One of the many crops I passed this day.

Wales Coast Path: Near South Hook Point, Pembrokeshire to near Marloes

September 1, 2013 · 14 comments

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.

Early morning sun on Stack Rock in Milford Haven, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

A beautiful morning to start the day- what more could you want?

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.

Warning sign on The Wales Coast Path near South Hook Point in Pembrokeshire, photographed by Charles Hawes

OK, so I knew that I wasn’t supposed to climb over the fence even if I had not seen the sign.

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.

View of the fort on Stack Rock in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Stack Rock: the first of many grass-fringed pics I took that day.

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).

Sandy Haven Pill, Pembrokeshire, photographed by Charles Hawes

The tide was low but not low enough.

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.

Canoe in Sandy Haven, Pembrokeshire with view across Milford Haven, photographed by Charles Hawes

Thank you!

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;

Field of Phacelia in Pembrokeshire, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Thanks to @CarolSiddorn who identified this for me on Twitter as Phacelia – used as a green manure.

I even enjoyed the imposing but in my view quite elegant Little Castle Head Beacon that acts as a marker for the incoming ships.

Little Castle Head Beacon, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

I wonder how it works. Do the captains go “Oh good, the Beacon, we must be in Milford Haven”

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.

Watchtower at Monk Haven photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Wikipedia is silent on the tower so I can’t tell you more about it.

 

At the Haven itself two large walls guard the little inlet though quite why it deserved such a construction was not clear to me.

Walls across Monk Haven, photographed from The Wales Coast path by Charles Hawes

Can’t help you about these walls either.

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.

Stepping Stones at The Gann, Musslewick photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Hop, hop, hop.

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.

Field of barley photographed from The Wales Coast Path in Pembrokeshire by Charles Hawes

Beautiful barley.

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.

Watwick Bay, photographed from The Wales Coast path in Pembrokeshire by Charles Hawes

It must feel very exclusive to be on a beach only available if you have a boat (actually there is a little path down to it but you’d have to walk a mile from a road to get there by foot)

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”.

Plaque commemorating the landing of Henry Tudor at Mill Bay in Pembrokeshire, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Why did he land at Mill Bay and his 4000 troops at Dale?

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.

View to St Ann's Head and Lighthouse in Pembrokeshire, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Was hoping for an ice-cream van at least. I did get a tap.

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.

View from near Great Castle Haed to Dale in Pembrokeshire photographed from The Wales Coast path by Charles Hawes

The building on left is called Dale Castle

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.

Marloes Sands,Pembrokeshire,  photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

More lovely grasses in the foreground.

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.

Marloes in Pembrokeshire, photographed by Charles Hawes

I might have taken a nicer pic but I was very tired!

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.

Pembrokeshire Coast on The Dale Peninsular, photographed from The Wales Coast path by Charles Hawes

I’ve not given you many pics of the coast in this post so’s here’s one I took earlier in the day.

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.

Field of whaet on The Dale Peninsular in Pembrokeshire photographed from The Wales Coast path by Charles Hawes

And here’s another field pic cos it’s fab.

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.

Path-side bivvy in Pembrokeshire on The Wales Coast Path, photographed by Charles Hawes

Night two of my experiment in bivvying

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Ian Thorpe September 1, 2013 at 7:45 am

That was a tough day, Charles, what with the distance and the heat. Courageous of you to leave the comforts of the campsite and opt to bivvy.

Reply

Charles September 2, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Hi Ian

Yes, it was a tough day. I think the only courage I exercised was to stick to what I knew I did and didn’t want. Come to think of it, that is a good rule of life, isn’t it?

Reply

Anne Wareham September 1, 2013 at 11:18 am

Err…. will email you a few corrections needed. Want a proof reader? Good terms negotiable…

Good to meet Ian here!

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John September 1, 2013 at 3:49 pm

I trust your terms will allow for the fact that you need backup to find the things you miss 🙂

More importantly, I offer, in relation to Monk Haven “A large (15′) wall with a tower at one end backs the beach. The wall was built in the 18th century to mark the boundary of the Treewarren estate. ” That vital info is courtesy of http://blueseasurf.co.uk/monkhaven.html (which doesn’t say much else beyond what Charles has already said). See, I do try to be helpful and not just pedantic about full stops.

I really do appreciate Charles suffering for his “art”, his courage in trusting his life to an unknown little boat, and the wealth of knowledge I have gained from following him (virtually, I hasten to add) so far. And the photos are good too!

