I parked at Strumble Head Lighthouse and waited for ages for the taxi booked to collect me. He had asked me which carpark, and I said the one by the lighthouse, but no sign of anyone and no phone signal. Some kind people offered to phone when they got within signal, and eventually the taxi turned up. Apparently, there is a second car park, but I definitely said the one nearest. The journey to Porth Gain took ages, and then he sprang a large surcharge on me, claiming it was required by Pembrokeshire County Council. At the time, I paid up, but thinking it over during the day, I think I’ve been scammed…oh well.
I’d planned to have breakfast at the Sloop Inn, but, rather than the juicy bacon bap I had been fantasising about, they only had pastries. Nice, but not the full-on breakfast I like to have before a walk. Today, although equally sunny, was much windier than yesterday – in fact, I couldn’t keep my hat on, despite it having attractive strings that set it off elegantly. I had a clearer sight today of the marker beacons around Porth Gain, for directing shipping. The scenery was similar to yesterday afternoon, but the path was much quieter. The first place of any note was Trefin, where there was once a mill, and the ruins and the little bridge over the millstream are very picturesque.
After Trefin, there is the lovely little port of Abercastell then Abermawr, another long beach, although this one is pebbly rather than sandy, then Aberbach. (Aber is the Welsh term for river mouth or estuary).
On the whole the cliff tops seem to be getting flatter, with very steep craggy sides, and as I noted yesterday, there are few trees. Coastal erosion is very obvious along this stretch, with walls close to the cliff edge, and quite a few places where fencing dangles over a steep drop. Although today was shorter, it felt much longer, partly because, once I could see the lighthouse, I felt I should be getting close, but there were so many inlets to walk around that it often felt like it was getting further away. I passed a few wild ponies, just before a slightly tricky scramble, which I fondly thought would bring me close to the end point, but when I reached the top, I discovered another whole headland to get around.
Still lots of wonderful wildflowers, although not so many as yesterday. As I tootled along, I was turning over in my mind the birds I had seen and regretting not having seen any choughs. Weirdly, I looked around, and there was a chough immediately in front of me. I can’t quite decide whether I had heard it (although I wouldn’t have expected to recognise its call) or had caught sight of it unconsciously and my brain then presented me with the idea of choughs. Or something more spooky. Sadly, thinking about winning the lottery has failed to present me with a winning ticket immediately thereafter so I should probably discount any supernatural powers of seeing the future.
The wind dropped off a bit, and altogether, it was another fabulous day, although by the end I was quite tired. I finished off the holiday with fantastic fish and chips in Fishguard.
If I never have another day as good as today, it will all have been worth it. Today was definitely a diamond day. The view was spectacular, the weather was perfect, the public transport was punctual and the food I eventually had was excellent. My only concern is the nagging misery in my left knee, which kicked in this afternoon. Hopefully, a slug of ibuprofen tonight and in the morning will keep it under control. I left the car at Porth Clais, which appears to be a busy little working port. The Strumble Shuttle took me from the end point into St David’s, and then the Celtic Coaster took me down to my starting point at a Porth Clais. Unfortunately, it had not crossed my mind to apply the time I had in St David’s yesterday to the useful purpose of buying provisions, hence, once again, I had no breakfast other than the handful of cashew nuts that remained. I was too early for the kiosk at Porth Clais, but had checked that there was a restaurant at Whitesands.
The west side of the steep valley at Porth Clais has ruins from what appeared to be industrial buildings of the 19th century possibly for exporting some sort of minerals or slate. I noticed in the rocks a fair bit of green suggesting copper, or perhaps green slate. There are also two whitewashed stone erections on either side of the harbour mouth, the one on the south-west side being like an obelisk whilst that on the north east is like an old fashioned sugar loaf. Presumably they are to guide shipping in. The path climbed immediately up to the cliff, and wound in and out of the various coves and inlets. I could see what I thought was st David’s head and then the path turned east, as expected, but the inlet seemed far too deep for St Justinians which was the first bay I was expecting. Eventually, it became clear that the whole long arm that I had taken to be a peninsula, was in fact Ramsey island. On the map, it is not shown in its proper place, but in a separate box and I had no idea that it was so close.
