Tag Archives: photography

The Wainwright Coast to Coast Path – Intro

14 May Great Fryup Dale

I have just returned from an amazing 13 days spent backpacking the Wainwright Coast to Coast Path, and what a fantastic 13 days it has been.  The weather man threw everything at me, below freezing temperatures, heavy rain, sleet, blizzard conditions at times, thick mist and low cloud, and beautiful sunshine.  The paths ranged from very nicely ‘paved’ sections to treading knee deep through almost swamp conditions as there had been so much rain.  But all of to was just awesome!

The End
The End :) – outside the Bay Hotel, Robin Hood’s Bay with a pint of Wainwright’s Ale

The route, the brainchild of the celebrated Lakeland walker, Alfred Wainwright, is officially 192 miles long and stretches from St Bees on the North West coast of England to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North East coast of England.  I say ‘officially’ because often it is not possible to stop on the trail itself which adds some miles – my GPS in fact clocked 205 miles in the 13 days.  The pedometer Ap on my iPhone tells me that I walked 475,000 steps :) !  It takes in three National Parks, The Lake District, The Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors and includes coast, mountains, moorlands, rivers, valleys, farmland, in fact every type of landscape.

Bannerdale
The high Lake District Mountains

It is very much a multi-cultural walk with people from all around the world coming to the UK specially to walk across this country, such is its renown around the world.  It is also a friendly community trail – I have walked with and talked with some lovely people who were either following the same route or were local residents only too happy to welcome walkers such as myself – and to put us right when we took a wrong turn.

The Pennines
On the bleak Pennines

It has to be said that it is a tough trail to walk, especially when carrying a 20Kg pack up over mountains over 2,500 feet high and where conditions under foot are not always great.  It is of course possible to use baggage transfer companies and carry less but one of the joys of carrying everything on your back is the pure and exhilarating freedom to stop when and where you please, although it naturally makes sense to have some sort of schedule – for me, a very flexible one.

Crackpot Hall
Crackpot Hall in Swaledale

A year ago I completed the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, another great trail, but the difference with this one is that good route finding skills are essential – in Pembrokeshire with the sea on one side of you and the land on the other it is hard to go wrong :) !  This time, I took a GPS, map and compass, and a guide book……oh and I still had to resort to the iPhone map Ap to establish my exact position at times :) !

All in all, it has been another fabulous experience and I have returned with not a single blister…..although I do have a pair of split boots as they didn’t wear quite so well as my feet!

Over the coming weeks I will be blogging each of the days walked as I kept a journal running each evening.  I will include photographs (naturally), some of the hardships, the delights (of which there were many), the people I met on the way, and much, much more.  I hope you will join me.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

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

Holloways and Sunken Paths, the Mysterious Ancient Highways

20 Feb

Holloway

There are thousands of ancient paths criss crossing Dorset’s wonderful countryside but none more fascinating than these labyrinthine paths like the one in the picture above which goes by the interesting name of Hell Lane! These are known as Holloways, although they do have other names such as shutes, bostels or grundles depending on the area they are in, and they are only seen in areas where the bedrock is soft – West Dorset is predominantly sandstone and therefore has many Holloways.

So what are Holloways?

Well the name Holloway comes from the anglo-saxon word which literally means ‘sunken road’, and they date from at least 300 years ago, many going back as far as the iron age. They started life as either drove trails used to move cattle and other animals from farms to markets, routes from inland to the sea ports, pilgrimage routes, or simply boundary ditches. I am not sure whether the term Holloway would have been applied much when the usage of these ‘highways’ was at its peak – I suspect they might well have been referred to as simply ‘lanes’.  Holloway, as a name, seems to have come much more to the fore in recent years having been popularised by Dan Richards’ and Robert Macfarlane’s book of the same name.  In terms of literature, they also feature strongly in Geoffrey Household’s book Rogue Male, where the main character fleeing his pursuers goes to ground and hides out in a disused Dorset Holloway.

They certainly wouldn’t have started their lives as Holloways because most would have initially been at ground level but centuries of use by cattle, carts and people gradually eroded the soft surface creating a ditch which was then deepened and widened by yet more ‘traffic’ and also by water running off the surrounding land as the ditch became at times a river. Eventually, many have become as deep as 20 or 30 feet creating in effect gorges rather than paths.