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John September 1, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Adding to my own post, it seems that the wall is sort of famous! Well it has its own web page, don’t you know?

http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/410796/details/WALL+AT+MONK+HAVEN/

I’m a mine of useless information, wot? Only because Charles gets me walking (virtually) in all directions. I will get a life when the injuries heal, honest!

Reply

Charles September 2, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Even more thanks!

Reply

Charles September 2, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Thank you, kind sir, for the interesting extra information and kind comments. I will get to correcting my sloppy drafting at the end of the week. Am now in Fishguard accumulating more content!

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Charles September 2, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Thanks for the long list of corrections! Will not try and edit the post on my phone, though.

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Paul Steer September 2, 2013 at 11:10 am

I’m not sure I would have had the stamina for that one, even though I am ‘fleet of foot’ and would probably have been a wimp and stayed at the campsite, but then I would have missed so much. Great post, proof reader or not.

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Charles September 2, 2013 at 4:29 pm

You are far more doughty than you give yourself credit for, though yes, you might have wimped out about the campsite. I had a fab bivvy the next before last. But it feels like that should be a solitary experience.

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rob grover May 8, 2014 at 7:36 am

Greatly enjoyed your most recent episode of the ‘good, bad and ugly’ of the WCP
The comments about regeneration of Barmouth prompted me to think of the impact of the Harbourmaster Hotel in Aberaeron
To return to this section: we hadn’t been able to cross the Gann River on our last trip, as the wooden walkway, with non-slip plastic mesh, had been 3 foot under the high tide, so this time parked at the convenient carpark just by the Gann flats and walked back and over the crossing – no gaps in our walk, or none that we will admit to. We had passed a couple of resting walkers; they will have to remain curious as to why we walked over the crossing, turned round and walked back past them.
We don’t usually allow ourselves a break so early in a walk, but we succumbed to the lure of coffee in the beachside cafe in Dale, and, although your breakfast may have been indifferent, the generous mugs of filter coffee put a spring in our step as we climbed the lane towards St Ann’s Head. What a profusion of wild flowers, with bluebells at their best. We stopped to talk to a group of students on a field trip from Liverpool University. They were looking for woodlice among the young barley shoots, to become the sea that you photographed in high summer, but their lecturer wasn’t too impressed when we said go and look in the woods.
Passing on we said hello to the ghost of Henry VII as he came ashore at Mill Bay,which seemed a pretty unpromising and dangerous landing point, and were reminded on the Sea Empress that grounded mid channel off St Ann’s Head. Apparently she was repaired and still plies the seas under another name, but is still banned from entering these waters – rather vindictive.
Having rounded the headland, we had a blustery old walk with, fortunately, onshore winds, but warm, with blue skies, until we hit West Dale and cut back to ‘our cafe’ for beans on toast. Good beans, I said. Not Heinz, but Tesco finest, she said.
Too many walkers around the cafe, some with ‘go fast’ gaiters. Also the volunteer wardens from the Marloes Youth Hostel, touting for business. We prefer to be the only walkers in the village.
Cheers

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Charles May 8, 2014 at 10:28 am

Hi Rob. I think you have just got the prize for the longest comment on the whole blog! Well done (umm, hasn’t got a prize to give #Fail). And a very interesting comment it was , too. It was nice to be reminded of the walk. What do you see as the impact of the Harbourmaster Hotel in Aberaeron? (intrigued).

Reply

rob grover May 8, 2014 at 5:16 pm

The story, as I imagine it: some clever person/people saw the potential of the fine, waterside residence, to become a small hotel. Finance + on-trend design ( New England, Farrow and Ball, Melin Tregwint, bla, bla) good chef, good marketing and reviews in national press, suitably expensive, has led to sustained success, allowing purchase of adjacent properties and attraction of other businesses, eg coffee shops, tea rooms, galleries, florists, and other accommodations.
So a small hotel, painted a striking dark blue, providing a ground floor dining/ pub open to the general public, as well as guests, good beers and interesting food.
Success breeds success, but it’s the original vision!

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Charles May 8, 2014 at 6:12 pm

Well , if that’s your imagination I must say that it makes for a plausible story! I wonder how the Llelyn will compare; it looks like there might be a few good coastal restaurants that will benefit from my custom; I shall consider interrogating the owners!

Reply

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