St Justinians has the lifeboat, and also a brisk trade in island tours to Ramsey, Skomer and others. There was a boat load preparing as I arrived. I had a faint moment when I thought the thirty odd people were queuing for the coffee kiosk which was a site for sore eyes, but fortunately not. I listened to the guide. Apparently, there are some 40,000 breeding pairs of puffins on Puffin island. Ramsey used also to be full of them, but shipping run aground in the dangerous waters of the Sound, had brought rats to the island which had eaten all the eggs, and presumably the pufflings (my new favourite word) as well. The rats have been eradicated now, but the puffins have not yet returned, although the guide said that the conservation body has planted decoys and played what she ever referred to as ‘puffin music’, but so far, although the birds have been seen in the water, they have not returned.
I went on to Whitesands which is a lovely beach, very popular with surfers. It is not exactly Manly, but I imagine in rough weather that the waves would be impressive. There was a café there, but it had a long queue, and looked uninspiring so I decided not to bother – the double layer Victoria sponge at St Justinians had staved off the worst pangs. From Whitsands the path goes to St David’s Head, and then turns north-eastish, beginning the coast’s long stretch south of Cardigan bay. Not far past the headland, I coaught site of the flashing light of Strumble Head lighthouse – tomorrow’s destination. The path was very busy, and I chatted to quite a few people. Beyond Whitesands, the scenery changed noticeably. Although the coast is still punctured by inlets, the rocks have changed, no more of the dark red stone visible near St Bride’s, or the sandstone along the stretch to Newgale; here it becomes slate and granite. Inland, too, the slopes are rolling moorland, with lumps of uneroded granite making peaks. I didn’t spot what made it feel so different until I heard someone on the path saying that the difference between north and south Pembrokeshire, is that in the former, there are very few trees, and thinking back over the day, that is true. I met a nice couple from Ross-on-Wye, not far from my new home and had a bit of a chat.
The wildflowers were amazing. Although the daffodil is the national flower, I think a case could be made for foxgloves. They are everywhere, along with thrift, vetches of various sorts, ox eye daisies, lots of red campion and purple scabious. Even a few late patches of bluebells were clinging to the cliffs. I was lucky enough to see some seals, 5 or 6 of them playing in the waves. It is 7.6 miles from Whitesands to Abereiddy, another little surfing beach. I was tiring by now, especially as there was a long steep down and up just before. But from Abereiddy, once you have climbed up, the cliff top is very flat, until Porth Gain. The remnants of industry were easier to see here, I assume slate mining. Then there was a wicked slate staircase, more like a ladder down to the quay, just to aggravate my knees.
I had an excellent meal in the Sloop Inn. I believe the Ship is more famous but the Sloop was excellent.
When I woke this morning, the weather could not have been more different from yesterday. The windsock outside my window was horizontal, and a thick blanket of mist covered everything. I did not really want to get out of bed at 7, but had planned to do that in order to drop car in St David’s and get the shuttle bus back at 8.40. I thought maybe an extra hour in bed wouldn’t hurt, then it occurred to me that the shuttle bus might only go at 2-hour intervals, so I stuck to plan. Just as well, as in fact the bus was at 4-hour intervals. A happy occurrence on the shuttle bus put me in a good mood for the day. The driver had picked up a woman walker in Solfach and we were trundling down the steep hill, when the woman exclaimed that she had left the lights on her vehicle on. The bus driver immediately stopped, turned round, and took the bus back up the hill so that the woman could leap out and turn off her lights. Everyone on the bus was happy about this – I can’t imagine that happening in a big city! People are definitely kinder to each other in the country. Walking leads to cutting edge insights like that.