Coombe Down Hill

Holloways, and indeed all the ancient byways, are a record of the habits of our ancestors with hundreds of years of repeated use and that makes them rich in heritage and mystery……which is why I love walking them. With walls towering on either side and trees growing out of the top with their network of roots holding the walls in place, these paths have a real air of mystery. You feel like you are walking a natural and secret tunnel as the mesh of intertwined trees and branches above makes you feel shut in.  And there is lots of wildlife too! Gilbert White, a pioneering naturalist from the 18th century once said that to walk the holloways was to ‘Access a world of deep history, an unexpectedly wild world, buried amid the familiar and close at hand’. He wasn’t wrong!

I have a number of regular walks that take in one or more holloways and they are always a delight to walk. On a grey, stormy day you could almost fear to walk them as the gloom and darkness created by the high walls and overhanging branches creates a feeling of shadowy threat. On a bright sunny day with lovely dappled light filtering through the trees, they take on an altogether different feel!  But always secret and mysterious. So where are these Holloways?  Well the truth is they are many and varied, ranging from the gorge-like to simply shallow sunken paths, worn by feet, wheels, and hooves.

These are a few I have walked.

Holloway
Hell Lane, Symondsbury

Hell Lane is perhaps one of the most impressive and interesting.  With Shutes Lane it connects Symondsbury with North Chideock, climbing up over the ridge near Quarry Hill.  It is interesting because the eastern part is much more gorge like than the western half – to walk from the ridge down to North Chideock is a bit like walking a shallow river bed!  The reason for this difference might well be the fact that the church and other buildings at Symondsbury were built with stone from the quarry.  You can just imagine how the constant traffic of heavy laden carts running between quarry and village would have considerably deepened that part of the track to the gorge it now is.

The Winniford Valley
The Winneford Valley – the Holloway runs into the trees, top right

There are others in this area, tracks such as the one, now part of the Monarch’s Way, that climbs from North Chideock, through the Winneford Valley up over Coppet Hill.

Henwood Hill Henwood Hill
On Henwood Hill

And a smaller, but none the less beautiful, path that runs across the ridge at Henwood Hill.  This is a lovely path to walk in spring when the bluebells and wild garlic are in flower.

Coombe Down Hill Coombe Down Hill
Coombe Down

Moving away from this immediate area, there is a fine Holloway that climbs from the A3066 south of Beaminster up over Coombe Down.  This is deep and wild with gnarled tree roots growing out of the steep sided walls, holding them in place.  It is a well walked path, forming part of The Jubilee Trail.

A Sunken Lane Follow the River
Near South Poorton

Another smaller lane (or is it a river!) runs from the road at South Poorton and drops down to the nature reserve.  With it’s fern lined walls and it’s stony, waterlogged bottom, this is a lovely haven for wildlife and this, together with the nature reserve beyond, makes a delightful walk.

Holloway, West Milton
The track drops down steeply at West Milton

And there is evidence of further Holloways at the other end of the nature reserve as the track drops down to another interesting village, West Milton.

Lewesdon Hill Lane DSC00233-36
Lewesdon Hill Lane

One further path that I feel is worthy of inclusion is Lewesdon Hill Lane, although this is not perhaps a Holloway in the true sense.  I include it because it is ancient and sunken and a beautiful track to walk – it has even been suggested by some to have been part of the Ickneild Way, that ancient super-highway.  With moss covered banks on either side and surrounded by ancient woodlands, there are some wonderful views from this path.

Near Stoke Abbot
The access road down to Stoke Abbot

If you walk Lewesdon Hill Lane, you may well eventually reach the track that drops from the ridge down to the delightful village of Stoke Abbot.  It really is worth walking this part as the deeply cut access road that leads to the village is a Holloway in itself, and of course the village with its pub is a pleasant detour.

