Distance walked: 18.2 miles
Date walked 21st July 2013
Map required: OL36- South 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.
All the photographs were taken on my new Canon G15. I chose this camera partly because it was capable of taking pictures in a RAW format. This would allow me best control over the image processing. I then found that my version of Photoshop would not recognize this relatively new camera so I have tweaked the camera’s own jpegs on this occasion and will be working from Raw files from then on. Given the size of these pics I doubt that you’ll notice much difference.
The National Trust are having a competition to invite people to share what they love about some of the areas of the Welsh Coast that they manage. The prize is a Coasteering or Kayaking experience under instruction for you and up to 4 others. You need to have a Facebook account and to have visited the place within the last 6 months of your entry and make your comment by October 30th 2013. Follow this link then choose the place that you’d like to comment on. Marloes Sands is one of places on this walk that they manage.
My first night sleeping in the bivvy bag just off the path was not without its problems. What I thought to have been a good turf proved to be a thin layer of grass over stony ground and several stones had managed to impress themselves upon me through the night no matter how I tossed or turned. I did enjoy the sensation of the cool breeze on my face, though and the pleasure of waking several times to find the moon brightly shining above. By 6 I was fully awake and by 6.45 was packed and back on the path.
It was a beautiful morning and now the sun, shining low from the east, was lighting up the fort on Stack Rock. A few yards past the point where I had climbed over the fence to make camp last night, I passed a sign warning me of the dangers of my resting place.
I can’t justify the trespass, of course, but the dangers were no greater than I had already faced many times already on the path through peering over cliff top precipices.
The side lit grasses were especially beautiful on this already warm morning and were perfectly placed to provide a golden fringe to my pictures.
I had been warned in Jim Manthorpe’s guide that at Sandy Haven I would only be able to pass over some stepping stones across Sandy Haven Pill for an hour or so around low tide. I could see as I walked through the camping and caravan site above the Haven (where I filled my water bag, thank you) that I was too early. Although the tide was going out, there were no signs of any stones to provide a passage across the water. The alternative would have been to make a 4 mile detour upstream and I knew that I had a long day in front of me so I sat and tested my patience whilst a couple of guys waded around appearing to be trying to fish by hand (for eels, perhaps).
A chap appeared on my side and began to pull his two man Kayak down to the water and having nothing to lose from my cheek I asked him if he would be so kind as to carry me over to the other side. He was surprised, certainly, but not offended and 5 minutes later I hopped out onto the firm mud and felt very happy to have met with such good fortune.
For the next couple of miles the fields of crops on the landward side of the path were even more beautiful than the red sandstone coves of the coast;
I even enjoyed the imposing but in my view quite elegant Little Castle Head Beacon that acts as a marker for the incoming ships.
The approach to the little inlet at Monk Haven was marked by what I was informed by Manthorpe to be the ruins of a Victorian watchtower.
At the Haven itself two large walls guard the little inlet though quite why it deserved such a construction was not clear to me.
Another tide-dependent crossing presented itself at the wide bay at Musslewick but here the tide was out and after an uncomfortable scramble over the slimy pebbles and boulders at the edge of the beach I nimbly crossed the stepping stones.
The path takes a man-made bank that contains a fresh water lake. A short stretch alongside the B 4327 brought me to Dale and a welcome café that doubles up as a centre for water sports. I ordered their (rather ordinary) full cooked breakfast. After Dale I was challenged as to whether I was going to walk the whole Dale peninsular or take the ¾ mile short cut to Westdale Bay. The friendly chap in the café had said that I should not miss St Ann’s head and so despite the increasing heat I followed the minor road out of the village to resume the “official” route.
It was a very enjoyable three miles, too, with fine views out over the sea and more beautiful fields of crops, waving and rustling in the welcome breeze.
The sandy Watwick Bay appeared to be the exclusive domain of those blessed with a boat and just around from there the promontory of St Ann’s Head appeared. Before reaching it, and just above Mill Bay a plaque by the side of the path commemorates the landing of Henry Tudor in 1485 in his successful bid to displace Richard III from the throne. As it happens I had just seen this landing on television in the excellent series “The White Queen”.
