Approximate distance: 17 miles
Walked 16th October 2012
Mostly a straightforward walk on the level (especially if you are able to walk on the beach at Pendine and Marros sands). Quite steep out of Laugharne. Fabulous at the end at low tide.
This section of the path is within Carmarthenshire. Their Countryside Access and Recreation Manager is Eirian James.
OS Map Explorer 177 (Carmarthen and Kidwelly)
After yesterdays 19 mile hike in the rain and the prediction by the Travelodge receptionist that more was on its way, I was relieved when I opened the curtains to find a blue sky and puffy white clouds. I hadn’t seized up in the night and everything had dried out, so I was also quite happy to be setting off again. A cup of tea was a sufficient refreshment; I promised myself a breakfast at Laugharne about 4 miles away.
The path took me back through St Clears – as dreary a place in daylight as it was at night, strung out along the A4066. Having said that I am kicking myself that I walked past Mezzanine, where there is a permanent exhibition of photography by Stanley Phillips (not that I had heard of him but it might have been interesting). At first the route keeps to the side of the road with small sections by the adjoining fields. The road then rises towards Whitehill Down.
I could see just how flooded the marshy land was on either side of River Taf so I refused the first detour that would have taken me off the road. I wasn’t wanting to return to traipsing across boggy fields. It was less than half a mile anyway before the official path brings you back to the road. If the sign is in place to direct walkers towards the river near Hall Down I missed it, so continued to follow the road though Cross Inn to a small crossroad where a left turn onto a little lane heads towards the estuary. After less than half a mile I was re-united with the Wales Coast Path.
The road becomes a decent car sized track in a sunken lane that drops down to a place called Delacorse where the owners have an extensive vegetable garden. Turning south, you walk through a broadleaved wood above the estuary which leads to Dylan Thomas’s Boathouse. Although I didn’t see it, so it must be accessible from below.
There were some great views over the estuary, though,
and a view of Laugharne castle.
The path takes you through the lower part of Laugharne. It’s an attractive town which is clearly benefitting from the tourist trade generated by the Dylan Thomas connection. But notwithstanding the rather weird animated mannequin of Mr Waldo – one of the characters from Under Milk Wood – set into the side of the wall it doesn’t feel like a Dylan Thomas theme park.
It’s inexcusable that the public toilets are paying affairs (20p). There are several cafes, pubs and restaurants (the best of which by far is The Cors - which also has a nice garden) but I chose La Cultura Dil Caffe for breakfast, where Anne and I had enjoyed cake and tea cakes a few weeks earlier. Its name may sound a little pretentious but it’s a friendly and popular place and I had a perfectly acceptable cooked breakfast.
The cafe is opposite the little inlet beside Laugharne castle. There’s a path below the castle (leading to the Boathouse, I think) and a board heralding Dylan Thomas’s poem written on his 35th birthday. I find its 12 verses hard work, but I don’t read a lot of poetry, so this is probably my failing.
The path follows the route which Thomas is believed to have taken on his birthday, climbing the headland above Railsagte Pill. There are several explanatory boards with extracts from the poem along the way. And the views out to the marshes towards Laugharne sands are superb.
It’s an extraordinary landscape, the elevation revealing the complex system of natural drainage channels.
To the far right of the marshes is the degraded sea wall which was built to allow some of this otherwise unproductive land to be put to use. These days most of the coast in sight and much of the estuary comes under MOD control and is fenced off. There seems to be an awful lot of the coast under MOD restriction – do they really need it all?
The path drops down through some woods to follow a track by the marsh edge. Some young cattle trotted off in front of me until their way was barred by a stile and they fled past me.
At Salt House Farm I passed a little group of chickens, sunning themselves under a hedge. On the top of the hill ahead of me were a group of wind turbines. Only one of the four in sight were moving in the stiff breeze. This typifies why this form of desecration of the landscape is no solution to the country’s energy needs. It’s an unreliable form of power generation and pathetic in output considering the acres of land that they spoil.