The sunken lane near Chetnole
Near Chetnole – this section is fairly clear but later it becomes overgrown Cutty Stubbs
Cutty Stubbs

Sadly, not all of our old sunken byways have been well maintained and with the development of other forms of transport many have fallen into disrepair.  The pictures above show sunken paths at Cutty Stubbs and Chetnole – both are now impassable.  At Cutty Stubbs, I couldn’t even find the entrance to the sunken path and had to ask the farmer for permission to cross his field to find it!  I did once question this with the authorities in an effort to have them cleared and reopened but sadly they ‘fall between stools’ and no-one has a budget that they wish to apply.  The reason is that these are often Byways Open to All Transport (BOAT’s) rather than footpaths and responsibility for these falls with the Highways authority.  The Footpaths authorities have a budget to maintain footpaths and Highways have a budget to maintain roads and BOAT’s………but naturally their funding is always exhausted keeping the roads in reasonable repair, with nothing left for our ‘off-road’ tracks.

Holloways may have been popularised by more recent writings but justifiably so.  They are ever changing, ever different, ever mysterious, but always delightful! And as is often the case when I walk, I travel along them wondering about those who have trod that way before – were they early drovers, were they pilgrims heading for one of the Dorset abbeys, were they smugglers, were they just ordinary people making their way to the port perhaps to emigrate to other lands!  Who were they and what was their purpose in travelling these ancient routes?  If only the walls could speak! These days walkers and wildlife are the companions of the Holloway and to go there is to enter another world.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

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

What Might Have Been!

11 Feb

What Might Have Been

A strange title perhaps but its actually a very appropriate title :)!

I did a 16 mile walk last week and timed it so that I would reach Corfe Castle in time for the post sunset glow, intending to get some shots of the castle silhouetted against the sky. Now when you are walking that distance, it is not always easy to time your arrival to the minute and I know that as a photographer I should have made sure that I allowed enough time to get there early so that I could get my viewpoint etc right.  This is just good photographic practice, especially as sunsets are so fleeting!  In reality, I did get there in time, the sun had dropped below the horizon and I was ready for the explosion of light……..except it didn’t materialise as the sun dropped into a bank of very low cloud. I ended up with just a picture of the castle against a bland sky.

Corfe Castle

I began to wish I had walked slightly quicker, although in truth the day’s walk was more important to me than the picture anyway, because 15 minutes earlier as I was walking along Nine Barrow Down towards Corfe, there had been a lovely setting sun that would have silhouetted the castle very nicely.  However, that wasn’t really what I had in mind as I wanted that lovely post sunset glow that we often, well sometimes, get.  But the setting sun had been lovely!

The Setting Sun

When I got home, I remembered that I had taken some shots of the setting sun as I walked along the ridge, albeit there was nothing of interest to put in the foreground at the time so I decided to put the two images together. I have never done this before and I am not really comfortable with it because it kind of feels like a ‘cheat’, although in reality I think what I’m not comfortable with is the passing off of a heavily manipulated image as real rather than the actual manipulation itself. This of course is something that came to the fore in the LPOTY competition a couple of years ago.

Most photographers will use Photoshop or Lightroom or whatever to process, improve and enhance their pictures and that in itself is nothing new – even in my younger days of ‘steam driven’ cameras we could be quite creative in the darkroom! But how much is too much?

In this case, both images (the sky and the castle) were taken by me on the same day just 15 minutes apart, and in fact, had I walked a bit quicker during the day and arrived at the castle before the sun had dropped below the horizon, the image at the top of this post is exactly the image I would have finished up with…….even if it wasn’t the image I originally had in mind.

A purist would undoubtedly say that any image manipulation is wrong.  However, others would argue that photography is an art form and much as a painter uses brushes, knives, sponges, rags or whatever to create his picture, so the photographer is perfectly at liberty to use all the tools that he has at his disposal.  After all it is very common, even essential, for landscape photographers to use filters on their cameras to balance the various light sources and tones etc, and this in itself is a form of ‘manipulation’.

So how much is too much?  Well in all honesty, I do think care is needed – I have seen photographs with spectacular sunset skies but where the angle of the shadows clearly indicate that the main picture was taken in the middle of the day.  In my view, creativity is to be applauded but it needs to be carefully applied, having in mind the overall picture.  But at the end of the day, it comes down to honesty and integrity – manipulate an image as much as you like, but be honest about what you have done rather than try to pass the image off as a real and original photograph.

