The Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Part 5

29 May

DAY 9 – SANDY HAVEN PILL to PEMBROKE – 16.5 miles

Well this was to be a very different day!

I woke at 6.00am to the sound of rain on the tent and had to pack my rucksack inside the tent to prevent everything getting wet.  This was no easy task in such a small space – in fact, nothing is easy inside a small one man tent but you learn to adapt to the available space very quickly.  At 7.15am I set out, following a somewhat rough coast path round the headland and very soon the Milford Haven tankers came into view alongside the distant jetties.  These were once oil jetties but now the tankers carry liquified gas.  Out at sea stood the seemingly diminutive Stack Rock Fort, built in the 1850’s to protect the Milford Haven harbour entrance.

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Milford Haven oil tankers come into view, with Stack Rock Fort out at sea

Passing various war time relics, it didn’t take long to reach and pass under the first of numerous pipelines running out along jetties to the berthing places of the tankers.  By now my feet were soaked again from the steady rain and wet grass.  The change in scenery was dramatic, from beautiful rugged and wild coast to industrial hinterland, and that industrial hinterland was to stay with me for the next two days.

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Tankers line up at the jetty

For a time, the industrial gave way to the residential as I passed through the town of Milford Haven, trudging the streets in the pouring rain.  A local resident walking his dog passed me and called out cheerfully, ‘Hello, the weather’s going to improve later!’  It did, but not for some while!  Route finding through the town was not straight forward and I had to resort to the guidebook and map to avoid going wrong since the way-marking is less clear than it is on the cliff-tops.

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Milford Haven and the ‘Tribute to Our Fishermen’ with more oil tankers beyond

I passed a statue marked as, ‘A Tribute to Our Fishermen’, standing fittingly beside the harbour with oil tankers in the background.  The juxtaposition between fishermen and the modern tankers that frequent this harbour now seemed poignant.  Leaving the town, I rejoined the coast path, but still with a high industrial presence with more pipelines, tankers and refineries, both on this side of the inlet and on the other side that would be my route tomorrow.

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The industrial presence continues on both sides of the Milford Haven inlet

Even amidst the industrial there were little pockets of wildness such as the lovely inlet of Castle Pill.  Standing looking across the water, you could almost forget that this was part of an industrial town.  For a short time, my route took me along the road to cross this river and a passing lady motorist, taking pity on me walking in the rain, offered me a lift.  As tempting as it was, I politely declined!

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Castle Pill

A little further on, it was impossible to forget that this was refinery country as the path crossed under or over a number of pipelines.  Various bridges and cages had been constructed to allow the coast path to cross the numerous ‘obstacles’ as in the picture below.  It certainly made for different and interesting walking!

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The pipelines and bridge across

After some time, the industrial gave way again to the urban as I walked into Neyland, a spreading town with a large marina.  My mind turned to thoughts of tea and bacon sandwiches – well there had to be a cafe at the marina………and there was :)!  I dried off, recharged my phone battery, and recharged my battery too – and a very kind lady behind the counter even offered to put some of my clothes through the dryer for me.  People are so kind – but I figured I shouldn’t inflict my socks on anyone :)!

Whilst I was in the cafe, the rain that had lingered seemingly not wanting to leave me, finally stopped and the sun made an appearance.  The food, a change of socks, and a bit of sunshine made a world of difference as I set out once again along the river bank.  I could see my route out of the town – it was along the Cledau Bridge high above me!

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The Cledau Bridge

I climbed up the steep bank and crossed the river into Pembroke Docks, taking a last look back across the marina below me.

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The marina at Neyland from Cledau Bridge

Pembroke Docks was originally a small fishing village known as Paterchurch but it expanded rapidly in the early 19th century following the building of the Royal Naval Dockyard.  Its position was ideal, being very sheltered and having deep water and over a period of around 100 years, hundreds of naval vessels were constructed at the yard as well as five royal yachts.  Eventually the dockyard was declared redundant and these days, the only large vessels using the docks are the Irish Ferries.  There was one about to leave so I sat on a seat in the warming sun and watched it go on its way.

The name Pembroke Dock seems wrong somehow because it is much more than a dock, it is a town, in fact the third largest in Pembrokeshire.  It took me some time to regain the coast path proper again as I walked through yet more urban sprawl but ultimately I reached more rural surroundings again.

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Pembroke Dock

Leaving the town, I followed a somewhat muddy path along the upper reaches of the River Cledau estuary.  The tide was out leaving acres of mud and I wound my way carefully along the river bank until Pembroke came into view with its castle standing proud above the town.  The castle dating from Norman times was, amongst other things, the birth place of King Henry VII.

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Pembroke Castle stands proud above the town

My stopping point for the night was a mile or so outside the town so I stopped off at a cafe for some food en route.  Having eaten, I made my way along the road to the campsite and put up my still soaking wet tent so that it would have a chance to dry out before nightfall.  It was a beautiful evening and I had the campsite to myself again…..and the luxury of a picnic table too!  Not only that but the site had laundry facilities so I was able to dry my things ready for the next day.

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Day 9 camp all to myself

I lay in my sleeping bag that night thinking back over the day, and what a day it had been!  From pouring rain to bright sunshine, an industrial and urban landscape in stark contrast to the rugged wild of the previous eight days, and some lovely people along the way.  After nearly 17 miles of walking, I went off to sleep contented.

