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 112 – Llansteffan to Talacharn/Laugharne 9 June 2019

Day 112 – Llansteffan to Talacharn/Laugharne 9 June 2019

I am so glad to have met James and Anita. Apart from them being extremely interesting and nice people, we were able to circumvent the difficulties of Sunday public transport in Wales. There is a ferry from Glan-y-fferri (who’d have thought?) to Llansteffan, so we decided to begin walking there, and left one car at Talcharn/Laugharne, underneath the imposing Anglo-Norman castle. The countryside is littered with these twelfth-century strongholds, built by the Marcher lords who had licence from William the Conqueror to take as much land from the Welsh as they could and hold it on terms much less onerous than the land they held from him in England. Talacharn castle is more-or-less opposite Cydweli, where we had tea yesterday. The pair of fortresses guard the entrance to the Tywi estuary.

Llansteffan is a lovely little village. We arrived about 9am and set off towards the shore. We agreed to walk separately, as I am slower, and it is very tiring to walk at someone else’s pace. Just as we left the village, we could hear the church bells ringing and see yet another castle.

Church at Llansteffan

The sky was blue, the view over the estuary was amazing, across Cefn Sidan, all the way back to Llanmadoc, and the Worm’s Head beyond. The path starts by running through woodland – my favourite kind of walking – woodland overlooking the sea.

Woodland near Llansteffan

After a couple of miles, the track turns inland, up yet another estuary – this time the Tâf. The walk was largely uneventful – more road walking than is entirely pleasant, my knees do not respond well to tarmac. The poles seem to help, though. By and large, the signposting is good. Carmarthen, like Newport, has the tops of the fingerposts in bright yellow, which helps. I admired a flock of domestic ducks in one field (although Anita told me later they were geese). Surrounded by buttercups they had the air of an advertisement for wholesome food.

Passing that farmhouse, the signage was not brilliant. One gets the impression that some of the landowners are not that happy to have the Coastal Path traversing their fields – poor signs, unoiled gates, bullocks in the field etc, often give the impression that walkers are not welcome. I cannot help thinking that they get the money, so should be a little more accommodating. Of course, many farms are well-arranged for walkers.

Ducks or geese, on a farm near Tâf estuary.

Having looked at the map, it seemed to me that a short-cut was possible – rather than following the official path for about a mile, another public footpath served as one side of a triangle. Sadly, short cuts always mean long delays. The field, although a public footpath, was wall-to-wall bovines. Not just a few, but scores.  All far too interested in me. I trekked to the side of them, and entered another field – I could see the path about 200 yards away, but there was no way out of the field without going through the cattle. I turned back and took the official route. It went through another cattle field, but they were tucked into one corner, and rather more docile. I crossed a couple more fields, lots of grass, presumably for sileage, and sat down to eat my lunch. I discovered later that James and Anita had stopped in exactly the same spot!  Several fields later, the path decanted onto a minor road. As I turned left, I could hear ferocious barking.

Dogs, unlike cattle, do not bother me, but the two that came trotting out of a farm yard, onto the public highway were ugly customers. One was a labrador, normally a docile breed, and the other a collie. They were not docile at all. They barked and snarled and circled me. The worst thing is to show fear, so I breathed slowly and began talking to them,  in both English and Welsh, although I kept my poles in front of me. The lab looked as though she might have pupped recently, so perhaps she was feeling protective.  I struggled to pass them.  Then they began to calm down as I kept talking as soothingly as I could. The lab came close and wagged her tail, but I was not going to fall for that and try to pat her.  I hit on the idea of throwing the apple I had been eating, in the hope they would bound off, but only one fell for it – I was now trapped with one in front and one behind. Not such a good plan. They then bounced ahead and to my left. I hurried past and arrived at a farm gate. Clearly, I had missed the path. A young girl pointed in the right direction (the opening the dogs had shot down). I thanked her, and observed that the dogs were rather fierce to be allowed out on the road, but she obviously could not care less.  The brutes had raced off by now, but I was glad to nip down the path and clang the kissing gate firmly behind me. More open fields took me into St Clears. There was a lot of interesting information about the industrial past of the estuary – it is almost impossible to imagine these quiet, rural areas as once having been hives of industry.

The path runs alongside the main road, but a lot of effort has been made to keep the track safely behind the hedge. It then diverts through more fields, used for trail bikes, it seems, and then some of the loveliest fields of the day. I suppose they are ‘set-aside’ land, as they were brimming with wildflowers – buttercups, grasses, yellow-rattle, flag-Iris, red and white clover, all a-buzz with insects, including bright blue damsel fly-type things, bees, butterflies (although not so many of them as you might expect). Butterfly in Welsh is pili-pala – one of my favourite words.

