Approximate distance: 2.5 miles
When walked: October 17th 2012
OS Map required: OL36- South Pembrokeshire
This section of the path is within Pembrokeshire. Their Coast path Officer is Dave MacLachlan. His email is DaveMac@pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk
Writing about a walk nearly 7 months after its completion presents the obvious problem of the validity of the recall but such delays in recording such events are not unprecedented. Over the winter I have read several books about (broadly speaking) walking. The one that I probably enjoyed the most was Laurie Lee’s “When I walked out one midsummer’s morning” – an account of his leaving his home in Stroud, Gloucestershire in 1935 and subsequently making his way -mostly on foot- from Vigo in Northern Spain to Almunécar on its southern coast near Granada. The book was first published in 1969. I won’t say more about this rather harrowing story here as in the back of my mind I have the idea of starting a new section in this blog about other writers take on travelling on foot. The cynical reader might well offer a wry smile at my floating this idea since I have demonstrably been unable to add any fresh material to the blog since the end of last year.
Accuracy may well be very important in some respects when offering an account of a walk. If I misled you about the location of a toilet or a bus top you would be entitled to complain in the strongest possible terms. But whether what I think or feel now about my experience of 7 months ago differs significantly from what I thought or felt at the time is, I submit, of little consequence. Particularly, in this instance, as we are only talking about a walk of a few miles.
In previous entries I have “cheated” by amalgamating a couple of the walks into one post. In that instance the walks were not separated significantly in time. It would seem wrong, though, to bring together an October walk to Saundersfoot with the next instalment (Saundersfoot top Manorbier), which I completed earlier this month. Having reached Pembrokeshire I also think that the way that I am writing about this walk along the Wales Coast Path needs to change somewhat. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is one of countries 15 designated National Trails. This means that not only is the path way marked by the friendly finger-posts carrying the insignia of the acorn
, but there is already an extensive body of publications in both print and on the internet that cover most practical aspects of what the walker might either want or need to know. Yes, I am talking toilets again. But also bus routes, Bed and Breakfasts, pubs and car parks. This, to my mind, frees me up to comment on my own experience of the facilities that I come across, rather than tell you about those that I might have called in at.
I have always found written guides to National Trails an invaluable tool, to help me plan where I might stay or where to eat or buy food and how I might use public transport to make my connections. So without doing any research on what others have thought of what’s on offer, I bought the third edition of “Pembrokeshire Coast Path” by Jim Manthorne and published by Trailblazer. It appeared to me that this was the most recently updated (2010) book and was also taking the sensible approach of guiding one along the 186 miles of this route in a clockwise direction (thus proving beyond doubt in my view that the Wales Coast Path should also be considered to start at Chepstow). It occurs to me that even if I am walking alone that by having such a guide with me, it gives me someone else’s views and opinions to argue with. (in this instance as the edition has been updated by Alexander Stewart and not the original author quite who my arguments will be with will remain uncertain. No matter. The arguments are for your entertainment and mine. ) Anyway, that’s more than enough preamble for a two mile walk.
Thumbing through my guide from the cosy (for that read somewhat cramped but comfortable) room at the Mellieha Bed and Breakfast it was obvious to me that my best bet to make the connections I needed to get back to my car in Carmarthen was to have a lie-in and then just make for Saundersfoot where I could pick up one of the vintage Silcox buses. It was a pretty wild day with squally showers, so as I set off up the hill I didn’t feel that I was going to be depriving myself of a great days walk. The path leaves the road and takes a track to the left climbing steadily. As I recall (and I have to confess already to the unreliability of this) I was somewhat frustrated that the view out to sea was mostly obstructed by a woody hedgerow. It was not until I reached the non-descript settlement of Wisemans Bridge that I had a decent view though this first pic of the day, taken around 10am, gives lie to this impression.
I do remember a warm fuzzy feeling when I encountered this first finger post for the National Trail. These markers become your friends. A nonsensical notion of course. More accurate, perhaps to say that you come to value them as they provide reassurance that you are on the right path.
The sea wall at Wisemans Bridge may be functional but is hardly attractive, though after the rough surfaced car park the next mile is delightful – especially on such a blowy day.
The tarmac surfaced path is edged with reassuringly robust white painted railings. Below the concrete faced sea wall is a ten to 15 feet drop to the sea. Except that on as blustery day as today the waves smashing into the wall sends up enough spray that I put my waterproofs on to stop me from getting drenched. Exciting enough but in a real gale this stretch of the path could induce euphoria.. The width of the path here reflects the fact that you are following the route of an old railway which dates from 1834 and was used for taking coal (and later, presumably, iron) from the Grove and nearby collieries by horse-drawn trams to Saundersfoot from where it was shipped abroad. In 1874 a steam engine named Rosalind replaced the horses (tasty burger anyone?). The path passes through two tunnels.
Distracted by the crashing waves I missed (or perhaps it was under water) what Manthorpe describes as an interesting fan shaped rock formation on the beach formed by a pre-historic lava flow. The path opens out by a small park and car park where there are toilets (it may take a while to break the toilet-mentioning habit) and then goes through a third tunnel to enter the end of a street called The Strand that starts off residential and becomes one lined with little shops. At the end of which emerges the attractive harbour of Saundersfoot.
You’ll have hardly earned any refreshment or be in need of a rest unless you are generally a bit decrepit but there is everything available here by way of seaside treats that you might expect. I had an ice cream, natch, before heading for the amusement arcades and the bus stop. Manthorpe describes Saundersfoot as being “free of any tackiness”. I like the place but I think he probably didn’t look very closely. I have never come across a seaside resort yet that didn’t have a good dollop of tackiness.