There is no breakfast in my accommodation, so I had planned to grab a bacon roll from the pub once the shuttle set me down at the starting point, but despite signs I had spotted yesterday, promising breakfast from 9am, there was no sign of anyone at 9.10, so I set off with just an apple in hand, hoping that the weather would clear. It was not especially cold, but the mist was thick and the rain persistent, although light. I don’t have my waterproof with me, just a light showerproof jacket, that I was glad of, although it was at full capacity. The path starts with a stiff pull out of Newgale. The surf on the beach was higher than yesterday, but still only gentle. Before long I ran into three chaps clearing the path. It is very well maintained.
Although there were more ups and downs than yesterday, most of the path was on the tops. As I dropped down into one valley, I could hear a couple of women behind me. One had a very high, carrying voice, which was a bit odd in the mist as I could not see them, but I heard a lot more than I wanted. ‘..gave it to him both barrels, first off, that isn’t…..Anthea said….a job for the paramedics…came undone…..not sure after seven months off…’ the last comment gave rise to the thought that, for her colleagues, there might have been a slight silver lining even to COVID. Eventually, I slowed to let them pass me, after I had heard about the dog, plans for a night out, and the iniquitous behaviour of the gas board (couldn’t argue with that one!). The wind then carried their voices forward.
There were far fewer insects or birds around today, although the stonechats were busy.
The names of two of the headlands – Dinas Fawr and Dinas fach – suggest that, at one time, there was an Iron Age settlement, ‘dinas’ being the word for city in modern Welsh but also for a Neolithic fort. With not much of a view, I stopped for fewer photos than yesterday and made good time to Solfach. I walked into the high street to the attractive cafe, and queued for several minutes. Unfortunately, the two people in front of me took the last table. The nice waitress suggested an alternative , so I went in to be told that breakfast had finished and lunch wouldn’t be served for another hour. I was starving now. The waitress must have seen my depressed expression as she asked the chef if he could rustle up a final breakfast. Vindicating my point about people being kind, he did, and I polished off an excellent eggs benedict. (See review). I sat there for an hour, with a second coffee and was rewarded with improved weather. Not sunny like yesterday, but the clouds lifted and the rain stopped.
Solfach is a long, narrow inlet, with quite a few little yachts bobbing gently. The path out climbs quite steeply, and then closely follows the cliff edge. At last I could see the southern arm of St Brides Bay, where I had walked yesterday. I met another lady who is doing regular coast walking. We compared notes about the steepness of the Cornish coast. Whilst this area is similar, it does not have the long steep ups and downs that nearly killed me a few years back – why I wasn’t using poles, I’ll never understand. I love them now.
The path now became very busy, especially as I approached St Non’s chapel, just south of St David’s. According to legend, St Non was the mother of St David, the patron saint of Wales. To all appearances it looked like a Celtic chapel from the early Middle Ages, there were at least 10 other people milling, waiting to go in. I was struck inside by how Catholic it seemed, which surprised me, as the Anglican Church in Wales tends to be ‘low’. The mystery was solved when I saw an information sheet, saying it had been built in 1934 by Mr Cecil Griffith, using stones form surrounding buildings that were probably originally from ecclesiastical buildings, whilst the nearby holy well was restored by the Passionist Fathers in 1951. http://www.stnonsretreat.org.uk/history.html