So my confession is that the image at the top is not real……..but it might have been :)!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome.

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

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

Of Walking with your Eyes Open

29 Oct

I read an interesting article recently comparing photography with painting/drawing.  The gist of it was that photographers see an eye-catching scene and capture it on camera without noticing the detail whereas an artist sits and takes in all the detail as well as the overall scene.  The conclusion was that photographers miss out.  It was a view held, if not started, by the art critic, John Ruskin and there is certainly truth in that view especially in the 21st century when everyone seems so ‘busy’ and rushes through life without stopping to just sit, look and listen.  As the poet said, ‘What is life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’!

You can see the point – the artist has to sit for some time, perhaps several hours, to take in all the finer detail of a scene in order to commit it to paper whereas the photographer doesn’t necessarily need to as the camera does the work of recording the detail instantly.  But it needn’t be that way and we can benefit hugely from making a conscious effort to really look as we walk – there is so much that we often just pass by without even realising.

The same is true of life.  I read another article some time ago from a blogger who set out the benefits to her of writing a blog – the gist of it was that blogging made her take notice of things that happened during the day, be it a chance meeting, a conversation, a thought, or just something she saw.  Things that would normally just slip by without taking root, became more vibrant as they provided material for the next blog.

All this is just about maximising life and adding texture and sparkle with a full realisation of this wonderful world we live in – everything we see, everything we hear, everyone we meet, everything that happens to us can enrich our lives if we let it.

I always try, although I often fail, to adopt this view when I am walking, being alert to all that is around me, especially in the countryside.  It means taking time and often standing or sitting still to drink in what is before me, looking up and down as well as all around.  The pictures below were all taken on a local walk that I do often – it is my regular ‘Sunday morning stroll’ and I ‘walked with my eyes open’.

PA240029-29
Through the trees

On the Nature Reserve
Autumn grass in the nature reserve

We especially miss things that are on the ground, like diminutive fungi, and things that are high up like the beautiful light filtering through the canopy above.

Fungi
Get down low

PA240102-102
Look up

The leaves, especially at this time of year, are truly amazing.  The colours range from green through the whole range of autumn tints, to the dead and decayed – there is as much beauty in decay as there is in the fresh foliage of spring!

PA240063-63
Stand Out!
PA240064-64-Edit
Notice the leaves

Have you ever noticed what a huge variety of bark there is in an average woods?  Different textures and colours, wrapped in ivy, covered in lichen, lived in by bugs…..

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Different bark

Whatever the weather, bright sunshine as in the second photograph above, or dull and wet as in the picture below.  The splashes of the raindrops on the water are like little pools of diamonds on the black water of the pond, like stars in the night sky.  How often we run when the rain comes……but stop for a while and drink in the beauty.

PA240051-51
Comes the rain

And the log pile – is it just a log pile, or is it a high rise for bugs and fungi?  Take a look, explore, you never know what you might see.

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The log pile

Fungi
Fungus

Everyone loves a spiders web with that wonderfully delicate and intricate tracery, an engineering miracle that can hold so much weight.

Caught Up!
PA240089-89
PA240084-84
Suspended!

And of course there is always the bigger picture.  The beauty of dappled sunlight slanting across the clearing with a carpet of golden leaves.  Who could resist such a lovely scene?

The Clearing
In the clearing

And even late in the year, butterflies continue to dazzle with their beauty……even if a little bedraggled.  The Comma below will hibernate soon.

Comma
Comma

So much to see all around us, and yet we miss so much.  So walk with your eyes open, both through the woods and through life itself!

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 ishttp://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.

A Tactile Walk

13 Aug

The morning was bright and for once I decided to leave Dorset for the neighbouring county to do a 15 mile walk through some wonderful countryside and villages.  The day started in one of those beautiful meadows that are a dream to walk; the long grass swaying in the gentle breeze, the skylarks’ sweet song soaring above me, the butterflies fluttering by, the bees and bugs buzzing all around – just a dream!  