DAY 10 – PEMBROKE to ANGLE – 12 miles

The day began as yesterday ended, with beautiful sunshine.  I breakfasted, packed and was out on the trail again by 7.15am.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from today but I knew there would be more industrial parts to navigate through – I had hoped there would be more wildness than yesterday though.

I retraced my steps back into Pembroke where I stocked up on food and then picked up the coast path which followed a B road initially and then an unclassified road, passing Quoits Water Pill.

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Quoits Water Pill in the beautiful early morning light

The route was somewhat convoluted, crossing farm land and skirting round refineries etc and the walking wasn’t easy.  The grass was long and wet, and the path lumpy underfoot from cattle that had trod there during the wet winter months.  I wondered why this was when the rest of the coast path was so well defined and well trodden, and I decided that it was probably because day walkers perhaps do not walk this section so much, preferring the more picturesque parts.

Nevertheless, there were some beautiful parts such as the lovely bluebell strewn pathway below, lit by the dappled sunlight.

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Dappled sunlight in the bluebell woods

After some miles – I came across the delightful church at Pwllcrochan with a backdrop of flare stacks from the nearby refinery.  It may not be obvious from the photograph below but there are flames coming from the top of the stacks, burning off the excess gas from the refining process.

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St Mary’s Church, Pwllcrochan with flare stacks behind

There was a strange sense of isolation, perhaps because the church seems to stand in the middle of nowhere, or perhaps because of the nearness of the refinery, the largest on the Milford Haven complex.  That refinery would stay in view for the rest of the day as my route took me around the coast below it.

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Beautiful gorse with a backdrop of tankers

The gorse was vibrant even though the sun had now disappeared again and it really brightened up the walk which once again took me past pipelines and under jetties this time serving the large Pembroke Refinery above me on the headland.

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Passing under the Pembroke Refinery jetty

Having spent two days walking through a mainly industrial landscape, I longed to get back out onto the coast path proper.  I finally rounded the headland and the refinery and reached Fort Popton, another of the defensive forts guarding the Milford Haven harbour entrance.  It was at this point that my route turned south and with the last refinery at my back, I started to circle Angle Bay.  The refinery stayed in view but it was getting smaller with each step!

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Looking back across Angle Bay

Angle Bay was desolate, especially on this now very overcast day, but it was a beautiful desolation.  With the tide out, there are extensive mud flats that provide important winter feeding grounds for many waders.  My route round the bay was initially on the refinery road and then on farm land once again turned lumpy by many hooves.  My feet were wet and sore when I finally walked into the village of Angle.

Although there was a campsite in the village itself, I decided to continue to Angle Point where I came across a rather lovely and quirky pub known as The Old Point House.  I called in to ask if there was anywhere I could pitch my tent and was offered the use of a patch of grass at the rear, which I gratefully accepted.

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The Old Point House, Angle

The Old Point House dates from 1500 and was originally a single bar local serving fishermen and farm hands.  Known as ‘The Lifeboatmen’s Local’ because of the proximity of the lifeboat station, it is one of the top ten pubs in Pembrokeshire according to a review by The Guardian.  The smallest bar contains a very old fireplace where it is claimed a fire burned continuously for 300 years!  I could see that that would be a popular bar on cold winter nights!

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The fireplace at the Old Point House, Angle

Having put up my tent, I took the very short walk to the pub for a meal and well earned drink……..and of course to write my blog!  Before making my way back to my tent for the night, I took a last look from the beer garden across Angle Bay with the refinery fading into the gathering gloom.

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Looking across Angle Bay

My route out tomorrow would take me round Angle Point and back to the wild coast again.  I was looking forward to it!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

 

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Part 4

26 May

DAY 7 – LITTLE HAVEN to MARLOE – 12.5 miles

I was up before 6.00am again and had my ‘snack’ breakfast before packing ready for the day.  Last night there was a very heavy dew so the tent was wet again.  I made my way back to the coast path where I left it last night and walked along a lovely bluebell strewn path in some woodlands.

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Bluebell strewn pathways

Although the day started out cloudy, the sun soon appeared and it was glorious for the rest of the day.  The walking was much more level with just small undulations rather than the steep climbs that this coast usually offers.  The cliffs had changed too, with the granite of the northern sections having given way to a much softer red sandstone.

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A beautiful path above red sandstone cliffs

Spring flowers lined much of the path again and the views from the cliff tops were truly amazing.  I crossed the interestingly named inlets of Brandy Bay and Dutch Gin – probably named from use by smugglers – before dropping down to the lovely little cove of Mill Haven with its wooden bridge across the stream.

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Mill Haven

Shortly after, I passed the interesting rock in the picture below.  Apparently it is a sculpture by Alain Ayers and is called ‘Eyes of the Sea’ – it seemed a strange place for a sculpture but I rather like the randomness of its location on the coast path with no access other than by foot.

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Eyes of the Sea

After some time I dropped down into the fascinating inlet of St Bride’s Haven.  St Bride’s itself is a delightful place with its Norman church, lime kiln, parklands, grassy picnic areas and St Bride’s Castle, once a stately home but now holiday accommodation.