As I left, two men who had been ahead of me on the path stopped and began chatting to me. Something one of them said led me to say ‘Cymro cymreig ydach chi?’ That is literally, Are you a Welsh Welshman? meaning Welsh speaking. He replied that he was and asked me if I were a Welsh Welshwoman. My Welsh is very rusty after over 35 years living in England, but within one sentence he had picked me as from North Wales. A regular diet of Welsh television is reviving my skills, but the part of Wales I now live in has few native speakers, so I was glad to practice a little on these two, who were from Aberhonddu and Abertawe. Unfortunately my little chat with the Welsh Welshmen meant that the 15.40 shuttle was just sailing up the hill as I came down into Porth Clais. Rather than wait half an hour, I decided to walk up to St David’s and began toiling up the narrow lane, having hesitated as to which of two to choose. A car stopped – I thought it might be kind people offering a weary walker a lift, but it was just somebody asking if I knew where the road led. ‘St David’s, I hope.’ ‘No, we’ve just come from there.’ ‘Really? I was sure the map said this road.’ ‘No, definitely not, we’ve come from there.’ ‘Did you come down that road?’ I gestured towards the one I hadn’t taken, more or less parallel, but further left. ‘Yes. We were hoping this led to St Justinians.’ ‘Well, I don’t know. As you can tell, I’m lost too.’ I returned down to the port and took the other road. After 10 mins, I heard someone behind me and turned to ask ‘does this lead to St David’s?’ ‘No, not this road.’ ‘But someone just told me they had come down it from there.’ ‘They must have come from the other road.’ She pointed back behind us. You can see the cathedral there. I was totally confused. But all became clear when I got back to the port. I had assumed I needed to go left out of it, but I had forgotten that Porth Clais overshoots st David’s to the west, so I needed to take the right fork. I decided to wait for the bus, since it was now 16.00. When the bus eventually came, it turned up the road I had originally taken! Having had a not brilliant but quite expensive meal in the pub here last night, I thought I would eat in St David’s. Unfortunately, as I had been between breakfast and lunch earlier, I was now between lunch and supper, and had to make do with a stodgy panini. I need to rethink my plan for tomorrow to make sure I get some breakfast as there is no lunch stop.
Things did not start particularly well. First, I discovered that I’ve also mislaid my pedometer in the house move. I bought a cheap substitute, but it is not very accurate. Then, before I left home I managed to put a weight on my water tube, soaking my rucksack and the floor, finally, when I was 2 or 3 miles from home I realised I had forgotten to bring any face masks. I couldn’t really carry on without, as the taxi driver I had booked might not have been willing to take me maskless, then the traffic was surprisingly heavy. All the way to Newgate, I don’t think there was a single moment when I was alone on the road. Consequently I was late arriving at my AirBandB, which is where I had arranged for a taxi to collect me and take me to the start. I was so late that the driver had gone and had to come back. But the sun was shining and I set out from St Brides brides at 11.35, a good half an hour later than planned, but it wasn’t a problem.
The day was glorious. Hot, bright sunshine, with enough breeze to prevent me overheating. Compared with the weather when we finished at St Brides in January 2020, it could not have been more different. It was wonderful to be on the path again.
The coast here is superb, and I could see across St Bride’s Bay to my destination, which I always like. The going was fairly easy, the path is well tended and there were not many ups and downs, the path mainly sticking to the cliff top. Frequent signs and closed off remnants of paths suggest regular landslides. The place was thick with wildflowers foxgloves, thrift, rock roses, vetch, and some sort of scabious.
At one place on the cliff top there was a curious rock, with what looked like a man-made hole through it. I’ve absolutely no idea why anyone would perch it there, but it framed the tanker in the bay very nicely when I peered through.
The day was uneventful and I made good progress. The most interesting relic I saw was a derelict circular stone building, close to the shore. I was puzzled as to what it might have been, it didn’t seem an obvious place for a fortress, but as I climbed out of the valley, the clue appeared in the valley’s name – Mill Haven.