Set aside farmland, near St Clears, full of flowers and grasses.

Passing through several fields, you could tell which had been set-aside longer, and which were perhaps in the first season. There was another strip of woodland, overlooking the estuary, then down a lovely green-lane, before entering the well-kempt wood just north-east of Talacharn, which is, of course, famous for Dylan Thomas having lived there. I know it is sacrilege, but he is not one of my favourite authors, so I did not detour to see his writing shed.

Carmarthen Bay, near Talacharn.

I arrived back under the castle at about 4.30.  Most of the tea-shops were no longer serving. Query, why would you turn away custom on a sunny Sunday in June?  The season is not that long, surely you want to make as much as you can?  One was open, offering an interesting fusion – Asian street-food and tea and cake. Excellent lemon drizzle. Knees a bit grumpy after so much road walking.

Cat has returned, having ignored me last night. Unusually for me, I have a massive blister, just where my right instep meets my heel – my sock must have got a fold in it.  Shan’t be bursting it though. Hopefully, it will subside overnight.

Total distance 14.2 miles, and gorgeous weather.  Another Silver day – perfection marred by the quantity of road walking.

Day 107 – Caswell Bay to Port Eynon

Day 107 – Caswell Bay to Port Eynon

What a difference from yesterday in the weather!  When we started out, it was grey and mizzling and continued overcast until well on into the afternoon. We drovIMG_4131e down into Gower, and left one car at Port Eynon, before coming back to Caswell Bay.  We dropped down on to Pwll du beach – being very critical of the rather ugly 1960s block of flats that over shadows it. Walking to the end of the beach, it was not clear where the path went – either over a heap of rocks at the end or else up onto the road in front of the block.

Whilst we were deliberating, we saw a couple of brave swimmers – it was still wet and quite chilly, and we were thinking that swimming was the last thing we fancied – suddenly, the man called out – Nick! Astonishingly, the couple had been my sister and brother-in-law’s neighbours in Surrey back in the early 2000s. Talk about a coincidence.  Just proves you cannot go anywhere without running into someone you know.

We chatted for a moment, and asked about any cafes in the vicinity – coffee was feeling like a good plan. Unfortunately, the nearest was an hour away at West Cliff.  We arrived at the excellent café in pouring rain, so spent a good 45 minutes having a delicious Welsh rarebit and coffee. It was still drizzling as we emerged but we were slightly comforted with the thought that the latest weather forecast was for sun in the afternoon.

Back on the path, we went round the headland, and found ourselves overlooking Three Cliffs Bay. The path then deviates into Pennard Burrows – as one might guess from the name, this is a series of sand-dunes – not brilliant for walking in, and easy to lose the path,  but, with the general lay of the land, not possible to get lost, even though you have to go slightly inland, towards a ruined church, as there is only one place to cross the little stream – a series of stepping stones. There were quite a few people about by this time, with dogs and children as the rain had stopped.

Over the stream, and up onto a low headland, than down through woodland with dunes under foot, onto Oxwich Bay.  We met a boy of around 12, who was holidaying with his IMG_4189family, who was eager to tell us about the giant blue jelly-fish he had found. It was the largest one he had ever seen – it was even the largest one his dad had ever seen!  And when we came onto Oxwich beach, we could agree that the jelly-fish are monsters!

We stopped for a drink at the hotel at the end of the bay, then went through the woods at the west end of Oxwich – there is a little church hidden in the woods, dedicated to St Illtyd. Legend has it that the first Christian church was built here in the sixth century – the current building is ancient enough – 13th & 14th century.  Unfortunately, it was locked.IMG_4206

There was a steep pull up to the top of the cliff, but the sun was beginning to shine quite brightly and the views were excellent as we did the last few miles along the beach edge before arriving at Port Eynon. There were lots of ponies wandering about – presumably they wander on the common land like Esmmoor ponies. IMG_4233

We found a pub, and had a welcome gin and tonic. The pub was crowded, and lots of people were eating. However, the presence of a (used) nappy in its sack on the table next to us argued in favour of a home-cooked meal.  A silver day, with 13 miles covered.

Day 90 – Lynmouth to Porlock 10 July 2017

Day 90 – Lynmouth to Porlock 10 July 2017

We had an absolutely superb meal last night, and managed to be in bed by 10.30. It rained heavily during the night, but by breakfast time it was beginning to clear. We walked along the sea front at Lynmouth then climbed up through woodland to the cliff top.

IMG_2337

We passed a small church at Countisbury and, since both of us like old churches, decided to go in. Saxon in origin, the church is very plain, and now at quite a distance from any village.