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St Bridget’s Church at St Bride’s

The views across the bay are lovely and I took the opportunity to sit for a while.  Once again, the red sandstone was very evident.

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St Bride’s Haven

From St Bride’s, the coast path follows the perimeter wall of the old castle parklands for some time but eventually I left that behind, reaching the beautiful unspoilt beach at Musselwick Sands.  The beach is accessible from the cliff top but looked pristine as though no one had been there for some time.  The sand looked like pure virgin snow.

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Musselwick Sands

Beyond Musselwick I passed the camp site that I had intended to stop at for the night but I kept walking as the day was too beautiful and the walking too good to stop so early.  I reached Martin’s Haven which is the mainland landing stage for the Skomer Island ferry.  There were probably more people here than I had seen all day as they queued for the next boat.

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Martin’s Haven and the landing stage of the Skomer Island Ferry

I continued up the other side and decided to break for a while at the Haven Point coastguard lookout post.  It was a very warm day and I did what I always did at this time of day……took off my shoes and socks (wet from the dewy grass) to cool my feet, and then replaced the socks on the other foot.  This is a good tip for refreshing hot feet.  The view from my rock ‘bench’ was amazing, taking in the whole of Skomer Island.  The island is another wildlife reserve and is famous for its population of Manx Shearwaters, Puffins and Skomer Voles……..plus visiting humans of course.

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Skomer Island from my rock ‘bench’

Just a few miles later, the awesome view below came into sight.  This is the wonderful Marloe Sands and my onward footpath wound around the cliffs overlooking the beach.  The tide was out and the sand looked very inviting as I walked around the perimeter until I reached the point where my path turned inland to Marloe village which I had decided to make my stopping point for the night.

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Marloe Sands

The village was over a mile inland but was well worth the detour as the camp site was probably one of the best I had experienced having lovely hot showers, a laundry, tea facilities, and a local pub.  Not only that but it had free wifi and I sat at one of the picnic tables with a pot of tea and spoke to my family using Facetime – a very civilised way to camp :) !  The day was still very warm so I was able to spread all of my clothes out on my ‘clothes line’, also known as grass, to dry/air.  You can see from the picture below that I virtually had the campsite to myself with just one other couple being camped there.

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A lovely campsite at Marloe

Early in the evening I walked to the pub for a meal and a well earned pint, and watched football on the TV.  While I was there, I got talking to a couple from Holland.  They were over for a 4 day walking holiday along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and I wondered how they found walking this switchback of a footpath with all its steep climbs when they lived in such a flat country!

The walk back to the tent in the gathering dusk was delightful.  It was a beautifully still, balmy evening and there was birdsong all around.  I could also hear the soft booming of the guns firing on the Castlemartin Firing Range – I would see that at close quarters later in my walk.

DAY 8 – MARLOE to SANDY HAVEN PILL – 15 miles

After the beautiful sunshine of yesterday, today dawned cloudy and grey.  I was up just after 5.30am and ready to hit the trail again before 7.00am because today time was more critical than usual.  The reason was that in today’s 15 mile stretch there were two inlets that would only be crossable at or near low tide – failure to get it right would add over 6 miles to my day.  I had already consulted the tide tables and I hoped my calculations would prove correct!

It didn’t take long to regain the coast path and I rounded Marloe Sands again, looking somewhat different as the tide was in, obliterating most of the lovely beach I saw yesterday.  I passed a large disused airfield and reached Westdale Bay with yet more red sandstone cliffs.  It was strange standing looking across the bay in the picture below – down the valley I could see the houses of Dale, the next town on my route, and I could have reached it in 20 minutes down that valley.  My route, however, took me round the headland, meaning that I would in fact not reach Dale for another three hours.

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Westdale Bay

I knew that I would regret it if I took the short cut and I continued round the coast, eventually reaching the southernmost point at St Ann’s Head.  This is a really interesting place with its two lighthouses, one of which was converted to a coastguard lookout but is now holiday accommodation.  It also has a row of coastguard cottages, walled garden and helipad.  Oh and by the way, if you fancy owning the old lighthouse in the picture below, it seems to be on the market for £975,000!

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St Ann’s Head and the old coastguard lookout

Just below the lighthouse, at Cobbler’s Hole, are the most amazing rock formations and I took a quick detour along the dedicated path to get a better view.  Turning north again, I quickly reached Mill Bay, famous for being the landing place of Henry Tudor in 1485.  He landed with 2,000 men and marched through Wales for 15 days before fighting the Battle of Bosworth Field’s, winning both the battle and the English crown.

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Cobbler’s Hole

Mill Bay is not the only connection with war on this headland.  Having circled the bay, I came across an old fort at West Blockhouse Point and decided to take a look.  It has in fact now been converted to holiday accommodation by The Landmark Trust and I was lucky enough to bump into the current guests who invited me to have a look around the outside.  The entrance to the accommodation is via a drawbridge and the views from the battlements across the entrance to the Milford Haven harbour were awesome.  It was of course that very harbour entrance that the castle was built to protect.

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West Blockhouse Fort and its drawbridge entrance

We stood chatting on the battlements for some considerable time but my time was pressing so I thanked them for allowing me to invade their privacy and continued on my way, finally reaching Dale and just beyond, my first low tide crossing point at The Gann.  I walked out along the Pickleridge, a ridge reaching most of the way across the inlet, and was pleased to see that the boardwalk was exposed and passable.  Upstream at this point are flooded gravel pits, a relic from the building of airfields in the war years.