The Meadow
In the meadow

Have you ever thought of a walk being tactile?  Walking through the meadow hearing, seeing, smelling (if I had a sense of smell), but feeling too as I walked with fingers outstretched combing through the heads of the long swaying grass.  It was a lovely feeling that added another dimension – a real multi-sensory meadow!

After a mile or two my route took me along a lane rife with tall, delicate cow parsley, always a delight in summer.  

The Lane
A lane lined with cow parsley

Pushing my way through the at times overgrown lane with grass and flowers brushing my legs, I was somewhat glad that the recent weather had been dry.  The lane eventually gave way to more open ground as I reached the edge of a field and passed an old, rustic fence post, its rough solidness contrasting with the flimsy grasses around it.  I ran my fingers over the post, feeling its roughness and wondering who else’s hands had done that same thing over the many years it had been there.  With hedging and missing gate, the post seemed surplus and yet still added something to a lovely rural scene.

Meadow's Edge
A lovely rural scene

Eventually I reached the first village, and a beautiful village it was.  I love walking the countryside but I also love walking these old villages with their old cottages, some picturesque and some functional, all part of a local community that has existed and seen many changes over the centuries.  Strange to think that cottages like the one below once housed poor farm workers but so often now are second homes for the wealthy.  How times have changed and what stories these cottages could tell.

The Cottage
Picturesque or functional, always a delight

Passing out of the village along a quiet country lane, I joined another footpath that skirted round a hill.  The heights reached on this walk are not mountainous but the views are none-the-less beautiful for that and I stopped to take in the landscape below me.

The Footpath
Low hills but still great views

The hill itself was a real surprise!  Known as Windmill Hill, presumably because at one time there was a windmill there, the area was covered in beautiful blue flax, not the most common farm crop.  The breeze blowing across the hill rustled through the flowers creating a waving sea of blue.

Flax on Windmill Hill
A waving sea of blue

There was more tactile to come but unfortunately not so positive – the path beyond the blue hill was overgrown with stinging nettles; shorts and nettles are not a good combination!  I picked my way carefully through and eventually reached clearer ground as the path skirted along the edge of some woodland with some lovely dappled sunlight filtering through.  It was like a fairyland and I tried to capture it with the camera.

If you go down in the woods today......
A fairyland

Another picturesque village, and a lunch stop, followed before I once again made my way out into the countryside.  The crops in the fields were already ripening and the paths through them were narrow and once again I walked with outstretched fingers feeling the touch of the full seed heads.  The golden grain swayed in the breeze as I walked.

Against the Grain
Golden grain

And naturally a poppy or two joined in.

A Beautiful Cliche!
Poppy

More fields followed with contrasting crops, the delicacy of oats to the touch and the robustness of barley.  The feel of these is so different, and the look too of course with the barley field seeming to impersonate the sea as wave after wave rolls across the field ahead of the breeze.  Narrow paths and high crops, I couldn’t resist running my outstretched fingers through the heads once again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Way Through
Contrasting crops

I stopped in the middle of the barley field, watching the ‘waves’ and listening to the rustling of swaying stalks.  It was a delight and made me think of W H Davies words, ‘What is life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?’  We should, indeed, must take time to stand and stare, and to touch and feel too, to fully take in all that is around us.

But I needed to move on, as the day was ticking by, and leaving the field behind me, I joined a wonderfully picturesque path along a ridge top, again not a high ridge but with lovely views on each side.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Along the ridge

Eventually I neared the end of my journey, but there was more to come.  For the last stretch, I joined a rampart and ditch that had once formed the fortification along the county boundary.  I sat for some time with the long meadow grass waving around me, drinking in the scene.  What history there is in these ramparts, what blood must have been shed on their flanks that are now covered with the most delightful wild flowers and butterflies – a beautiful place of peace after centuries of strife.

Rampart
On the rampart

The final part of my walk was back through the meadows that I had started out from.  Still with skylarks serenading me overhead, and a myriad wild flowers to welcome me back, I took some time to capture the scene, and to try to capture the essence of the meadow which I love so much.  In reality, this is an impossible task since the meadow is a place that needs all of your senses to take in its joys and a camera can only do the visual.

