Not so long ago, Catrin Davies-Harding was a business advisor. Now she’s running a charming new café beside Ferryside Railway Station. We went along for a coffee.
Sat snugly between Ferryside Railway Station and the ferry, with views across the river Towy, Traeth Coffee is cosy, inviting and buzzing with conversation on the Friday afternoon when we visit. It’s a brand-new addition to the seaside village, set just a few yards from the railway platform – close enough to pop to while you’re waiting for your train, as many people do.
The building was not historically a café – it’s Catrin Davies-Harding’s home, and she and her husband Keith have lovingly converted a large ground floor room to create the coffee shop. The interior is a charming mishmash of reclaimed items: wood cladding from an old barn in Pembrokeshire, chapel and vintage school chairs, a table made from wood reclaimed from an old school in Carmarthen, and more tables salvaged from the old Scotch Pine pub on Bettws mountain behind Ammanford. There are also some charming lamps made by Keith from old blow lamps and a vintage Singer sewing machine.
“We’re just collecting all sorts of random stuff and bringing it back to life again,” says Catrin. “We’ve tried to be as sustainable as possible, because that’s important to us.”
Keith helps out in the coffee shop when he has time out from his day job, but Catrin is the mainstay of the operation – and that includes baking all the cakes. It’s a task that comes naturally to her.
“I’ve been a cake maker for years,” she says. “I love food. My parents always had restaurants in West Wales, so my sisters and I were put to work at a very early age playing with knives and ovens and things like that!
“It’s always been in me really, and then when we moved here, it felt like the right thing to do. I’d been doing a part-time patisserie course in Coleg Sir Gar, which was brilliant. Because it’s not a massive space here, I knew we couldn’t do an extensive menu, so I decided to focus on the things I would want from a café: great coffee, nice cake, something for the dog – just simple things, but nicely done.”
She’s also committed to sustainability, so she sources her ingredients as locally as possible: the ice cream is made by Mario’s in Crosshands, she uses Shirgar butter, eggs and milk come from the local milkman, and tomatoes come from Kidwelly. The fantastic coffee is supplied by Bay Roasters in Aberporth.
“We spent the whole day with them going through all their coffees and their process – they are they brilliant people; they’re so passionate about what they do,” says Catrin.
She now gets up a 5.30 every morning to do the day’s baking. Her most popular creations are carrot cake and lemon drizzle cake.
“I do a gluten-free lime and coconut cake that’s really popular, and I’ve been trialling a vegan lemon that’s been going down really well,” she adds.
The menu also includes baguettes, paninis and toasties with classic fillings.
Just a few weeks after opening, the café is already attracting a huge range of customers: locals from the village, people from Carmarthen who have heard about it and want to check it out, and people from further afield too.
“The word is spreading now, and we’ve got people from Llanelli and Swansea as well. There are the bikers who come to Ferryside regularly, the dog walkers, people going fishing, cycling groups, and the visitors who are on holiday who come in every morning then go off for their day and come back the next day and tell us what they’ve been up to – it’s really lovely.”
Catrin’s day now has a very different shape from what it used to. Her early starts mean she sees everything from the early morning dog walkers heading off at 7am to the comings and goings at the station, whose historic signal box is a stone’s throw from the café. She especially loves seeing the 7.37 train from Paddington every morning.
“You don’t need to wear a watch – you can tell the time by it! I think it’s the highlight of the morning for most people when the posh train comes through. The railway station is a focal point – you see the kids on the bridge looking at the trains coming up and down. Quite a lot of rail enthusiasts come here too.
“Ferryside is a unique place,” she adds. “We’ve got a real mix of people who are living here and people who are visiting, and I hope Traeth Coffee is providing another reason to come to Ferryside – people know they can have a coffee or an ice cream, and you can’t get much closer to the trains.”
Despite the early starts, Catrin couldn’t be happier with her new job.
“It’s not a 9 to 5 Monday to Friday job; you’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing, you’ve got got to be passionate and love it – and I do.”
In particular, she loves the social side.
“When we opened, for the first two weeks I was mainly in the kitchen on my own and flitting backwards and forwards, but now Keith’s going back to work and I’m in the coffee shop in the week, it’s my social life. I really enjoy chatting to people, seeing what they’ve been up to and where they’re going off to.
“Because we’re dog friendly, people have little informal coffee mornings but also people who don’t know each other quite often get chatting. We wanted to have that community feel and to be somewhere that’s inviting to come into on your own. Opening Traeth Coffee is definitely the best thing I’ve ever done. All the hard work is absolutely worth it!”