For much of the day, I could see the long beach at Newgale. The first path down to it was closed off, as was the second, which was steepish and scrambly. Not taking it meant a stiff climb back to the top of the cliff, along a bit, and then down again. I contemplated the path. I could probably have made it, and had I not been on my own, or if it had been at the start of the day, I might have done it, but it seemed too risky after a full day’s walk, when I was tiring. So I crawled up the steep cliff. Eventually there was a route to the beach, the last 15 feet needed a bit of sitting down and scrabbling, and a couple of ladies sitting underneath the cliff offered to help. I felt a bit embarrassed – they both looked rather less fit than me, but clearly, I was not impressive. It was fabulous to be on the sand, I took off my boots and walked the whole length of the beach, paddling, which I think is the first time I’ve actually had my feet in the water since Rhossili beach. The downside of Newgale, is that a sea wall has been constructed of large cobbles that it is necessary to scrabble over, which also means that you cannot see the water once you are on the street side. My accommodation is over the pub, but not related to it. It’s a bit noisy…
The misery of covid has meant that I have not been able to walk the coast since January 2020, but I have now booked my next leg for 22 – 25 June – St Bride’s to Abereiddy. During lockdown, I have done some walking – the highlight being completing the wonderful St Cuthbert’s Way which goes from Melrose to Lindisfarne in the brief freedom we had last autumn. The autumn colours were spectacular and the weather excellent. For covid safety, it involved a campervan. An interesting experience! They are very small for sharing….
Lately, I’ve been exploring my new surroundings, as I have moved to Monmouthshire – what a delight! I am on the Gwent Levels, about 20 mins walk from the Severn Estuary (the stretch that I walked on Day 99, back in December 2017) and about the same time by car to the Wye Valley and the Brecon Beacons. So far, the highlight is the ancient woodland at Coed Gwent, where the cowslips have been blossoming.
I’m so glad we made time to go to Evensong yesterday. It was Candlemas, and the service was an absolute delight. All the electric lights were switched off, and we processed through the stunning cathedral, each member of the congregation holding a candle. There was a real sense of tradition and community in the service, which was conducted in both Welsh and English, with a bit of Latin thrown in from the choir. If you are interested in the cathedral, I’ve written a bit about it over at my history website – link here. https://bit.ly/3bZcAZZ
Another short walking day, as most of us needed to leave to get home at a reasonable hour for work the next day. We drove up to Martin Haven, and began walking around 11.30. We were finished and had eaten our sandwiches by 2.30.
It was almost as windy as yesterday, but once we had came in east from the headland at Martin Haven, we were more sheltered. In the carpark, an ancient stone has been set into the wall. It is one of some thirty ring-stones found in Pembrokeshire.
7 – 9th c roundstone with Celtic cross, at St Martin Haven
The carving, a Celtic cross, dates from 7-9th centuries AD – the period when the Celtic church flourished along the Irish seaboard as monks travelled to and fro between Wales, Ireland, Cornwall and Brittany.
A different type of shipping surrounds the headland today – we could see several tankers, waiting to take their turns loading and unloading at Milford Haven – this stretch of St Brid’s Bay, being, presumably, calmer water than the open sea.
Shipping in St Bride’s Bay, waiting to go into port.
It was easy walking along a flat cliff-path. Once again, there was thick lichen on the stones, denoting clean air. Tom and Trevor were busy with their binoculars, but I did not recognise anything beyond gulls. As we came toward St Bride’s the silhouette of St Bride’s Castle was visible on the right. Now a luxury time-share, it was built in 1833, in gothic revival style, on the site of an earlier property. The estate is surrounded by a long dry-stone wall, buttressed against the wild wind.
Wandering unfettered on the cliffs nearby were little Welsh ponies – standing braced with their rears into the wind.
Overlooking St Bride’s Bay
4 miles and a silver day to round the weekend off with.
Today was a short day, but none the worse for that. Since we are in the delightful cathedral city of St David’s, some of us decided that we would like to go to Evensong, so our walk was limited to allow for getting back by 6pm. In the end only three of us walked at all. Graham’s ankle is still dodgy (and I think a desire to watch the England-France game may have made it somewhat worse) and Sally and Trevor decided to look around the city.
We got to the carpark at St Ann’s around 10am, and walked back to the place we turned off the path last night.
