Day 120 – Martin Haven to St Bride’s Chapel 3 February 2020

Day 120 – Martin Haven to St Bride’s Chapel 3 February 2020

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.

Roundstone

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

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.

Overlookng St Bride's Bay

Overlooking St Bride’s Bay

4 miles and a silver day to round the weekend off with.

Day 119 – St Ann’s head to St Martin’s Haven 2nd February 2020

Day 119 – St Ann’s head to St Martin’s Haven 2nd February 2020

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.

St Ann's Head

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

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.

 

 

Offshore island.

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.

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.

Day 116 Castellmartin to Angle – 13 June 2019

Day 116 Castellmartin to Angle – 13 June 2019

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. IMG_4841Everywhere 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. IMG_4948One 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.IMG_4865

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.IMG_4979

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.

A Silver day.

Day 115 – Freshwater East to Castellmartin 13 June 2019

Day 115 – Freshwater East to Castellmartin 13 June 2019

Owing to a complete misreading of the timetable for the shuttlebus, I did not walk yesterday. Having waited a good half hour at Castellmartin, and been offered a lift in completely the wrong direction by a very helpful lady who even tried to ask one of her neighbours about the bus, I gave up and went to Pembroke to admire the castle and eat cake instead. To be honest, after Tuesday’s marathon which had me seriously contemplating the sanity of this whole project, a day’s rest did me no harm – although if I had planned it, I would have had a lie-in.

Having solved the mystery of the timetable, I went back to Castellmartin this morning, left the car, and caught the bus to the terminal, then all the way back to Freshwater East – the whole thing took three hours. By 11.30 I was 200 yards from the chalet, and had not walked a step.

I fortified myself with more coffee and cake, and set off up the headland. I saw more walkers today than all the other days put together. The weather was perfect for walking, although not so good for photos as Monday. It was broken cloud, with a light breeze and some sunshine coming and going.  Eventually, I even thawed enough to take off my waterproof. I don’t generally feel the cold, but it got into my bones on Tuesday, and the chalet is a dank, north-facing, shady place, that will never have any sun in it, and whilst I can’t say it is positively damp, it has a depressing chill. I sit on the sofa huIMG_4787ddled in the blankets thoughtfully provided by the host, in lieu of heating. The views were superb – the cliffs on this stretch are of the steep up and down, with long flat stretches along the top variety. I could see all the way back to Llanmadoc Hill on the Gower again. It was another wild-flower fest – red clover, some sort of sea-side loving borage, tiny little rock roses and primula calendula. IMG_4813I forgot to mention that on Monday I saw a tawny owl, down near the set-aside land at St Clear’s. I hoped for choughs today, but although there were hundreds of crows, their legs were stubbornly black. I may have to touch up a couple of photos.

The path drops down to Stackpole Quay, apparently the smallest dock in Pembrokeshire, then on to Barafundle Bay which advertises itself as the best beach in Wales. It was certainly delightful, although I think there are others as good – Porth Oer, near Aberdaron (although I may be prejudiced) but even the next bay along, Broadhaven. was just as gorgeous – rolling golden sands, clear water and impressive cliffs with caves and arches. There is one very odd feature on top of the cliffs – a deep, round hole, about thirty feet in diameter, which appears to be completely natural, and goes almost all the way down to the water.  There were other inlets with caves, and the sound of seagulls in them echoed strangely. IMG_4801

The MoD operates considerable swathes of cliff for a firing range and today was one of its days for closing them to the public so I walked around the inland route, which is no hardship at first, because it takes you past the lily ponds at Bosherton – I have never seen so many water lilies. I stopped at a little church – St Michael and All Angels- one of the many Norman churches in the district, built by the Norman Marcher lords, who were encouraged by the English king to take as much Welsh territory as they could. Tucked away in a corner was the tomb of a woman the leaflet named as one of the dowager-duchesses of Buckingham, but I don’t think that can be right – the clothes predate any of the duchesses.  I shall have to investigate!IMG_4822

The MoD has provided a reasonable path diversion, so that you are not obliged to walk too much on the road. There was a pleasant enough old trackway, for part of the distance, then a permissive path across fields.  Much of it was arranged with a three-foot wide stretch of path, with a fence to one side and dire warning about not touching military bits and pieces. Obviously, one of the few stretches without a fenced off path was a field full of my four-legged friends. I contemplated the alternatives – a long extra section on tarmac, or a scramble over barbed wire and along a deep drainage ditch. They looked harmless, mostly lying down away from the barbed wire edge, except for one calf, right next to it.  The worst thing you can do is get between the calf and its mother, which discouraged me going inward of it,  but walking straight it might not please mum either. I took the latter approach, and before I got to it, she called it, and it raced off. Good  – only two more ahead of me.  One ignored me, the other turned its head and waved its horns. The bull was in with his girls and had taken up position near the exit.   To go back would surely make him think I was more of a threat than going forward. I looked at the barbed wire again – three strands – I reckoned at a pinch I could crawl under and leap the drainage ditch.  Fortunately, he did not do more than watch me, as I walked briskly to the gate and slammed it shut behind me.   There was then about a mile and a half of tarmac – so hard on already tired legs.