At Coygen quarry the path follows a little road that rises steeply to join the A4066. There follows a pretty tedious three miles where the path hugs the roadside. Mostly it is at the edge of the adjoining fields and sometimes with coarse stone underfoot. The grass sections were very soft. The little village of Llanmiloe is remarkable for its plainness. I wondered what it was doing there until I read that it had been built to house military personnel during the Second Wold War. Whoever designed the place certainly lacked architectural imagination.
Llanmiloe leads into Pendine via a caravan park. Pendine Sands is where several British land speed records were broken by Malcolm Campbell in the 1920’s. This is probably its main claim to fame and a rather odd arrangement by the roadside alludes to this.
Pendine now is a popular seaside village. When the tide is out it’s a heck of a long walk to the sea.
The Coast Path leaves the village to climb over the cliff tops but the tide was out and I found the prospect of walking along the firm sands of the beach with the cliffs as a backdrop irresistible. Looking at the map, I thought that if I was lucky I could keep on the beach all the way to Amroth some three miles away. If the tide came in I reckoned that I could clamber up somewhere to re-join the coast path.
I can’t do justice to the pleasure and exhilaration of walking in this wide open space by the sea. The steep cliffs are dotted with natural caves and their rock strata clearly visible.
At Gilman Point I clambered over the rocky outcrop as the sea was washing its feet. I could see that the tide was coming in, but not that quickly, so I pressed on. I was forced to do some rock climbing again at Ragwen Point and thought that I might need to climb inland from here. As I was looking at a possible route I saw a figure walking towards me along the beach. This figure became a man carrying a large backpack decorated with flags and he climbed up to join me. We shook hands and briefly exchanged accounts of our routes. His name was Christian Nock and he is walking the entire Coast of Great Britain for Help the Heroes. That’s nearly 7,000 miles. He had started at Blackpool. I felt a bit feeble in comparison.
He assured me that despite the encroaching tide I would probably make it to Amroth on the beach and if not there would be places I could get back to the path. I wasn’t as encouraging for him so he rushed off to try and beat the tide.
I dropped down to beach again and enjoyed another mile and half walking along Marros Sands and taking lots of photographs.
I had to leave the beach where a stream running through Teague’s Wood has created a mini waterfall as the sea was now at the foot of the cliffs.
The path climbs steeply up the side of the wood and then stays on the cliff top briefly to give you some wonderful views of the coast before dropping down to near the beach again at Telpyn Point.
I left the official route again , staying on the beach for another mile to Amroth. In doing so I missed the sign which no doubt tells you that you are entering Pembrokeshire and the start of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.
The Wales Coast path now adopts this well established 186 mile long distance path as its route. I haven’t done the sums but that’s probably as far as I have walked to get to this point.
I got to Amroth around 4pm and was ready to stop and was looking forward to a rest and a shower at the Mellieha Guest house, where I had booked Bed and Breakfast. It is situated a little way up the hill on the far side of the village but there was no one at home. I checked my confirmation which I thought advised that I would arrive around this time so I sat by the garden table and waited. I was getting cold quite quickly so I was glad that I had been carrying my fleece all day and a body warmer. I tried ringing the house but got no reply.
By 5pm I was getting anxious that my booking had been overlooked. I walked back down to the beach just to keep myself from stiffening up and got a lovely view of the sun disappearing behind the cliff.
I went back to the house. No luck. My fleecy gloves and hat were added to my insulation and I began to think about alternative plans. Just before six, I was writing a note to leave on the door and was about to retreat to the Amroth Arms when a car drove up the drive, the occupants giving me a wave.
They thought I was arriving at 6 and were deeply apologetic for the mix up (I realised later that it was my mistake- I had said 6pm). I was offered hot soup or tea and cake. I gratefully accepted the latter (excellent, and homemade) after a nice hot shower. And then when I was settled in Stuart very kindly offered me a lift back to the New Inn, which they suggested was my best bet for a meal and a drink.
There was only one other couple there and no one else arrived whilst I ate my burger and chips. The New Inn marks the official start of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path so after a couple of very nice pints I walked the first mile of its 186 miles in the dark back to the B&B. The wind had picked up and the waves were crashing onto the beach and rattling the pebbles vigorously as they retreated, the darkness exaggerating this glorious soundscape.