Lighthouse at St Ann’s Head
The weather was weak sunshine, but the wind was howling. In fact, it never let up all day. The path runs close to the cliff edge, and the wind was blowing us almost horizontally onto the land so, since I am not very heavy, I spent a good deal of time staggering about. Once again, I was glad of my lovely poles. The views were spectacular all the way – too overcast to really see clearly, but the outlines of the various islands off the coast, including Skokholm and Skomer (which you can see were once part of the mainland) were faintly visible. The coast here is eroding fast, and at one point on the path ominous cracks in the adjacent field are already visible.
Coastal erosion – cracks appearing.
An interesting selection of different rock types, according to Tom. Igneous, Devonian sandstone, even volcanic basalt. Plenty of bird life again, too. Lots of gulls, of course, and starlings, a kestrel, and a couple of choughs. No sign of any puffins, though.
There were a few ups and downs to the coves, but nothing too strenuous, fortunately, considering the wind.
Off-shore island just visible in the mist – left on horizon – right is headland.
We did 6.9 miles and were finished by 2.15. Another Silver day.
My original plan was to walk down the north side of the estuary, but poring over the map there seemed to be hours of road walking and weaving through industrial estates, and all, of course, not on the actual sea coast. This was compounded by the realisation that there were two points that could only be crossed at very low tide – the first between Ferry Cottage and Sandy Farm at Sandy Haven and the second at Dale. Because of the tides, it would be impossible to cross both in the same day. I therefore made the decision to start the walk at Sandy Haven, or rather at the Baptist church just at the bend in the road. We dropped one car at St Ann’s, then came back to the church where there is a layby to park in. I had just parked when another car turned up. We were not surprised, west Wales seems to be the new Piccadilly Circus – traffic everywhere. The chap crunched into the stone wall . He got out and observed that the collision had sounded expensive. He was there for an ashes-distributing ceremony. He pointed out the stream racing towards the sea and showed us the little lock gates that formed a pool where the congregation perform Baptisms.
A quick five minutes up the main road, then we turned left along a narrow road, before hitting the coast path. Looking back, it was just possible to see where the stepping-stones might be although they were under water at that point.
Stepping Stones at Sandy Haven
The coast was wonderful. The sun was shining and although the wind was strong, it was a magnificent day, and not too cold. We meandered along, stopping frequently for photo. We could see Milford Haven behind us, and the huge complex of Pembroke Refinery that we walked past yesterday. It was far more prominent than it had seemed yesterday. It was interesting seeing the shipping coming in and out of the channel – another Irish ferry, similar to the one we watched yesterday going past the fort.
We stopped for our sandwiches near Watch House Point.
Between Great Castle Head and Watch House Point – looking East.
As we sat on the bench, munching away, two men approached from the west. One looked very much like a character from a soap opera about ‘sailors and country-folk’. He had on an assemblage of waterproofs, a high-vis and a tweed hat, tied onto his head with a bit of string. He stopped to say hello, and his companion gave a quick nod and raced on. We soon found out why. The chap could talk the hind-leg off a donkey. We had a ten-minute monologue – literally – we could not even break in with a question or comment. In fact, his stories were quite interesting – his father was an Italian fighter-pilot, who was a prisoner-of-war, and his mother was from Tiger Bay (the part of Cardiff where Shirley Bassey grew up – once famed for its tough economic circumstances). He himself had been brought up not far from where we met him. His father then went on to be a racing driver, taking part in Formula One trials at Pendine (where I was on day 113). We heard about his schoolmaster, a disappointed actor, who was handy with the cane and broke a girl’s fingers. Spitfires and motor-bikes also got a mention, but it got rather jumbled up. We began pawing the ground, but were trapped by the narrowness of the path. Eventually, one of us managed to leap up and draw the conversation to a close. We scurried off leaving his last anecdote in mid-air.
Shortly after, I managed to lose the others – hard, you would think, on a narrow path, but I had fallen behind for a few moments, and when I passed through a kissing gate, I assumed the others had gone down into the little cove and up the other side – I did not see them turn to explore the folly at Monk Haven. I marched on, wondering why I could not see them. Eventually, I heard my phone ringing. I usually ignore it, but guessed that it was a call to find me.
