Day 118 – Sandy Haven to St Ann’s Head 1 Feb 2020

Day 118 – Sandy Haven to St Ann’s Head 1 Feb 2020

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

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

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

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.

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.

Day 117 – Angle to Pembroke Dock 31 Jan 2020

Day 117 – Angle to Pembroke Dock 31 Jan 2020

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! IMG_20200202_215626813The 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. IMG_5371It 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. IMG_5408I 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.IMG_5409

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.