Castlemartin East

The last time I came to this part of Pembrokeshire, some four years ago, we tried to walk along the Castlemartin ranges and found that they were closed as they are monopolised by the sodding military. I didn’t anticipate being able to walk them this time, so had mentally written them off. However, some late research indicated that the eastern part of the range is open to the public at weekends. I went on to discover that the western part, which is normally closed, is open on a limited number of days per year and that this Sunday is one such day. One has to join an official guided walk, with a ranger free m the Welsh Wildlife Trust or some such, and as soon as I realised that I could take part, I booked a place. Given that each walk us about 7 miles, I decided not to commit myself to doing any more walking on either day.

I left the Swanlake Guest House (aka West Moor Farm) towards the main road to catch a bus to Pembroke. Thereafter I caught another bus to Stack Rocks, which is on the border between the east and west ranges. The first bus was a standard single decker and there was nothing remarkable about it other than its capacity to receive fares by Apple Pay. The second was scarcely more than a minibus and this was definitely cash only. However, we three passengers (a young couple and myself, all intent on walking to Bosherston) were treated to an unscheduled stop when the driver opened the door and pointed out a particularly attractive patch of orchids in flower. That never happened on the old 34C which used to take me to and from school. I once took a dead badger home on the bus. That, however, is another story.

A fine Welsh drizzle had set in so initially I wore my waterproof. However, the sky was clearly beginning to brighten so I was hopeful that I wouldn’t be wearing it for long, and so it turned out.

The cliff scenery along this stretch was absolutely breathtaking. The cliffs were cut through with deep ravines, there were Sea stacks covered in guillemots but the walking itself was mostly very easy. You could tell why the military liked this but rather than the stretch I walked yesterday. Yesterday’s walk was punctuated with very steep gradients and today’s wasn’t. It was generally very flat, therefore ideal for vehicles to whizz around doing whatever military vehicles do.

Every so often there were people rock climbing. This is an activity in which you definitely need to have total faith and trust in your companions. My one solitary attempt when I was at college was on some anonymous precipice in North Lancashire. The single event which persuaded me that I wouldn’t bother again was when I was about three-quarters of the way up an 80′ rock face. I had reached a convenient ledge and decided to have a breather when one of my companions shouted down ” Are you holding on tight, Pete?” When I replied in the affirmative the voice said ” Well stay put for a moment. Your rope isn’t attached correctly!” So, Mike Garlick and Duncan Bennett, in the unlikely event that you are reading this, I still think you are worthless morons some 45 years later.

However, back to Pembrokeshire. I watched one young chap scale what seemed to be an impossible cliff with great facility. When he pulled himself up onto a tiny ledge and stood there without hanging onto anything at all I actually felt slightly nauseous on his behalf.

I again failed to spot anything whichI could definitely say was a chough, quite simply because they were too far away for me to make out the colour of their beaks and legs, but on a balance of probabilities I feel pretty sure that some of them must have been, despite the preponderance of jackdaws.

Meanwhile, the clouds had completely cleared andI made my way to St. Govan’s Inn, via St. Govan’s chapel. I settled into my room but around 6.30 I fancied a stroll around the Bosherston lily ponds. Walking in light shoes and with no pack on my back was a lovely relief and that pushed my total for the day up to about 15 kilometres, or a little over 9 of your Welsh miles.

Tenby to Swanlake Bay

I didn’t sleep very well at the Pleasant View Guest House, and when I wandered down to breakfast to my amazement there were 24 places laid. How many people could this small bungalow accommodate?

As it happened there were only three other guest who had arrived for 8.30 and I quickly identified the chap who finished the walk the previous day. I picked his brains about the hardest bits, the most scenic, and so in, and it immediately became apparent that he was way out of my league. He went north to south and covered the first 40 miles in 2 days. He had a day to spare and was planning to spend it in Pembroke. He got on the same train as I did, but I alighted in Tenby.

I had a little shopping to do (sudocreme, savlon – insurance against chafing) and then decided to take the day very easy indeed. I found a café on the beach, ordered coffee and spent twenty minutes or so people watching. I noticed a woman with three teenage boys, all with rucksacks and walking poles, setting off across the beach at a fair old lick. “I won’t see them again!” I thought, and a short while later I started strolling gently along the beach. The tide was receding and it was much easier walking on the firm sand below high water mark than in the loose dry stuff. At the end of the beach I had my first climb of the day, with plenty more to come.

I had it fixed in my mind that Manorbier, the birthplace of my paternal grandmother, was around half-way. I recall when I plotted the route that it appeared that I had about 9 miles to walk, but my experience is that the reality is at least 10% further than the computer projection. When I rounded a headland and saw a welcoming looking bay appear, I was fully expecting it to be Manorbier and lunch, but it turned out to be Lydstep, whose existence I had totally forgotten in my excitement. I stopped for a cereal bar and some orange juice and then plodded up the hill back to the coastal path.

A little while later, near some military installation, I caught up with the woman I had seen earlier, but she seemed only to have one teenage boy left. Before my speculation concerning how she had disposed of the other two became too wild and far-flung, she engaged me in conversation. It turned out that the other two, who were somewhat older and more adventurous, had descended to some sandy cove or other and they all kept track of one another using some google maps facility. I also found out that her name was Abigail and she came from Wisconsin. She too is planning to walk as much of the coastal path as she can.

We parted company and a little while later I found a very nice café that served beer, bacon baguettes, ice cream and tea, amongst other things, but they were no concern of mine. While I was eating Abigail arrived, this time with a full complement of teenage boys, and the all settled down to eat.

My Lydstep miscalculation had another aspect: Manorbier was only a couple of miles from my B & B so I set off for more Up and Down, arriving at about 6.30, seeing virtually no-one else on the coastal path in the hour or so it took me. Mein Host very kindly gave me a lift to the pub in Jameston, where the rib eye steak etc. were very good. I washed this down with a pint of Hoppy Wan Kanobi followed by a Rev. James. I do like my beer to be associated with Men of the Cloth.

Something like 12 miles for the day, including my walk to Kilgetty station, my amble around Tenby, and the diversion into Manorbier village. That is pretty close to my limit.