In the Meadow
In the MeadowSummer in the Meadows
The essence of a beautiful meadow

God gave us all our senses to enjoy but so often we neglect to use them, rushing through life hardly noticing what is around us.  The sense of touch is particularly not associated with walking as much as sight and sound but it can really add another dimension to a good walk – so next time you go out walking, make it a tactile walk.

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 – On Reflection

19 Jun

South Beach, Tenby
Follow the Acorn

Those of you who follow my blog will know that I have just completed an end to end walk of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and I thought I would set out some random thoughts on the walk, and on backpacking generally.

The first thing to say is that this is a wonderful walk along what is an amazing coastline – no wonder it features in a list of the top ten walks in the whole world!  It is rugged and generally unspoilt with fantastic scenery and a well marked path.  It is also a very challenging long distance trail with lots of steep climbs which can seem relentless at times – they say walking it is the equivalent of climbing Everest in terms of ascent (and descent).  Because of this, there were times when I just had to grit my teeth and keep walking – these were times when the Welsh weather did its worst to stop me completing the walk!  But hey, even if you are remotely considering trying it, I would resoundingly say, GO FOR IT!!  And here are some more specific thoughts to help.

To backpack or not to backpack?  There are a number of ways to walk this coast and most people probably do it by using B&B’s, with or without baggage transfer, or simply by doing a series of day walks.  For me, I decided early on that I was going to backpack it in one go because I liked both the challenge and the freedom that gave me, plus of course…….it was cheaper – my average overnight stay cost around £5.  The downside of course is that you have to carry more weight, which leads to the next point.

Ready to go
How much should you carry?

How much do you carry?  There are numerous suggestions as to how heavy a pack should be, most suggest a certain proportion of body weight.  My pack weighed 18/20 kg but it needs to be remembered that wet clothes, wet tent etc will weigh more.  I think for enjoyment, lighter is better so take the minimum you can get away with, without leaving out anything essential.

North to south or south to north?  I did the former, partly because it meant I would be walking mainly into the sun – although since the path winds constantly, you actually walk in all directions!  In terms of difficulty, although there are steep climbs all along the whole route, it is true to say that the most rugged sections are in the north so the walk gets marginally easier as you go further south.  On the other hand, it also becomes a little more urbanised in the south so arguably it is better to walk that part earlier by walking northwards.  At the end of the day it is down to personal choice.

Where to get food?  Because this coastline is so unspoilt, there is a need to think ahead to make sure you have enough food.  Some days I passed nowhere to buy food and some overnight stops were too remote to be near a pub.  I found a good plan was to have a small stock of cuppa soup, mini pork pies etc for those times when forward planning failed.  You can of course carry dehydrated meals.  The one area I probably failed in is breakfast – my plan was to eat breakfast bars at the tent and then stop en route for something more substantial……but I rarely passed anywhere to buy breakfast.

Cooking
Cooking

Planning the walk.  I found it helpful to carefully plan the walk in advance so that I had a schedule of probable overnight stops whilst also retaining some flexibility to vary the plan according to how I felt.  This gave me the skeleton of a walk but also allowed the freedom that backpacking gives.  I only pre-booked one overnight stay and that was purely because it was an unmanned site.  I also changed a number of planned overnight stops as it suited me on the day.  I had no problem finding somewhere to pitch my tent.

Electrical equipment.  I thought this was going to be an issue but in the end, it did not prove a problem.  Every time I stopped at a cafe or pub, I asked if I could charge my phone and/or camera and not one said ‘no’.  Everyone was most helpful……and one cafe even offered to dry my wet clothes!  Having said that, there were times when I had to turn equipment off in order to preserve the battery.  I carried an emergency battery pack but this failed so I am now researching portable solar chargers.  Just from a safety point of view, I did carry a spare ‘pay-as-you-go’ phone for emergency use.

Keeping warm.  The main issue with going in April is that the evenings and nights can be chilly in the tent and it is important to keep warm before going to bed.  I quite often went for a walk in the evening which kept me warm but I know there are those who suggest doing star jumps before getting into the sleeping bag.  One possible option if all else fails is to take an aluminium water bottle, fill it with hot water and put it inside a sock (preferably a dry one!) to make a hot water bottle.