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The Gann crossing point at low tide

I knew that since The Gann crossing was exposed, my second low tide crossing would also be exposed but of course that was several miles away and would take me a couple of hours to reach.  There is some leeway either side of low tide and indeed, I had planned the day so that I would cross The Gann as the tide was still falling, but to be on the safe side I strode on.  By now the sun was out and I briefly stopped to explore the old watchtower that overlooks Monk’s Haven, a rather lovely beach with a high castellated wall at the high water mark.

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The Victorian watchtower at Monks Haven, with St Ann’s Head behind

Shortly after leaving Monk’s Haven I met a young man walking in bare feet and we got talking.  He was from Denmark and although he had shoes attached to his rucksack, he preferred to feel the ground beneath his bare feet.  On this stony path my feet were sore even though I was wearing shoes!!  This was another part of the coast with many wartime relics, but also lots of beautiful Sea Thrift.  It looked particularly lovely in the sunshine with a backdrop of oil seed rape.

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Sea thrift and oil seed rape

As I rounded the last headland of the day, I was pleased to see that the tide was still out and the stepping stones across Sandy Haven Pills were exposed.  I dropped down to the slipway and crossed the dry inlet, turning to take a photo to record the scene.  Sandy Haven itself comprises only the few cottages in the picture below on the western bank of the river, and my camp for the night which sits on the headland above the eastern side of the river.

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The Sandy Haven Pills stepping stones at low tide

By now, it had started raining again and I quickly made my way up to the campsite to pitch my tent.  With no village pub anywhere near, I ate what food I had with me, sat in the tent listening to the rain.  Later in the evening during a break in the weather, I walked back down to the eastern slipway and took the photographs below – the scene was somewhat different and I was glad I had calculated my times correctly to cross the river when I did!

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Sandy Haven Pill at high tide

That night I lay in my sleeping bag listening to the rain on the tent, grateful for a great day’s walking and good timing, and wondering what tomorrow would bring.  I would be leaving the wild coast and moving into a more industrial part as I entered the Milford Haven area.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Part 3

23 May

DAY 5 – WHITESANDS BAY to NINE WELLS – 11 miles

I woke at 6.00am after a slightly chilly night and just as I was dressing and thinking, ‘I must pack before it starts raining’………..it started raining!  Not heavily but enough to make the tent wet, and therefore heavier, before I put it away.  I was out on the coast path again before 7.00am and the first few miles were easy walking.  I passed the rather interesting gateposts in the picture below!

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Interesting gateposts

After a short time, I stopped to look back across Porthselau and Whitesands Bay beyond with rolling waves still pounding the cliffs.  St David’s Head and it’s summit of Carn Llidi stood proud as if it was watching over the two bays.

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Porthselau with St David’s Head and Carn Llidi in the background

The rock formations were awesome with huge slanting slabs of rock dropping down into little coves and inlets.

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Slanting slabs of rock

The day was beautiful with lovely soft early morning sunlight and the walking was easy, level cliff tops laden with spring flowers.  A cultivated flower garden could not have bettered this wild one.  It was a delight to walk through and I lingered as I went.

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A beautiful wild garden along the cliff top path

At Porthstinian, I passed the lifeboat station which serves this part of the coast.  It is well protected in this narrow cove.

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Porthstinian with it’s Lifeboat Station

Indeed, this is a protected part of the coast, being partially sheltered by Ramsey Island which stands just off shore.  This island which is less that 2 miles long is owned by the RSPB and is inhabited only by the warden and his wife……..and of course the birds!  The island was my company for several miles.

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Ramsey Island

After some time, I dropped down into the delightful harbour of Porth Clais with its four well preserved lime kilns and old harbour wall dating from Norman times.  This was the harbour for the city of St David’s, used by saints and pilgrims in the distant past and in the more recent past by trading vessels, and even more recently by pleasure craft and fishermen.  This is a very old port but in terms of more modern things…….it has a small kiosk cafe which I was pleased to make use of :)!

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Porth Clais

This was a lovely place to spend some time and I sat on the harbour wall drinking in the view (and a cup of tea) and imagining what it would have been like when the saints of old landed here en route to St David’s.  It amazed me how the water level changed between high and low tide as the harbour was completely dry and yet the tide marks show that it fills up when the tide comes in.

It was soon time to move on and I climbed out of the harbour and back onto the cliff top, soon coming across another interesting feature, St Non’s Chapel.  St Non was the mother of St David, patron saint of Wales, and she gave birth to her son around AD 462 on the spot where the chapel was erected.  Nearby stands St Non’s Well which was thought to have healing powers.

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St Non’s Chapel ruins

Leaving the chapel behind, I continued along the coast to Caerfi Bay, passing the newer chapel on the way.  I had intended to stop here overnight to leave time for some chores but as it was so early, I decided to walk on a few more miles.  Eventually I reached Porth Rhaw where I turned inland to find a campsite which I did at Nine Wells, so called because it has or had nine wells.