The hymn numbers from yesterday were still on the board. We checked the first, and, astonishingly, it was the hymn I think of as my own – ‘Eternal Father, Strong to save’ sung to the tune named Melita. Of all the possible hymns that it might have been, it was that. I am sure it was a sign – although for the life of me, I am not sure exactly what of.IMG_2356

Rachel, who is a talented singer in one of the big London amateur choirs, began to sing, much to the delight of some German walkers who wandered in. Rather less dignified for Rachel was the failure of her trouser zip. I have been forbidden from adding any photographs illustrating the mishap.

Shortly after, we took a short cut – the kind of short cut that ends in long delays. The Germans were following us, and we compared notes, agreeing that the map suggested a path outside a field edge would bring us back to the main route. We ended up in a thicket of bracken, so dense that we had to give up and retrace our steps to the point where we had left the main path. It must have added at least a mile to the whole day.

The route then dropped down onto a valley, before joining a road a road, then into a long stretch of woodland, the flies were dreadful, crawling all over us, in our faces and hair, and driving us completely potty. We had to tolerate this through several miles of woodland, not compensated for by its general prettiness, lined with foxgloves. We were amused to see a mower of some sort that looked as though it had just been abandoned in the middle of the bracken – the driver was probably driven mad by the flies.IMG_2381

There is a choice of routes here, and we elected to take the upper one along the cliff top. Longer, but easier and slightly more direct, with the aim of avoiding the flies. After several uneventful miles we dropped down again into woodland, and then we entered Alice in Wonderland territory – there were numerous signs for Porlock, but they pointed in different directions – we would follow one, then come to another pointing back in the direction we had come. No matter how far we walked, the signs continued to say 1.5 miles.

At last, we caught sight of the edge of the village through the trees and, ignoring signs, headed for it. Porlock is a lovely little town, and our B & B is gorgeous. I have a vile horse fly bite from our encounter with the cows yesterday. They disagree with me, and it has swollen up into an angry red lump. 14.5 miles

Day 74 – St Ives to Portreath, 11th July 2016

Day 74 – St Ives to Portreath, 11th July 2016

Today (11th) is my birthday, and I have spent it very pleasantly. We left our bags to be picked up from our strangely impersonal accommodation – there was never any interaction with a human, only a key safe and instructions. No breakfast, just a common room with tea and coffee for the morning, which was occupied this morning with a young man who exuded an astonishing level of grumpiness without saying a single word.IMG_0863

We walked down towards the sea front and found a lovely spot for breakfast. We were still feeling food deprived from yesterday so had an enormous bowl of granola with Cornish yoghurt and honey, with fresh fruit, followed by eggs benedict. The waitress looked a bit shocked. ‘Do you really want two breakfasts?’ she asked. Jon and I nodded, but Stephen sheepishly opted just for the eggs benedict.

Whilst we were eating a squall came over and we began to think it might be plastic trouser weather, but it soon cleared. IMG_0866The rest of the day there were odd showers but nothing serious. The walk to Hayle was straightforward, gliding along the cliff edge, but not too steep or narrow. I had definite house envy as we passed some of the cliff top villas. We passed Carbis bay and rounded into the Hayle estuary.

We had a peep into Uny Lelant church – more ancestors, although I couldn’t find any names in the graveyard that I recognised, although there were some fabulous pyramid orchids in the long grass. During the Civil War Lelant held for the King whilst St Ives was for Parliament so inside there was a much treasured transcription, in giant letters, of a missive from a grateful Charles I.

Rounding the estuary we stopped for elevenses and Stephen whipped out three little cup-cakes, one with a candle and an ‘M’ iced on it, together with a small bottle of Moët Chandon. A great way to celebrate my nnth birthday, although the picture makes us look like the three wise monkeys, and I appear to have eaten quite enough cake already!IMG_0904

We went on to Hayle Towans (I assume towans is the equivalent of Welsh tywyn – sands) and the path went up and down the dunes. Stephen left us to meet his daughter and Jon and I ploughed on, passing Gwithian, but on the dunes side, rather than through the town. I wonder how many of my ancestors were conceived on the beautiful beach of Gwithian Towans?!20160711_171343

The path then went onto the cliff tops. Easy walking, with lots of wild flowers – heather, oxe-eye daisies, vetch – yellow and purple, clover of all sorts, thrift and everywhere yarrow in such profusion that you can smell it.

The route was straightforward until a mile out of Portreath, when there was a huge drop into a valley and a steep staircase up the other side. At the top there were a few moorland ponies, then we rounded a bend to see Portreath at the bottom of the slope. It’s a lovely evening, fingers crossed for tomorrow to be sunny.