A rare excursion across the county boundary, into Sir Caerfyrddin, to visit Llansteffan, a village that hugs the Tywi estuary where it debouches into Carmarthen Bay. A line of houses straggles along a wide sandy beach, with the main village behind and above it the gaunt remains of a 13th century castle. This is the view from the ramparts. Down below a few people are collecting cockles close to the shore (see extra).
Cockle picking has been in Llansteffan's blood for centuries. It was a largely female industry: women would wade far out across the sands in all weathers to gather the shellfish, load their sackfuls on ponies and then take them to markets in the local towns . After spending long cold days out in the estuary these tough cockle women would match the men for pints in the pub. Cockle picking was a family business, the skill and knowledge passed from generation to generation.
Today licences are needed commercial picking. A doen or so trucks were lined up on the strand line with trailers for the small boats that are now used to get out to the cockle grounds. When the cockles are plentiful there have been 'gang wars' with fly-by-nights coming from afar to cash in on the cockle boom.
Lives are still lost as the tide rushes back in faster than you can run.
Second extra: the castle gatehouse retains its murder holes - used for dropping boiling oil or tar on would-be attackers.