Tuesday was 16.9 miles, and today a much gentler 10.5 – the diversion reduces the length of the section. I was glad enough to finish though. My knee is causing me some quite severe pain now.  I now need to wrestle with the mysteries of the bus timetable again – the driver explained this morning that there were some errors in it!

Today was a Tin day.

Day 114 Saundersfoot to Freshwater East 11 June 2019

Day 114 Saundersfoot to Freshwater East 11 June 2019

I am so tired, I could cry. Although individual days don’t make me more tired than they used to, I find that cumulatively, I become wearier and take longer to recover.
After the debacle over getting in last night,  Mr AirBandB offered to give me a lift to the station, which I swiftly accepted. I had quite a long time to wait, but better than a 45-minute walk up the road. It was overcast with a poor forecast, but not actually raining whilst I waited for train at Lamphey.it is a request stop, which always seems so funny for a train.  Also waiting were a couple doing the stretch from Dinbych-y-Pysgod/Tenby today. We realised we must have been on the same bus yesterday, when the lady commented about the lunatic driving.

I alighted at Saundersfoot, by which time the rain was coming down in stair-rods. I had 1.5 miles to walk to get back to the track, on hard tarmac for most of it, although at least there was a back lane off the main road. Out of Saundersfoot the path quickly rises through woodland. I met a few people coming towards me. One Canadian couple who warned me of a bull in a field en route. People should not keep bulls on the public footpath, I exclaimed pettishly. They did not seem to agree, just assured me it wouldn’t hurt me. Trepidation over this rather distracted from the scenery,  especially as the next people I met confirmed that indeed there was a bull in with the cows, which had chased their dog. But they were no problem really – fortunately, their optimism was not misplaced. The path went up and down, still through woodland until I came to the cow field. Fortunately, chasing the dog had worn them out, and they were clustered under the trees, away from the path. Another couple of walkers were conveniently in the field at the same time.

The path came out on a track above Tenby. As you wind through the back of the town, there is a long stretch of strange corrugated concrete, with the ground showing through, rather than tarmac. This makes an excellent surface for walking – the ridges make it easier under foot than tarmac, and it allows drainage, so surface water does not build up, but it is not muddy.  Environmentally, it is better to, allows plant life to continue.

Path above Tenby

Concrete track above Dinbych-y-Pysgod/Tenby

Despite my efforts with lipstick yesterday, I broke out in blister on my mouth – far worse than the one on my foot which had gone this morning. I therefore needed to make a detour to chemist. My coat has ceased to function in its main purpose of keeping rain off so I was soaked to the skin by this time.  I opted for a long lunch in a cafe, in hopes that the rain would ease, but no. I don’t mind the odd wetting. I’m healthy, well-fed and sleep well, so unlikely to come to harm, but the prospect of 10 miles saturated through was unappealing. I was just wondering about how and when I could replace the defunct not-waterproof, when miraculously, a Mountain Warehouse shop appeared in front of me. 15 minutes later, I emerged in a new waterproof. A nice long one that covers to mid-thigh, unlike many which are rather more about form than function.

Tenby is probably gorgeous in the sun, but signposting of the route somewhat lacking and I went in a circle, before finding the way out to the shore. The rain teemed down. The path rose up and down over numerous headlands.

Steep section towards Maenorbyr

Steep section towards Maenorbyr

Step steps steps down down down, then  and up up up over and over again.  I saw a little shrew on the path, reminding me that on Sunday, I saw a tawny owl.

Shrew on path west of Dinbycch-y-Pysgod

Shrew on path west of Dinbych-y-Pysgod

My poles are a revelation. I don’t know how I have managed without them, or quite why I couldn’t get on with the previous ones I had. Perhaps they were the wrong size, and too heavy. I missed the path above Maenor Byr, but fortunately there was an alternative route. Around 5pm, the rain slackened and I began to dry off. I could see Freshwater East in the distance, but it never seemed to get any closer. About 15 mins before I reached the house, the rain began again, meaning everything was wet when I got home. A very hard 16.9 miles and the forecast for tomorrow is poor.

Only a cotton day.