Having put up my tent, I decided to walk into the city of St David’s, the smallest city in Britain, as I knew there would be a laundry there.  I walked the two miles to the city and just as I passed the first house, I realised that it was sunday and they would all be closed!   Ah well, it wasn’t a wasted trip as I was able to eat there and charge my phone.

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St David’s Cathedral

DAY 6 – NINE WELLS to LITTLE HAVEN – 15 miles

Another early start and by 7.30am I was packed up and on my way back to the coast path on a beautiful sunny morning.  Walking back down the valley from my camp at Nine Wells to Porth Rhaw was a wonderful start to the day, a feast of soft sunshine and bird song.

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Walking down to Porth Rhaw in the early morning light

Climbing up onto the headland, I walked a lovely grassy path with beautiful views towards hazy headlands that would be my route later in the day.

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The coast near Solva

When I was preparing for this walk, my plan was to have a snack breakfast at my camp and to stop en route for something a bit more nourishing, and by that I mean a bacon sandwich :)!  It was a plan that hadn’t worked as up till now I hadn’t found many places to stop, such was the unspoilt nature of this coastline.  With Solva just round the corner, I hoped today would be different……..but it wasn’t.  I walked around the old harbour but passed nowhere to eat that was open, so I continued on my way.

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Solva

From the next headland I could see the distinctive shape of Dinas Fach, a rocky promontory jutting out into the sea.  As I walked, I would see that peninsula from all angles.

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The distinctive shape of Dinas Fach

Several headlands, and a great many steep ups and downs later, I had my first view of the amazing beach at Newgale.  The tide was out revealing acres of sand and lots of surf and surfers.  After the strenuous climbs of the last hour or two, I dropped down off the headland looking forward to a nice flat walk along the beach – it is nearly 2.5 miles long.

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Newgale Beach and a flat walk

Naturally the flat walk had to come to an end and I once more climbed up onto the cliff top, dropping down to sea level again at Nolton Haven before climbing up yet again the other side.  I reached Druidston Haven, another delightful beach, and by surprise came across the Druidston Hotel.  This somewhat bohemian establishment was a place we had visited before on a family holiday but that I had forgotten about.  It made a good stopping point for a welcome drink and I sat at an outside table looking down over the bay.

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Druidston Haven

The rock formations around this point were awesome, especially at Druidston and Haroldston Chins where there were deep clefts and caves.

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Rock formations at Druidston and Haroldston Chins

I was nearing the end of my days walk now and I stopped to talk to a couple on the footpath near Broad Haven.  We compared notes on our experiences.  One of the benefits of Broad Haven is that there was a shop so I stocked up on food before walking on to the neighbouring village of Little Haven which in fact was much more picturesque that its larger cousin.  My stopping point for the night was on the headland a mile or so further on so I continued straight through to set up my tent and shower before returning to the village for a meal later in the evening.

I was sat in the pub eating a meal and charging my phone, pondering the day, when I noticed a lovely orange glow in the sky so I ran outside to grab a picture of what was a beautiful sunset.  It seemed a fitting end to another great day on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and I made my way back to my tent in the fading light thinking about tomorrow when I would reach the half way point in my walk.

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A beautiful end to the day at Little Haven

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Part 2

20 May

DAY 3 – STRUMBLE HEAD to TREFIN – 14.3 miles

I was up early to break camp and pack away my tent which was wet with dew.  By 7.30am I was on my way to the coast path again as I had had to walk inland yesterday to find somewhere for my night stop.  I soon passed the Strumble Head lighthouse which stands on Ynys Meicel (St Michael’s Island).  This was built in 1908 to replace a lightship, previously moored off shore, and was one of the last to be built in Britain.

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Strumble Head Lighthouse in the early morning light

The path was once again winding and full of ups and downs but the scenery was spectacular, especially on this glorious sunny day. On this part of the walk, I passed various wartime relics, the remains of barracks, lookout posts and other paraphernalia, and the peak of Garn Fawr was ever present.

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Military remains with Garn Fawr in the background

Once again, I passed very few walkers along this stretch although there were a few people on the various beaches I crossed.  The day was ‘energy sappingly’ warm and the path was rough and rocky for much of the way which meant that my feet became sore despite all the miles that I regularly walk.  But the coast was beautifully rugged and there were stretches of flatter, easier walking.

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Beautifully rugged

I passed a long dry stone wall that was apparently labelled by the builder, ‘The Great Wall of China’!

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The Great Wall of China?

After some miles I dropped down into Abercastle, another of those inlets that provided a harbour for trading vessels over a great many years.  It was a delightful place with its cluster of cottages and remains from its past, a derelict lime kiln, an old granary and the remains of a lime-burners cottage.  It was a place to linger awhile!

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Abercastle

But I still had more miles to walk so after a short break I continued on my way, rounding the Pen Castell-coch headland with its soft grass and spring flowers, and skylarks singing overhead.   Eventually I reached Aber Draw, the beach for Trefin, my stopping point for the night.  This is a mainly rocky beach but it has an interesting ruin in Trefin Mill, a once thriving corn mill that served the farming community in the 19th century.