As the path wound in and out, there were beautiful dells again with many ferns. No snowdrops but early primroses and lent lilies. The sign told us that the stepping-stones at Dale were impassable. We did not much fancy the long route, and having checked the tide times, thought they should be evident, so we went to check and we could cross easily enough.
The crossing at Dale.
We stopped for excellent coffee and cake in the Yacht club at Dale and had a quick glance at the rugby. Wales ahead by 28 – 0 at half time!. There was a bit of road up toward the lighthouse at St Ann’s Head, but before we go there, Sally pointed out a plaque on a stone. It commemorates the landing of Henry, Earl of Richmond in the Mill Bay, below, on 7th august 1485. Two weeks and a day later, he defeated Richard III at Bosworth. Incredible to think he marched 4000 men from Pembrokeshire to Leicestershire in a fortnight and that they were battle ready at the end.
Plaque commemorating landing of Henry, Earl of Richmond.
From St Ann’s Head, I could see across to the breakers on Freshwater West, where I was last summer. It was getting dark and windy, so we turned up the tarmac to the carpark, arriving just before dark.
Everything combined to make this a gold day. 11.4 miles.
I had a long trip down yesterday, making a detour to fetch my new Tudor gown for my re-enactment group, The Tudor Players. The picture shows a rather different me from the usual walking gear! The weather was pretty foul, and the forecast was worse. On the upside, I am staying at a gorgeous AirBandB in the little city of St David’s – one of the nicest places I’ve stayed on the whole walk, and I also have the pleasure of friends joining me.
Jessica, Tom, Graham and I set out in two cars this morning around 9.30. We dropped one at Pembroke Dock, after observing the astonishing cheapness of the petrol. Perhaps it’s knock-off from the refineries. We drove on to Angle and left my car there. The walk itself was not hard – up the estuary, on flattish ground, the path weaved between shorelines, woodland and farmland. There was a splendid selection of bird life. Widgeon, pintails, sheldrakes, dunlin, oyster catchers, curlews, meadow pipits, gulls and turnstones – all pointed out to me by the birders amongst us, although I am getting good at some of these myself now – birds with red legs are no longer a mystery and I can tell a duck from a gull at fifty paces! We dawdled for the first couple of miles to admire them. Angle Bay is a lovely, sheltered inlet. The weather was soft and misty, the water still and sound muffled, giving a faintly otherworldly air to it. It was hard to believe that we were close to the massive refineries and industrial complexes of Milford Haven. Once round Angle Bay, the path meanders inland behind the huge Pembroke refinery, which, astonishingly, is cheek by jowl with a 14th century tower house. We could see Fort Popton on the headland, built for defence during the prime-minstership of the bellicose Lord Palmerston – he of the gun-boat diplomacy. Because of the lie of the land, the refinery was surprisingly invisible as we passed east and south of it, although when we came round Pwllrochan Flats, we passed under the pipes. Once away from the shore, the path went into woodland,
It was easy walking, other than the claggy mud, which was particularly bad after we climbed inland from the refinery. I had over trousers on but my trousers are still caked with mud to the knees. Spring has come early to Pembrokeshire, and there were swathes of snow-drops in the wooded sections. We passed the old St Mary’s Church at Pwllchrochan, which is now a private house. It has the distinctive spire atop a square tower of the district.
One of our number took a different, slightly shorter road route after hurting his ankle so we arranged to pick him up in whichever pub he first got to in Pembroke, after the rest of us had gone on to Pembroke Dock to fetch the car. By the time we had walked at least two miles through the rather unappealing backstreets of Pembroke Dock it was dark. We did not have time to visit the castle, but since I saw it on my last trip up here, I did not mind.
13.6 miles and a silver day – the company compensating for the dull weather and lack of views.
I am glad I rested yesterday, as when I woke this morning, the sun was shining, I was full of energy and my knees had nothing to say.
