Day 122 – Newgale to Porth Clais

Day 122 – Newgale to Porth Clais

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.

Newgale from the north.

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.

A foxglve sagging under the weight of its own bells.

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/Solva from the east.


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.

St David’s Head on the horizon.


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

The holy well of St Non.

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.

Distance – 10 miles

A silver day.

Day 61 – Plymouth to Downerry – 10th July, 2015

Today has been a great day, although, at just over 20 miles, a bit too long. We were lucky to get here at all as yesterday there was both a tube and a rail strike and our planned train was cancelled. The only way to get here was to walk from King’s cross to Paddington, in my case, and Finsbury Park to Paddington, in Rachel’s, then make a run for the Plymouth train as soon as it was announced to try to get ahead of the two trainloads of people crammed into a single train with fewer carriages than usual. There were some very unhappy punters!

In the end, all worked out well and we got to our charming little guest house on the outskirts of Plymouth just before midnight. Following a very substantial breakfast, we took the bus into the city centre, and picked up the coast path not far from where I left it with Vicki nearly two years ago (can’t believe it is that long since I was on this side of the country!)

We walked along the Hoe, pausing to take in the enormous memorial to the fallen of the Royal Navy in both World Wars, and then past the lovely eighteenth century housing. IMG_9737There is still a very large and elegant stone barracks to admire. We caught the 11.15 Cremyll ferry across Plymouth Sound, which was full of pleasure craft as well as more serious looking boats, to Mount Edgcumbe. We stopped for a coffee in the very attractive Edgecumbe Arms pub, then followed the path though the really beautiful woodlands that fringe the estate on the seaward side, pausing to admire the view, and the multifarious follies.

Mount Edgecumbe is home to one of the biggest camellia collections in the country, but, sadly, they have all finished blooming now. The day was perfect – sunny, clear, with a light warm breeze, but not too hot. Unfortunately my pack is too heavy…I have not carried a pack for a 12 day trip, and although I have pared it down and can still fit it into 26 litres, it seemed weighty. It has been a while since either of us has done much walking – my last coast walk joint was back in February although I had a couple of days in the Lake District recently, and Rachel has dished her knee, so we took it pretty gently.IMG_9768

The sea glistened to our left as the path gently undulated through woods and on the edge of fields.

Our first landmark was the tiny chapel at Rame Head, visible for miles in both directions, and mentioned in the shanty, ‘Spanish Ladies’ as one of the places the sailors recognise on their return home. IMG_9807I had to double black to find my camera case which I had dropped, and caught Rachel up to find her listening to the Wimbledon men’s semi-final. After a short, not entirely intentional detour to the Rame Head life boat station, and a very confused scramble through a field full of brambles, the whole thing became fairly plain sailing. The path is broad, and easy at this point, and we ambled long, the silence punctuated by Rachel giving me updates from the tennis – apparently one of the best matches ever played by Federer. On one of the few narrow points, we ran into some Dartmoor ponies, who completely blocked the path, and refused to move, even when nudged by the end of Rachel’s walking pole. Eventually, we had to climb past them, hoping they wouldn’t take fright and kick.

The path led throughout the firing range at Tregantle, where we were thrilled to see a stoat actually mesmerising a small bird. We watched as the two creatures stared at each other, wondering why the bird didn’t just fly away. The stoat got closer, but I’m afraid we interfered with the course of nature by making a noise. The bird immediately came to its senses and flew off. There was nothing else to be seen at the barracks other than a rather good looking young man emptying the water out of an inflatable dinghy and pulling determinedly on the outboard. As the boat was at least half a mile from the sea, and not even on a trailer, I couldn’t really see the point of running the engine. Perhaps it was to confuse the enemy…

We thought a detour to a fish and chip shop in Port Wrinkle would be a good plan, as it was getting quite late and we were starving, but unfortunately the only café was closed. Downderry was a further 2.5 miles up the steepest slope of the day. A sudden squall meant a scramble for waterproofs – no sooner on than the sun was shining. Rachel’s knee was causing a bit of bother, so mindful of the fact that the pub might stop serving food at nine, I raced on ahead to get our orders in – not a moment too soon. We are staying at the Inn on the Shore and I am just heading to bed after an excellent supper.