On the Pembrokeshire Coast Path
Wet grass means wet feet!

Keeping dry.  I had good waterproofs which kept me dry except for my shoes and socks – unfortunately footwear tends not to be completely waterproof unless you wear walking boots and I prefer to walk in approach shoes.  This can make it difficult as shoes will not dry overnight in a tent especially on damp nights which means wearing wet shoes again the next day.  Ideally you need to carry some light weight shoes for the evenings to avoid having to wear your wet day shoes.  Something to remember is that shoes do not only get wet when it rains – invariably the grass was wet either from overnight rain or dew so my shoes got wet very quickly even on dry days.

Organising the rucksack and tent.  I don’t think there are any particular rights and wrongs to this except to keep everything inside waterproof stuff sacks.  What is important is to be well organised by storing everything in the same place in the rucksack each day and tent overnight so that you know exactly where everything is and can put your hands on it easily.  This is vital when living in such a confined space.  I managed to get everything inside my tent apart from the rucksack, stove and shoes which were stored in the porch.

Organising the day.  This is obviously down to personal preference.  I quickly got into a natural rhythm of getting up with the sun and going to sleep with the sun which meant I was on the trail by between 6.30 and 7.30 am and at my stopping point by mid afternoon.  I found that this gave me an opportunity to put the usually wet tent up early enough for it to dry out, plus giving me a chance to explore the local area.  I was usually in my sleeping bag by 9.30 pm.  For me, lunch stops were flexible.

Drying Time
Drying in the sun

How far to walk each day?  Well this is clearly down to the individual and your fitness level.  If you are not a regular walker, it is better to start slowly and build the miles up as your fitness level grows.  My shortest day was 12 miles and my longest was around 18 miles, although in reality, each was probably longer when the detours round various headlands etc are taken into account.

What would I change?  Probably nothing as it all worked out brilliantly, although possibly I might include an extra day or two just to give an opportunity to explore some of the islands such as Skomer, Ramsey, Caldey etc.

So, as I look back now, what are my main memories from this amazing walk?

Fantastic rugged coastline
Great views
Lovely beaches
The freedom of backpacking
Being free of the car for two weeks
The challenge to succeed
Dealing with things that crop up on the way
Steep climbs
The Welsh weather!
The Milford Haven inlet – probably for me the low point
The fact that everything went so smoothly
The unspoilt nature of this coast
The lovely people I met on the way
The buses that seem to stop anywhere
The feeling as I walked into Amroth at the end of the walk

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path
A fabulous rugged coastline

This blog entry is not intended to be an exhaustive summary of the walk or a full ‘how to’ guide, it is just a series of random thoughts, memories and tips.  I hope this and my previous entries documenting my walk have been interesting and that it will encourage you to go out and do your own ‘end to end’ walk.  Over the years, I have completed numerous similar walks, some using B&B’s and some using the tent, and I have some wonderful memories from every one of them.  I can highly recommend 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 7

10 Jun

DAY 13 – PENALLY to AMROTH – 9.4 miles

The last day (or rather half day) of my walk dawned bright and beautiful.  It was strange laying in my tent listening to the noise of traffic as all my other camps had been remote and very quiet.  It seemed fitting in some ways as, after two wonderful weeks of wild walking, I would be returning to ‘normal life’ tomorrow……..for a time at least!  Because I was intending to travel home later today, there were time pressures on me so I was up and walking again before 6.30am.

I made my way out of Penally and on reaching the coast path again, I passed what seemed to be a brand new sign – the acorn had been a guiding presence throughout the walk so I took a picture as a reminder.

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The acorn, a guiding presence

The first mile or two of the day took me along a wonderfully wide, flat beach in beautiful hazy early morning sunlight with nothing for company but the gentle lapping of the surf on the shore.  I felt both excited and yet sad to be walking the last leg, but most of all it was the shear atmospheric beauty of early morning on the beach that occupied my thoughts.  Before me I could see Tenby with its old island fortress getting ever closer.

