Date Walked: 26th April 2013
Approximate Distance: 14 miles
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
I had planned to return to the Wales Coast Path in March but the weather was so rubbish that I didn’t fancy spoiling what I believed to be one of the best sections of the path by spending the days testing my waterproofs, so I had cried off. My starting point now being 120 miles from home by road it has now become impracticable to do day walks, so I am now intending to do at least three days in a row. In fact on this occasion I walked for 4 days.
Preparing to camp
Over the winter I had read several books about travelling by foot. The accounts of derring-do in Robert Macfarlane’s “The Wild Places” had led me to two conclusions. Firstly that he appears to have, if not a death wish, then an extreme disregard for his own safety. Someone really needs to talk to his wife. Secondly, that whilst it does not appeal to me to test my endurance against the elements in such extremes of inhospitable places that he seems drawn to, I did feel mildly confronted that perhaps I was being a bit of a wimp by giving myself a bed and breakfast each night on these continuous walks and having a bag transferred from bed to bed containing all the creature comforts that a 15Kg weight limit can provide.
I have, periodically, quite enjoyed camping, and have two tents, so I thought that I would test out how walking and camping still suited me. However even my smaller tent -rated as a two person jobbie -weighs far more than I was prepared to carry over several days. Likewise my old feather-filled sleeping bag. April still felt a bit dodgy as far as planning to sleep under the stars, even in a bivi bag, so I decided to re-equip myself with a one-person camping setup.
I spent hours browsing the internet for tents and sleeping bags, taking careful note of exactly how many grammes each weighed. These researchers will have to form a post in my equipment section sometime. For now I’ll just provide a summary of the basic kit that I was pulling onto my back after I had parked the car in a quiet Saundersfoot backstreet: a Highlander 40 litre rucksack containing a Terra Nova Laser Competition 1 tent and a Voyager 600 sleeping bag. Camping just isn’t camping unless you can make a cup of tea in the morning, so I had also bought a neat little Coleman F1 light stove. And a new sleeping mat. Insulation underneath you is essential if you are lying on the ground.
All told, with all the other essential bits and bobs (e.g. two large bars of chocolate and a small hip flask) I was setting off with a load weighing around 8kg (around 17lbs in old money). My niece’s husband, Simon, who’s big on all matter outdoors, reckoned that was “a bit heavy”, even though he approved of the chocolate. As I wound up the quite steep road that heads south out of Saundersfoot I was sure that there was nothing that I could have left out. (Note to self. On my return I re-evaluated the bags contents and I reckon I could have left out my compact binoculars and one pair of socks).
The path soon leaves the road and passes through Rhode Wood, its trees twisted and moss covered.
The slopes at Monkstone Point were covered in gorse though the late spring meant that there were few trees that had broken into leaf. Ahead was the first view of Tenby. I had not set off until around 12.00 so I earmarked Tenby for lunch. I felt that I had earned a break by the time I got there I had already made two or three quite steep descents and climbs up steep little valleys, one of which had been all but clear felled.
Jessie Allen’s view appears to getting a bit lost through the rising tree line
but she might be grateful for that as this monstrosity is just below her favoured vantage point.
Shortly after passing this the pretty town of Tenby appears. Set off perfectly by the wide, sandy North beach (here at low tide – at high tide it would be nice, too, with the boats filling the rather elegant harbour.) Over on the left of this view are what appear to be two lifeboat slipways.
The far one is, in fact, now converted into a residence (as featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs). Tenby’s a smashing town but I only had time for a quick tuna mayonnaise sandwich from a little place by South Beach and a check on my phone to see how my EBay items were doing (three items selling within the next hour).
You might have thought North Beach was impressive, but South Beach is a real “Wow”! The sand was firm, too, which makes beach walking a pleasure as opposed to an energy sapping drudge.
At the end of the beach the path turns up through a little wood which someone has rather incongruously planted with some out-of-place looking daffodils.
Seeing a little memorial plaque that had been cut into a tree less than 6 years previously I was struck by how quickly the tree was attempting to close up its wound, the bark already creeping over the plate’s screws.
I had a great view back to Tenby as I reached the brow of the hill and from near there an even better one looking past Giltar point to Caldey Island.
Here I paused again to watch the final few minutes of bidding on EBay. I was selling two tents belonging to my uncle Nigel – a veteran traveller and travel writer with whom I am working to clear his house of redundant clutter. Both tents shot up to nearly £60 in the last few minutes which I am embarrassed to say made me very excited. (I should point out that Nigel insisted that I take a cut for my trouble in this enterprise).
This part of the coast is easy walking on flat ground the grass of which, being constantly grazed by sheep, would not shame a golf course fairway. It is also subject to periodic military activity as a firing range extends over it. But today no red flags were flying and the only real danger I was in was self- created, the cliffs offering me compelling views down to the sea.
My happiness was rather cut across by the sight of Lydstep Bay which has been filled with wall to wall static caravans. The only thought that slightly comforted me as I walked through the site was to see that their inhabitants did not have the pleasure of a sandy beach.
Which makes me a git, I know. I did have a joy before leaving Lydstep, though, as I came across my first carpet of Wood Garlic of the year. This is one of nature’s plating masterpieces and even though the flowers were only just coming out the scent was strong.
From here the path becomes challenging though to Manorbier the steep cliffs jut out into the sea, forming fingers of solid rock and caves and arches.
The path is diverted inland for a half a mile to avoid the fenced off Manorbier camp (tastefully set off in my photograph by the bright yellow gorse).
After the camp the steep red cliffs’ rock strata was near vertical and as I approached Priests Nose just before Manorbier Bay.
I began to look out for a spot that I might discreetly pitch my tent and which would afford me an easy stroll into the village. I didn’t see one until I was almost at Manorbier and had begun to encounter local dogs taking their owners for a walk. Just off to the path to the left I took a little track into the woods and within a few yards I was out of sight and found a relatively flat ivy covered piece of ground.
My tiny titanium pegs struggled to make purchase in this undergrowth and I was glad that I had supplemented the kit by some more substantial if much heavier aluminium pegs and overall I was very happy with my first wild pitch. Even carrying very little it took a while to arrange my sleeping bag, lamp and other stuff to my satisfaction but I still had some light as I left the tent and placed a stick to mark where I would need to turn off the path when I returned after dark.
Manorbier castle (previously unknown to me) was a delight in the evening light and in the little village I found the excellent Castle Inn. It was excellent in all respects. Cosy and nicely lit, the beer was good, I enjoyed an excellent steak and chips and it had free Wi-Fi. After sending some emails and having a chat with some Twitter friends a woman sporting a tattoo on her upper breast came and sat with me and we had a very friendly chat. They are nice, the people of Manorbier (though she lived in nearby St Florence).