalls, a fun fair and live acts to be enjoyed.
The Porthcawl Jazz Festival is held annually in April hosting a variety of musical performances, workshops and family events over a weekend.
Surf Cult runs for a week in September. Events include surf contests, music, art, fashion and film plus an outdoor market. The festival ends with the legendary Surfers' Ball.
The Elvis Festival runs every September, attracts Elvis tribute artists and devotees from across the world, and is the biggest gathering of Elvis fans in Europe. The Elvis Festival was selected as one of the UK's top twenty summer festivals by The Times in 2008.
Other festivals include the Nottage Beer Festival and the Porthcawl Sea Festival.
Other alternative sports like skateboarding and rollerblading are also popular with the former PADS skate park by the Harbour and the new bowl park off Heol Y Goedwig.
There are three golf courses to the north of the town including Royal Porthcawl Golf Club, which attracts players from around the world.
Porthcawl is home also home to football side Porthcawl Town Athletic F.C. which boasts a 1st, Reserve and 3rd team as well as numerous junior teams. Rugby also has a rich heritage with Rugby Union team Porthcawl RFC
Porthcawl is also home to lifeguard clubs that train the lifeguards that guard Coney Beach and Trecco Bay as well as Rest Bay and Sker beaches.
Porthcawl waterfront is proposed for substantial regeneration as part of the 7 Bays Project. The Planning Guidance outlines proposals that will result in the comprehensive regeneration of Porthcawl's waterfront, stretching from Cosy Corner and the harbour in the south, to Trecco Bay in the east. The plan includes the construction of new sea defences, enabling regeneration of the area to take place and also protecting more than 440 existing properties from flood risk.
The first phase of Porthcawl's regeneration, Porthcawl Harbourside, was launched on 28 March 2008. A 17-acre (69,000 m2) site has been marketed to developers for a substantial mixed use scheme. The scheme is envisaged to include a new foodstore, extra retail space, leisure and community facilities, up to 450 houses/flats, a new promenade, town square and car parking.
The scheme forms part of the 7 Bays Project for Porthcawl and the first phase in the regeneration of the whole waterfront. The regeneration project is one of the largest of its kind in the country.
On 11 February 2009, two RAF Grob Tutor training aircraft collided over the area, one landing in Kenfig and the other landing in Margam. Two instructors and two teenage air cadets died in the incident.
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