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Trefin Mill at Aber Draw

From this point, I made my way inland to find my campsite in the village of Trefin.  I arrived at the campsite mid-afternoon and made the most of my time catching up on some laundry and drying of wet things.  At this overnight stop, I had the benefit of a village pub so went there for a meal and to charge my phone.  Whilst there, I met a coupe who were doing the same walk as I was although they were using B&B and baggage transfer rather that backpacking.  Apparently we had passed each other on the trail yesterday!

What a great day this has been with glorious sunshine and great views all day.  Little did I know what was to come!

DAY 4 – TREFIN to WHITESANDS BAY – 12 miles

Wow, what a night!  Pouring rain and gusty gale force winds, my little tent got pummelled! Sleep was just impossible as there was so much noise from the trees and the flapping tent.  I felt quite cut off in the sense that to get out of the tent, to go to the toilet for instance, would have been impossible without getting soaked and letting rain into the tent.  In the dark, I wondered, ‘What if I haven’t pushed the tent pegs in enough, what if the tent leaks?’!  But all was well and when morning came everything was still in place……and dry!  In fact, after the awful weather of the night, I woke to sunshine………..but it wasn’t to last!

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Cyclists pass me by at Aber Draw in the early morning sunshine

I had breakfast, broke camp, packing away a very wet tent, and set off walking at 7.30am, retracing my steps initially down the road to Aber Draw.  I didn’t have the road to myself as I was passed by lots of cyclists – this was the weekend of The Tour of Pembrokeshire.  I decided that walking was easier as they struggled up the hill against the stiff wind!

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Soon I was out on the coast path again in glorious sunshine and I paused to look back at my route yesterday.  The walking was good and after just a couple of miles I dropped down into Porthgain one of Pembrokeshire’s really interesting places.  With lots of industrial activity in the area, the little harbour was once used to export roadstone, slates and bricks and includes a large disused brickworks as well as lime kilns and other derelict buildings.  I stood by the harbour wall taking pictures just as the rain began to fall again!  If you look carefully you can see the rainbow in the picture below.

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Porthgian Harbour……with rainbow!

Climbing out of the delightful harbour, I passed the old pilot house and came across lots of remains from the industrial past with a large slate/shale quarry, including numerous derelict buildings and a deep tramway cutting.  It was a place I would love to have explored but by now the rain was falling heavily!

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Derelict quarry buildings and old tramway cutting at Porthgain

This again was a day of deep inlets that meant weaving a very crooked path as I walked around the various headlands.  Visibility deteriorated considerably – it was perhaps a typical Welsh day!

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Deep inlets and a circuitous route

Occasionally the sun came out briefly and I took the opportunity to grab a few shots of this spectacular coast.

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The sun makes a brief appearance

But all too soon it was gone again and the weather closed in around me again.  And what weather! The most appalling weather imaginable, pounding rain, powerfully gusting winds that were so strong it was difficult to walk against.  Losing my footing constantly on the wet muddy and rocky path with its steep climbs, I fell numerous times despite being extra careful how I trod.  The rain cover on my rucksack was ripped off time and again by the wind!

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St David’s Head in poor visibility and driving rain

As hard as it was, the weather seemed to suit this coastline perfectly, bringing out its deep character.  St David’s Head is in many ways reminiscent of the mountains of Scotland, North Wales and the Lake District – numerous rocky outcrops like mini mountain peaks.  The only difference was that you had the sea on one side.  Unsurprisingly I passed no other walkers until the welcome sight of Whitesands Bay appeared as I rounded the last headland of the day – this was to be my stopping point for the night.  A day walker passed me by, shouting above the noise of the wind, ‘The forecast for the next couple of days is better’!  I hoped so!

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Whitesands Bay appears out of the gloom

After hours of struggling to put one foot in front of the other against what was a solid wall of ferocious wind and rain, it was wonderful to drop down into the relatively sheltered Whitesands Bay………and there was a cafe there………and it was open despite the weather :)!  I gladly sat down and ordered a pot of hot, steaming tea!

Refreshed, I walked up the road to the little campsite that was to be my home for the night.  Being slightly inland, this was a little more sheltered and I put my tent up in the rain.  Later that evening, the rain stopped and I went for a stroll around the beach to check my route out tomorrow morning.  The waves and surf rolling up the beach were a sight to behold.

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Waves and surf and my route out tomorrow

As I wandered back to my tent, the wind finally abated, the clouds began to clear and there was a beautiful sunset.  What a difference an hour or two can make!

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A beautiful sunset across Whitesands Bay

I laid in my tent wondering what tomorrow would bring!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Part 1

10 May

DAY 0 – ST DOGMAELS to CEMAES HEAD – 3 miles

Why the ‘DAY 0′ title?  Well this was to be mainly a day travelling to the starting point of the walk, and a laborious journey it was too.  At 5.45am the alarm went off and I leapt out of bed……well more ‘fell’ out of bed really!  After a quick breakfast my wife, Chris, took me to the station to catch the 6.41am train.  The morning was dull and grey – not very inspiring!  And it was hard saying goodbye to Chris too – I wondered why I was doing it!  Three trains, two buses, a taxi and a walk later I arrived at the starting point in St Dogmaels, Pembrokeshire……..and I went to the pub :)!  For food as there was nowhere after this point where I would be able to eat.

