Stage 56, 24th April: Dale to Broad Haven
After yesterday’s personal best of 26 mixed Pembrokeshire miles, today was now proper Pembrokeshire in my eyes. The refinery humming had given way to gently undulating cliffs with the reassuring sound of breaking waves. If I turned an eye backwards the refineries’ stacks were still visible, but the bright if hazy sunshine gave them back the grand mystical look I first encountered rather than the overbearing unease I felt at close quarters.
Marloe Sands were guarded by inaccessible cliffs with only a few hardy souls having made it down to the beach all tucked in at one end. Beyond came the very sheltered cove of Martin’s Haven where a dad was teaching his young son to fish from the small pier by casting, holding the rod and clearly just fishing himself. The lad seemed to have lost interest and was idly picking at stones with, I suspect, an urge to throw them at the float his dad was watching intently.
I passed over more low cliffs with the occasional seal head bobbing just beyond the surf before coming into the tiny hamlet of St Brides Cross (photo). St Brides Bay was now opening out in all its glory and the haze had melted away to reveal a crystal clear view right across to St Davids and beyond. To my distant left I could just make out the coast of Devon and Cornwall, but only just. This would probably be my last sight of somewhere now very distant in my memory too.
Stage 57, 25th April: Broad Haven to Whitesands Bay
Today proved to be a stunning day all round. The weather was clear, bright and pleasantly warm without being too hot. Fortunately everything was at its best for a long day combining the many predicted ascents and coves with distance.
Much of this coast is familiar to me due to numerous family holidays in the area. Usually I’d seen much of it from the road / landward side. This side is better. If any part of this journey was to resemble some of the more rugged parts of Cornwall and Devon it would be the next few walking days. Steep valley traverses feel very familiar, if less daunting than when I first met them back in March. The coves, bays and havens seem tranquil and were filled with turquoise seas topped by powder-blue skies. This ruggedness stayed with me all the way to the popular and picturesque village of Solva but then gave way to shallower rolling cliffs with only the tiny harbour at Porthclais (photo) stepping inland before continuing around to St Justinian’s and the traditional boathouse and slipway of St Davids lifeboat station.
The tide had recently turned and was gathering incredible pace as it ran out over the rocks straddling the channel between the nature reserve of Skomer island and the mainland, known locally as The Bitches. I briefly stopped to admire the current eddying and almost, but not quite, forming whirlpools.
It was a long day and the clock was well past six o’clock by the time I turned into Whitesands Bay. Throughout the day I had met a fair few walkers enjoying the best of the weather. I’d met a German tourer, an American hiker, a few Welsh strollers and of course the obligatory English residents whom I envied a little for having forsaken their homeland to adopt this stunning part of the world. But the best meeting of the day came right at the end and much though it would have been great to meet up with Rob, he had already taken advantage of a lift and headed homewards with yet more of my thanks. So, with two days rest promised at a friend’s house near Fishguard, a familiar face and slim figure stood on the path staring out across the beach. Kate had made her way over for the weekend. She didn’t see me coming, nor did she smell me – which was probably more of a surprise. Even with my texts forewarning her of my ripening travel aroma it didn’t stop her from giving me a great big and very welcome hug.
MILES TO DATE: 1,134 ASCENT: 192,000 ft
Rest Days, 26th & 27th April: Letterston nr Fishguard
With two very welcome days in the company of Kate at Wol’s (Anne) and Taffy’s (a very old but rather soft border collie) house, it was great to be able to relax, have a bath or three, catch up on the washing, let the feet have a breather, enjoy some pampering and take stock of my little adventure to date. The thought of starting again on Monday didn’t seem particularly appealing and saying goodbye to Kate after her brief but very welcome visit wasn’t easy at all. I was sorely tempted to head back with her for all the comforts and familiarity of home…. but no – onwards and upwards, on the map at least.