The Lighthouse’s buildings are now holiday homes and I made use of a bench for another brief rest and took a dousing from a wall mounted tap. The heat was getting to me now and although I had water enough to drink my stamina was flagging somewhat.
A study of the map showed that if I was to eat at all that night I would need to get to Marloes, still several miles away, so I resolved to rest regularly if I could find shade. I didn’t find much. At one point I pressed myself hard up against a wall with an overhanging hawthorne for 15 minutes in order to get some respite and quickly felt quite drowsy.
From near Great Castle Head the view back across the peninsular to the bay at Dale demonstrated just how narrow was its neck but I gave myself a mental pat on the back for keeping to my resolve to stick to the coast.
This resolve was not to last though. Westdale Bay passed (I was beginning to tick off the landmarks as if completing a check-list of actions required before I could stop – not a good sign) the path then follows the edge of a disused airfield where more fine grasses have colonised the cliff tops. Then Marloes Sands appeared and I knew that despite my flagging strength I would indeed make it to the village.
I knew that there was a campsite and a pub there and the way I was feeling I thought I might just bivvy at the site. Marloes is not situated on the coast , though and so as I descended towards the beach I joined instead those making their way back to their cars above laden with their beach gear and then tramped the best part of a mile through to the village. I can’t say that I was impressed by the place, although the pub where I intended to eat looked nice enough and its clock is a curiosity.
My heart sank as I approached the Foxdale campsite (they also do B&B) . Someone was cutting their hedges with a two stroke trimmer and although the campsite was perfectly OK its sheer domesticity grated with me. I paid for my pitch and bought a can of very cold coke and was very pleased to be able to have hot shower and to take the opportunity to change out of my sweaty walking shirt.
The shower’s benefits were dramatic and as I sat in the early evening sun repacking my belongings I made two decisions. Firstly, I was not going to stay there that night and secondly that I would see if I could book into the Druidstone Hotel for the following night. Very recently two friends had independently been full of praise fort this place which is situated on the coast path a couple of miles past Broad Haven. I telephoned from my mobile and as luck would have it secured the last room. It was clearly fate that I should stay there. I went back to the desk and said that I was not going to stay after all. The very kind lady, though clearly surprised, took this in her stride and insisted on giving me back half my fee for the stay, which was very kind of her.
The spring returned to my step, I strolled back down to the street to the excellent Lobster Pot Inn where I enjoyed two pints of Felin Foel and had a very friendly chat with a charming young German couple who had cycled from Liverpool and were making for Cornwall.
My renewed strength was not sufficient to persuade me to return to the point that I had come off the path at the beach so, for a second time in two days I cut a few miles off the official route by taking a little path that re-joined the Coast Path on the north side of that particular peninsular, thus depriving myself of views of Deadman’s Bay, Mouses Haven and Martins Haven. I felt OK about such deprivation, though, and was once again very happy to be on an easy cliff top path and looking out for a point to stop for the night.
There was plenty of spots to choose from as the path was level and grassy so somewhere above Musslewick Sands, when I judged it unlikely that I would encounter other walkers, I laid out my bivvy bag by the side of the path near a very comfortable ledge from where I might enjoy the sunset. I was wrong about the people, though. A woman appeared and engaged me in a chat asking if I could see a fire in the direction she was pointing back along the coast. It seemed her friends were intent on making one with something out of Homebase; I didn’t understand the method or the purpose and given the dryness of the land was somewhat concerned about the wisdom of the enterprise. But she was friendly and I wished her a goodnight. I was wrong about the sunset too; the clouds fully obstructed its departure. There was just about enough light to still make out the path and I was about to turn in when a couple who were obviously camping and who turned out to be from the Czech Republic appeared. I gave then encouragement as to their chances of them finding a good spot and then pretty much collapsed into my own camp, full of a nice warm feeling about my day and humanity in general.