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The Ferry Inn, St Dogmaels

I had a cooked meal and asked if they did sandwiches as I needed food for tomorrow, but annoyingly they didn’t.  This meant that, having eaten, I had to retrace my steps a mile or two back up the road into the village to find the nearest shop.  Lesson 1 – think ahead!  Finally, much later than intended, and just as the rain began to fall again, I arrived back at the official starting point (or finishing point depending on which way you do the walk) and could begin my trek.

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The official starting/finishing point for the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

With most of the day being taken up with travelling, it was to be a short walk of around 3 miles to my first camp, a farm at Cemaes Head, but it was all uphill!  I arrived at the camp in the early evening light with rain still falling, thinking about the difficulties of putting a tent up on sloping ground in the wet and about packing it away again wet tomorrow, when the farmer greeted me.  “Ah’, he said, “I’ve just put some yurts up for the new season so you are welcome to use one of those for the same price as a tent as it is so wet”.  Well he didn’t need to offer twice and I moved in!  Yes, it was basic, but it was dry and much more spacious than my little one man tent, and I wouldn’t have to pack it away wet tomorrow :)!

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My camp for the first night

One of the problems with camping at this time of the year is that the evenings are chilly, and with no pub within walking distance, what do you do to keep warm?  Well you go for a walk of course…….which I did, all around the headland.

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Cardigan Bay and Cardigan Island from Cemaes Head on a wet evening

It has been a good day.  The travel arrangements all went smoothly although not without some confusion and discomfort on the trains.  What will tomorrow, my first real day on the trail, bring?

DAY 1 – CEMAES HEAD to beyond NEWPORT – 14 miles

I woke to the sound of pouring rain and strong winds pounding on the yurt!  Having breakfasted and packed, I donned waterproofs and set out.  The going was really hard, a combination of driving rain in my face, strong gusty winds, a muddy and slippery path, and a very heavy pack, plus of course a route that went up and down more times than an escalator.

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On Cemaes Head

Very early in the day I climbed up and over Pen Yr Afr, the highest point of the whole walk at over 575 feet, with its amazing folded strata.  The day quickly became a bit of a slog and I just put my head down and kept walking, trying as best I could to keep the stinging rain off my face.  Taking photographs was difficult as the camera got soaked every time I took it out of its bag.  It seemed cruel because this was potentially the best and most rugged part of the whole walk and I couldn’t fully enjoy it because visibility was limited and besides, I had to watch my feet constantly.  I needn’t have worried, there were many more rugged parts to come!

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Limited visibility and muddy paths

The guide book had already warned me that the far northern section was the hardest with very steep climbs and slippery descents and in fact there were virtually no flat parts at all.  Weaving in and out of various inlets and rocky outcrops, I passed Carreg Wylan Stacks.  These just seemed to typify this coastline, a switchback of rugged rock formations.

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Carreg Wylan Stacks 

Despite the rugged beauty of the coastline, it became a challenge to just reach my campsite at the end of the day, such was the ferocity of the wind and rain – and I wondered why I was doing it!  A signpost rubbed my nose in it by reminding me that I still had 81/2 miles to walk!

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A long way to go on the switchback

Then in the afternoon the rain stopped, visibility gradually improved, and finally the sun made an appearance – and I knew why I was doing it!  The scenery was breathtaking and the ruggedness was picked out by the sun slanting across the landscape.  It didn’t make the pack any lighter or the climbs any less steep, but it helped.

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Brightness at last

Mid afternoon, with aching muscles, I walked into Newport knowing that I only had a mile or two to walk to reach my camp for the night.  I had met few walkers during the day, well only one in fact, a young girl who admitted that she was a ‘fair weather walker’ who had only set out when the rain cleared.  Late afternoon I pitched my tent in a wonderful spot with amazing views across Newport Sands and the coastline I had walked during the day.

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Newport Sands

What a day, what a start! The expression ‘jumping in at the deep end’ came to mind!  Would I describe it as a great day?  Yes definitely because I had a real sense of achievement at having made it through despite the conditions.  But more than that, the conditions I had walked in somehow really suited this rugged coastline and brought out its character in a way that the sun can’t do.  I had been concerned because this first day is said to be the most challenging part of the whole walk, not what you want to hear when you have arthritic knees and ankles.  I had feared that I might not be able to make it but in the end, they caused me no problems at all.  I was a happy man as I sat and watched the sun go down over the Pembrokeshire Coast, and settled back into my tent for the night.

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A beautiful sunset to end the first day

DAY 2 – NEWPORT to STRUMBLE HEAD – 17 miles

The day dawned with a beautiful sunrise, a welcome sight after yesterday’s rain.  Having breakfasted and packed, I put on my still sodden shoes and set out along the coast again, feeling slightly stiff from my efforts of yesterday.

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Sunshine – a welcome sight and a beautiful morning

It didn’t take long to reach my first stopping point of the day, Cwm-Yr-Eglwys (the valley of the church), with its ruined church right on the edge of the water.  The church had served the local hamlet and once seated 300 but coastal erosion had been its downfall.  This was such a beautiful spot and I sat for a while just drinking in the warm sunshine and the lovely view across the bay.

