Date walked 1st September 2013
Distance: 17.5 miles (too far!)
Map required: OL 35 -North Pembrokeshire
Suggested walking guide-book: Pembrokeshire Coast Path by Jim Manthorpe
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path Officer is Dave MacLachlan. His email is DaveMac@pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk
The Pembrokeshire Coast is also a National Park which is responsible for planning decisions
Last night’s bivvy by the side of the path was the best wild camp yet. I was warm in my Voyager 600 sleeping bag and protected from the elements by my Gore-tex bivvy bag. The ground was level and accommodating and although I woke more than I would have done in my bed, each time I did so I opened my eyes to a sky full of stars and was lulled back to sleep by the sound of the sea and that experience is priceless. But by 6.30 I was awake and the sun was directly behind Carn Penberry as I packed up and re-joined the path.
The path only requires you to cross the shoulder of this igneous intrusion but there was a fine view back towards St David’s Head in any case.
I passed another (see last post) field of frisky heifers who were leaping about like lambs.
Ahead the coastline looked deceptively flat but there were many little coves ahead where the path drops down to the beach.
At one such little place within striking distance of the campsite at Caerog Farm some industrious and creative types have re-discovered the possibility of writing on slate.
It was another beautiful morning and although this was quite strenuous walking it was exhilarating to be out there with the coast to myself.
The first settlement I passed was Abereiddy. I was far too early for the ice-cream van and the hippy types lounging in the back of their van in the beach car park did not offer to share their breakfast. Abereiddy was remarkable, though for coating its roofs with mortar.
It also has a nice little beach.
It has another claim to fame, though, as just after the beach is an extraordinary flooded quarry known as The Blue Lagoon, that is now used for high diving competitions.
The quarry was flooded by blasting though the narrow section of rock that separated it from the sea.
If you have been following this blog you will know by now, if you did not already, that in walking the coast you are walking though man’s history of mineral exploitation, but I had not come across anything as impressive as I found at Porthgain, just a mile or so further on. You know that something particular was going on when you pass the extensive brick-built ruins situated right on the cliff top (which would make a great camping spot I reckon).
And at your first view of the village you might wonder at why it has such a substantial harbour for such a small place.
And then you see, built onto the side of the little cove, a massive wall that appears to have windows and above it more ruined buildings and you notice your jaw dropping.
This is what remains of the holding area for stone that had been quarried nearby and transported here by trams. The scene would have looked like this around the turn of the 20th century.
But best of all at Porthgain was that at The Shed Wine Bar and Bistro freshly baked scones were being served and even though it was only around 10 am I thought a cream tea (and an orange juice) was a perfect breakfast. As I munched I chatted with a fellow walker who turned out to be a social worker (as I am) of the same age as me who worked (as I did) for what was once the County of Avon. Small world.
My extracted Guide (I had only brought with me the pages relevant to this stint) informed me that Porthgain has an “explosion” of art galleries but I felt that I could ill-afford the extra effort of exploring them. I still had a long way to go. So I didn’t take the minor detour to explore the next village, Trefin, despite Manthorpe intriguinly describing it “feeling like you have stepped back in time when you first set foot in the place”. I did notice that the roofs of a row of cottages on its outskirts were similarly clad with mortar to those at Abereiddy.
I took a snap of the finger post pointing to the Youth Hostel in homage to my Uncle Nigel who had walked and written about this stretch of the Coastal path in The Sunday Telegraph some 43 years ago. He had not stayed there, either, preferring to walk on into the evening and camp by the path.
For the next few miles it was cove after cove and precarious views into them as the path kept closely to the cliff edge. They were totally inaccessible save for those with a boat or flippers; I spied one or two seals on some pebbly beaches.
Before reaching the little village of Abercastle I took the small detour to see Carreg Sampson which is said to be the most impressive cromlech (burial chamber) near the path.
There was a good view from near there to the deep and narrow inlet that leads to the beach at Abercastle.
No refreshment was available at Abercastle; the boats in its mouth were a pretty sight.
The rugged coat continued for another couple of miles, clothed, where it was merely steep (as opposed to sheer) in bracken and gorse and strewn with rocky islands.
I was tiring now. I was carrying quite a heavy pack as not only did I have my camping gear with me, I had also burdened myself with a change of clothes, some extra toiletries and a smaller backpack. My friend Neil was joining me at Pwll Deri Youth Hostel and he had asked that we arrange a baggage transfer for our next couple of days walking together. So although the sight of the pebble beach at Aber Mawr made a pleasing change of scene, I found myself sagging as I traipsed along its shifting surface.
It was quite hard going for the next few miles. The twisted strata of the cliffs provided a welcome distraction from my fatigue.
After the bay at Pwllcrochan, Manthorpe describes the path as climbing “relentlessly”. Except that it wasn’t; there were more descents and climbs to do before I was finally climbing up the steep, heather-carpeted mile section that passes over Carn Ogof.
But when I did reach the top I did have a view across Pwll Deri (the name of the bay) and I could make out the white painted building (centre of the pic by the cliff top) that is the Youth Hostel.
I arrived at the hostel at around 3pm and it took some composure not to have a cry on reading the notice that the volunteer staff would not turn up until 5. I was desperate for sa lie down and a shower. But there was a toilet and a seat and at least I was able to change out of my boots into my sandles and sit and gaze at the sea and imagine having a cup of tea in two hours time. And to think that tomorrow all I would be carrying was lunch and some waterproofs.