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.

12.5 miles and a silver day – the company compensating for the dull weather and lack of views.

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.

 

Day 113 Talacharn to Saundersfoot 10 June 2019

Day 113 Talacharn to Saundersfoot 10 June 2019

I had an early start today, as I was leaving the delightful accommodation for a new location, so had to pack everything up and get to Saundersfoot in time for the bus. As it happens, I misread the timetable and left myself with nearly an hour to wait. The bus was then slightly delayed, which worried me, as I had a ten minute gap at Pendine to catch the second bus. However, the driver clearly believed in hitting his timetable, as he haired down the country lanes at a scary pace.

At the Pendine bus stop were another couple of walkers, from North Wales, so we had good chat. There was also a lady who clearly had some mental health issues. She asked me to watch her dog whilst she went back home for something. It was not clear why the dog could not go too. I told her I was catching the bus, and could not wait, but she assured me she would be back. The poor creature set up a tremendous torrent of barking. Another woman at the stop more-or-less told me that she does it all the time. I felt guilty when I got on the bus, and left the poor dog barking, but what else could I do?

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Dyklan Thomas’s 30th Birthday Walk.

The sun was not so bright this morning, but Talacharn/Laugharne is still very pleasant, and the first 20 minutes of walking through the woods where Dylan Thomas did his famous walk, to celebrate his 30th birthday and wrote a poem about it, were lovely.

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Woods to the west of Talacharrn.

Then there was a long trek underneath the cliff on a paved track.  A rather depressing puppy-farm made a lot of noise, before the path turned up to the road. Once again, considerable effort has been made to keep the path off the tarmac, but the whole four miles was dull.  As we approached Pendine, which I discovered was the home of the land -speed record. I was amused by a sign announcing this, together with the words, ‘drive safely’.  Another sign for my new collection.

I was worried that as I passed the bus stop where I had boarded earlier, the dog might still be there, but fortunately, it was not. At the far end of Pendine, I bought a coffee and sat to eat my sandwiches, looking back along the amazing beach, where the land-speed record had been set, which, sadly, is largely closed to the public, as an MoD property. There was constant shooting in the background. The path climbs high up out of the village. I stopped at a viewpoint and chatted to a couple with a rather nice dalmation dog, named Jasper. The man’s brother is also walking the entire coast! Quite a coincidence, although I expect there is some statistical quirk that makes it all quite unsurprising. Like two people in every 23 having the same birthday.

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Me with the long stretch of Pentywyn/Pendine sands behind

The sun was now beating down, and although the path was quite tough for the next four miles, the views were superb – it was even possible to see the Devon coast in the far distance, and the Worm’s Head was very clear.

I slapped on loads of Factor 50, having decided, foolishly, against wearing my hat. Since the only lipstick I can find that lasts all day (and protects from cold-sores provoked by burning) is pillar-box red, the effect with thick Factor 50 is rather like Coco the Clown.

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Pentywyn Sands – Worm’s Head to far right.

By the time I got to Amroth, I was hot and tired. There was a very welcome pub where I sat on a comfortable chair and cooled down. At this point, my blister was still intact.

At Amroth, I began the official Pembroke Coast Path. The beach looked inviting, but the tide was coming in and there were lots of groynes. I did not want to find that I could not get out at the end and have to backtrack, so I stayed on the cob. The path climbs up again, then down onto the road into Wiseman’s Bridge, after which it winds around the promontory, then through a very odd cave (formerly the railway tunnel, I think) with bizarre red lighting.  This brings you onto Saundersfoot beach, which, happily, you can walk over.

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Beach at Saundersfoot.

I arrived at the new Air B & B, keen to eat and put my feet up. It is very disappointing – absolutely miles from the bus or train station, and when I arrived, the key-lock number did not work. I tried, and one of the neighbours tried. There was no phone signal, so I had to drive to the nearest pub, to log onto Air BandB and check the number. I was definitely trying the right combination. I had to track down the owner and get him to come out.  He used an entirely different code. There is no TV aerial, and the injunction on the info sheet to play board games instead is rather limited for a single person. The DVDs provided as an alternative are all what you might call family viewing – eg Mrs Doubtfire!  I am not a big TV watcher, but I do like some shows. The owner slightly redeemed the situation by offering me a lift tomorrow morning to the station, now it transpires I cannot walk there very easily. I am going to have to rejig my timetable.

Weather superb – 14.5 miles and another Silver day.