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Cmm-Yr-Eglwys

Today’s main feature was to be the climb up and over Dinas Island, not an island at all but a headland.  Distinctively shaped like a 50p coin but with five sides, the headland has one side connected to the land and four surrounded by sea.  It would be a short and fairly level hop to walk the one side attached to the land but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t walk all around the whole headland although this proved a hard walk with steep climbs over the highest point, Pen Y Fan at 466 feet.  The views more than made up for the effort needed though.

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The view from Dinas Island

I passed a few walkers on route as this particular headland makes a very nice day walk, although I had still not met any other ‘end to enders’.  Dropping down off the high headland, I reached Pwllgwaelod (don’t you just love these Welsh names), a lovely bay from which I could view the coastline that would be my companion for several hours.

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Pwllgwaelod and the coastline to come

One of the features of this coast is that you can often see where you are headed in the distance but it seems to take an age to reach it because of the constant ups and downs and the constant weaving in and out of a million coves and inlets.  This is of course its charm and beauty as well, an ever changing landscape.

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A switchback path around a million coves and inlets

I had set myself a task to not take a break until I reached Fishguard so it was something of a relief to arrive at the old fort that marks the start of Fishguard’s three towns – Lower Town, the newer Fishguard town, and Goodwick.  Fishguard Fort was built in 1781 to defend the community against privateers but it is now in ruins.  Nevertheless, it occupies a delightful position.

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Fishguard Fort with the Marine Walk around the headland beyond

The Lower Town, the oldest part, is particularly picturesque with its old harbour, once a thriving herring fishing, ship building and coastal trading centre, and the walk through the town and around the next headland along the Marine Walk was equally lovely with wonderful views across the bay.  The newer part of Fishguard which operates a ferry service to Ireland was perhaps less inspiring so I hurried through, just stopping for food on the way.

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Lower Town, Fishguard

At this point I only had a few miles to walk to reach my overnight stopping point but as is often the case, those miles seemed to take a long time to walk.  The climb out of Fishguard/Goodwick was steep but once on the high headland, the path levelled off slightly for a time, probably the first ‘flat’ part since the start two days ago.  Walking in the late afternoon sun was lovely and the scenery continued to be as beautiful as ever.

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Walking towards Strumble Head in the evening sun

Just short of Strumble Head, I turned inland to find my campsite – well the term campsite was stretching the truth somewhat.  It was actually a field on a farm with no facilities.  I was offered the use of the shower (cold!) and toilet in one of the farm cottages but they were hardly five star!  I was just glad to have somewhere to pitch my tent for the night, even if it was in the middle of nowhere – in fact, because it was in the middle of nowhere!

I went to sleep looking forward to another day on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path tomorrow……but that’s for the next blog entry.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Intro

8 May

I’ve just returned from an amazing 13 day backpacking trip along the length of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path living out of my little tent. Amazing rugged coastline, beautiful sunshine, crazy gale force winds, driving Welsh rain, and a relentless up and down switchback of a path, all whilst carrying a 40lb pack. Nearly 200 miles of walking and I have apparently climbed the equivalent of Everest. Now I have sore feet……..but I’m happy :)!

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My home for two weeks :)

One list of ‘best’ walks puts The Pembrokeshire Coast Path at number 3 in the whole world and I can see why.  It is a wonderful, rugged coastline, and backpacking it gives a fantastic freedom, a freedom to walk with no real set agenda apart from a fairly flexible general plan of where to walk each day.  OK, its no easy walk, especially carrying everything on your back, but it is certainly a rewarding one, and part of that is simply the challenge to set out from St Dogmaels in the north and finish up nearly two weeks later in Amroth in the south without a break.  There were some days when there was simply a need to grit my teeth and keep walking, those days when the famous Welsh weather closed in and it was hard to just keep my balance in the gusty and slippery conditions.  On those days, I had a mantra that I repeated to myself over and over again as I walked – ‘One foot in front of the other gets you there’, and ultimately it did.

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One foot in front of the other gets you there! The finish line.

The walk has been in the planning for some time as I researched the route, possible stopping points along the way, travel arrangements to/from the start and finish etc and all this preparation, although deliberately flexible, proved invaluable.  This coastline is unspoilt which is part of the attraction but it was also part of the challenge as on some days there was nowhere on route to buy food.  This meant that when on the trail I had to constantly think ahead to make sure that I did not run out of supplies.  There were also other challenges to overcome such as keeping the mobile phone charged, chilly evenings and damp, cold nights – there was a need to keep warm before bed time – how to get anything dry after rain, and so on.  But all the challenges pale into insignificance compared to the fantastic beauty and shear exhilaration of being on the coast path ‘away from it all’ for nearly two weeks.

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A wonderful evening on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

The beautifully rugged scenery, the experiences along the way, the wonderful people that I came into contact with, and that final walk into Amroth make this a memorable walk indeed.  It is one that at my age and with knees and ankles that have seen better days, I am grateful to have been able to complete.

At the end of each day I wrote up a blog of that day’s walk and over the course of the next few weeks I will post those on this site.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

The New Logo :)

21 Apr

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I decided I needed a logo so I drew a freehand sketch of a signpost and my son Paul found a website where they draw up graphics for $5 :)  The picture above is the result and I’ve even had some Tee Shirts printed :)!

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I have just realised how long it is since I did my last blog entry!  Where does time go?  I am still walking lots and there will be lots more blog entries to come although not for a couple of weeks – all will become clear :)!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

 

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