I drove up to Pembroke and waited for the bus – as always, I was ridiculously early, but I sat on a bench and watched the town begin to wake up. The ubiquitous strimmers were out in force. The bus driver recognised me, of course, as he clearly makes it his business to give excellent service. When I got on, I was the only passenger, but we picked up others en route. I jumped off at the roundabout I had finished at on Thursday, with directions to go down a different route to avoid the main route along the road – unfortunately, it led to a field with copious cows, all morning-fresh and clustered around the exit stile, so I back-tracked – it was only a couple of hundred yards. I walked briskly along the tarmac, and soon came to another of the parallel paths that the MoD has arranged to keep walkers off the roads. After about 45 minutes, I could see Freshwater West beach – I am happy to say that my suspicion that Barafundle is not the best beach in Wales was quickly confirmed – Freshwater West is superb – only marred by several camper vans blocking the views. Everywhere I looked, surfers were shimmying into their gear, and there was a mobile café serving bacon or plaice rolls. I resisted temptation, and just had coffee. The beach was lovely to walk over, smooth reddish-gold sands, then the pathed climbed up. Several people had informed me that the walk from Freshwater West to West Angle Bay was one of the toughest sections, and there were quite a few steep ups and downs, however, nothing like the horrors around Tintagel. Or perhaps my poles are entirely revolutionising my ability to go up and down. I met a twitcher seeking choughs. Apparently, this stretch is well-known for them. So far, I had not seen any, and thought that I might be reduced to touching up the photographs with red, but, about ten minutes later, I did see some.
It was a glorious day – the sea was turquoise, and the rocks are the most amazing colours – orange, red, purple, and folded and twisted into shapes. One inlet looked like nothing so much as a stick of Toblerone – a row of triangular shaped rocks. The wildflowers continued to delight – no pyramid orchids today, but lots of thrift, and my personal favourite, the foxglove, as well as something that looked like gaura, or possibly a type of white salvia.
I reached West Angle at about 12.45, and bought another coffee to have with my sandwiches, overlooking the beach. To the north, is St Ann’s lighthouse, the other side of Milford Haven.
The village of Angle runs east-west, but the path goes north, and then runs parallel to it, facing into the sound. It is a delightful stretch – hedgerow on one and sea on the other, with a well-trodden path. Lots of people were going back and forth along it, so I don’t know how I came to miss a small turn off and end in a potato field. Since there was a broad path alongside the crop, I assumed I was in the right place. It swung south and I supposed it would take me out by the church at Angle as marked on the map. In fact, it brought me into an overgrown field, which, luckily, had a gate I could clamber over, before sneaking through a couple of back gardens to reach the lane. I had arrived in the middle of the village, rather than the east end. I went into the little church, another one with the vernacular style stone-tower, and a fourteenth century chapel behind, dedicated to sea-farers. I still had 2 hours to kill before the bus, so I found the track and walked back towards where I had gone wrong. I did not quite get there, deciding to turn back when I reached the lifeboat station. I then walked all the way back along the street to the beach, for my only ice-cream of the trip.
The bus came more-or-less on time, and dropped me at Pembroke. Rather than coming straight back, I diverted to see the chapel at St Govan’s, which I could not reach on Tuesday as it is behind the closed section of the artillery range. It is quite extraordinary – a tiny chapel squeezed half-way down an inlet in the cliffs, with the sea pounding below. The legend is that a sixth-century Celtic missionary Govan, going about his business by sea, as the missionaries did in that time, was chased by pirates. He prayed, and an inlet in the rocks was opened that he slipped into, evading pursuit. The current chapel dates at least from the fourteenth century and may be as old as sixth century.
The evening was bright and fine, so I walked toward Bosherton, where I had been obliged to come inland on Thursday, to see more of the marvellous coast. I am sorry to be going home tomorrow – although I think I need to accept that five days in one block needs to be followed by a rest day. In total I have done 85 miles on this leg – about 20 less than I hoped.