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The beauty of early morning on the beach – Tenby and its island fortress in the distance

Leaving the beach, I climbed up over Castle Hill and into the town which was still not awake, passing the old lifeboat station, now a private residence, on the way.  It was interesting seeing the lifeboat station as I remembered following its conversion to a house on the television programme, ‘Grand Designs’, some years earlier.  What a wonderful place to live!

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The old lifeboat station at Tenby

The Tenby streets were quiet apart from the dustmen emptying bins and it was delightful walking past the quay and along the water front without the noise of traffic.  With its harbour, two lifeboat stations, old fishermen’s chapel and pastel painted houses, it is a picturesque town.  Set within medieval walls, Tenby was once an important fishing and trading centre and there were lots of powerful merchants living there in large houses.  Now it is the tourists who are the main source on income.

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Tenby – pastel painted houses, harbour and two lifeboat stations

I had expected this last day to be very flat and easy walking but I was to be disappointed as the next few miles were up and down over headlands with a particularly steep climb out of the Lodge Valley.  Amazingly, despite the increasing ‘urban sprawl’, the coast seemed as rugged and beautiful as ever.  After walking through many woodlands, and many bluebells, I dropped down into Saundersfoot, a spreading seaside town.

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Saundersfoot

From Saundersfoot the route took an interesting twist.  I could see further headlands in the distance and had expected further climbs to go with them but in fact the coast path went through them :) following the track bed of an old railway!  Saundersfoot had become an important town in the 1800’s when the coal mining industry grew and harbour facilities were needed to aid its export that had previously taken place off the various beaches.  The tunnels were blasted through in order to connect the coal mines with the harbour.  These certainly added another dimension to this varied walk.

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The Tunnel
The trailway tunnels near Saundersfoot

Exiting the tunnels, I arrived at Wiseman’s Bridge.  The day had now clouded over and there was a strong wind whipping off the sea across the rocks.  I made my way through the village and followed the road over the next headland.

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Wiseman’s Bridge

This was to be the last headland on my walk and as I descended through the trees, I caught glimpses of my final destination below me.  Eventually I reached the road at the western end of Amroth, another straggling seaside town that started out as a small miners settlement.  The last mile or so of my walk was along the road through the village as the start/finish of the trail is at the eastern end of Amroth.

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Entering Amroth

I walked beside the sea wall and just before the road turned inland reached the plaque that marks the southern end of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path – and the end of my walk!  I wasn’t sure what I should feel but after nearly two weeks and 200 miles of walking, the end seemed almost an anticlimax as there was no one there but me.  I took some pictures to record the occasion and was about to cross the road to the pub opposite for some food when a car pulled up and two day walkers got out.  “Are you going to walk the whole trail?”, they asked.  “I just have”, I replied with a smile :) !  I asked them if they would mind taking a picture of me which they gladly did.

I celebrated with a coffee and a roast beef sandwich at the pub :) !  Strangely, despite my backpack, they didn’t even ask me if I had walked or was about to walk the trail.  Since the pub was right beside the plaque, I assumed that the staff would be accustomed to walkers and would even offer free drinks or perhaps a certificate ;) but they seemed to have no connection whatever with what is a popular National Trail.  I think they are missing a trick!

For me, the glow I felt inside from completing a challenging walk, overcoming obstacles on the way, was sufficient in any event!

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The finishing point at Amroth

I wanted to allow enough time at the finish to just drink in the good feelings and my early start had allowed for this, but ultimately I had to leave Amroth and begin my long journey home.  This started off interestingly!

I don’t use buses very often but when I do, I am accustomed to standing at a bus stop as that is the only place they pick people up.  This doesn’t seem to be the case on this coastal service and they are quite happy to pick you up and drop you off wherever you want.  A lovely lady bus driver picked me up at Amroth and we chatted constantly all the way from there to Kilgetty station – she was very interested in and impressed by my walk…….and she dropped me right beside the station :) !

The trains on this branch line are a bit different as well as you have to flag them down to get them to stop at the station!  My journey home involved the bus, three trains, foot, and a car so I had plenty of time to think back over the previous two weeks, remembering with gratitude and fondness all the things I had experienced and seen.  I will summarise some of these in my next post, but for now……..WOW, what an amazing and unforgettable two weeks!!!!

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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