12th – 17th January 2022
Day 43 – 44
Rest Day: St. Davids
My parents had visited St. Davids a few years ago and had absolutely loved it. I’d been recommended to spend some time there if I could. It hadn’t been my initial intention, but I had needed to resupply anyway. The shops in the villages and settlements that sat directly on the coastpath around this peninsula were all very small, didn’t always have what I needed in stock, and were tending to make up their opening hours as they pleased. The only larger shops sat off the path, and one of those was in St. Davids.
It wasn’t a long walk at all from my camp down to Whitesands Bay and, from there, to follow the road inland. The fields were a crisp and clean white, heavy and shining with frost. I had been high up enough to escape the worst of it, but it had been yet another morning of doing to frosty-tent dance.
As I ambled up the road to St Davids, a car coming the other way slowed down and stopped and the man inside rolled down his window and started rummaging in a bag. As I approached, he held out a plastic container of two cinnamon rolls.
“Your breakfast!” He insisted. I was delighted and thanked him profusely. We chatted a bit and he asked me how far I’d come, I realised I was at five hundred and something miles by now. After a cheery goodbye, he headed up towards the beach, and I carried on into town.
I say ‘town’ but St. Davids is a city. A city that is really a village with status. The population only numbers 1,600 yet it has an absolute monster of a cathedral. Until 1888 if somewhere had a cathedral, then it was automatically a city, but when the definition was abolished that year then St. Davids was downgraded. It was only in 1994, as celebrations for the Queen’s 40th anniversary wrapped up, that Elizabeth II granted back its city status, in recognition of it both being an important site for Christianity, and because she agreed that it had been a bit rude for that status to have been taken away in the first place.
St. Davids was absolutely lovely. There wasn’t a direction to turn that wasn’t gorgeous. I decided it was a perfect place for a rest day.
St. David, or Dewi Sant as he is known in Welsh, is the patron saint of Wales. He was born only a few miles further up the coast and was the grandson of Ceredig; the chap who Ceredigion is named for. Most of what we know about his life is from a whole bibliography written five hundred years after he died and therefore, whilst there might appear to be an absolute plethora of information, some of it is pretty dubious. The biographer, Rhygyfarch, claimed he put it together after finding manuscripts hidden in a church. Manuscripts that no one else ever saw because, oops, he lost them again.
Rygyfarch had his motivations; he wanted to see the cathedral of St. Davids established to the same level of importance within the church as Canterbury, and it was likely that a really good mythology could establish that. However, in my opinion, Rygyfarch held back. Keeping in mind that the main miracle of St. Justinian was to carry his own decapitated head across the sea, the miracles of St. David all seem a bit crap. The one that gets talked about the most is that once, whilst preaching outdoors, a whole new hill rose up out of the ground behind him. No offense to David, but in the words of historian John Davies, ‘one can scarcely conceive of any miracle more superfluous in that part of Wales than the creation of a new hill’.
At any rate, whilst Rygyfarch failed in his full intentions, two pilgrimages to St. Davids is still seen as equal to one to Rome, and three as equal to one to Jerusalem. Between Bardsey and here, I was starting to learn all about Pilgrimage Mathematics.
I visited the Cathedral the next day. Normally cathedrals loom up, skyward, tall above you as you approach, but with St. Davids Cathedral being built at the base of a valley, it is you looking down on it.
St. David first founded his monastic order here in the sixth century, and it was fairly brutal. The only food and drink allowed was bread and water, which one would think only goes so far when you’re requiring your monks to pull ploughs themselves and not use draught animals for labour. Whilst having no possessions is a fairly normal part of being a monk, in St. Davids order, even insinuating ownership was an offense. I.e. saying “I’ve been pulling the plough all morning, please may I have “my” bread now?” would be indescribably vagrant behaviour. May I remind you, this is the guy that Justinian thought was too soft.
The buildings were raided and burned by the Vikings, and many of the monks and bishops murdered. In the aftermath Rygyfarch’s new book may have done some good, and possibly been influential in Henry I’s decision to commence building a new cathedral. His appointed bishop managed to wrangle papal privilege from the Pope for the building; making it an endorsed pilgrimage destination. Between this and the popularity of Rygyfarch’s stories, a bigger cathedral than planned was needed and hasty modifications were made that were not as stable as they should have been. Towers kept falling over, it was kind of a mess.
But work carried on; better and less rushed, until, over the centuries it became something truly grand. Now, something puzzles me, because despite it being some super special papally-endorsed site of pilgrimage and having grown to become a significant site for British Christianity and Catholicism, the cathedral seems to have avoided being targeted by Henry VIII in his whole Dissolution of the Monasteries rampage. I would assume this was because there was no longer a monastery there, but I’m not sure that’s enough to have stopped him. I have messaged the cathedral demanding an immediate answer to this very important question (Edit: They clearly fail to see the importance as the answer has not been immediate)
It didn’t really matter anyway; it may have escaped the greed of King Hal, but a couple centuries later Cromwell had it all but destroyed.
The modern restoration began in 1793 under a succession of notable architects. What we have now, is an eclectic but seamless band of stylistic choices that somehow blend together into a place that feels so different to every other cathedral, but you can’t quite say how. Not just because the shifting valley beneath it means there is a 4 metre difference between the east and west ends; and I thought I was done with slopes for a couple of days.
The cathedral was not the only cool building in the city. Where the cathedral is traditional and grand, the Oriel y Parc visitor centre and exhibition space is modern and innovative. The Pembrokeshire Coast guidebook I had had the nerve to call it a ‘monstrosity’ when, actually, it is an incredible example of eco-building that is not only sustainable and safe, but also very pretty. All those cults out in the Preseli Hills living in strawbale huts wish they could have put together something like this.
For its construction, the wood is from sustainably grown Welsh forests, the stone has been reclaimed from derelict and abandoned buildings, and the whole thing, walls roof and floor, is insulated with wool.
Because this is Wales, sometimes you’re going to need to have a bit more than wooly walls to keep you warm and power use down, so the whole building is orientated so the curve of it follows the sun’s path during the day. The power that is needed is from renewable sources, amassed via a ground source heat pump, photovoltaic cells, and solar panels.
It evens makes the most of the wet Welsh weather and harvests rainwater in an 18,000 litre storage tank under the front courtyard for use within the building. The final touch of a grass roof means I can confidently say that Greta Thunberg would happily live there. I was also proudly informed that they only use eco cleaning products but, at this point, that’s kind of a given.
I spent a lovely two days in St. Davids, but now it was time to hit the road again.
St Davids – Porthclais
7 miles/1100 ft total ascent
I hung around in St. Davids waiting for the delayed groundsheet to the new tent to be delivered and, once it was, went back down the lane to Whitesands Bay and turned left.
The path was different to how it had been; clearer, calmer, and the lack of rain the last few days made it firmer as well. The shift in geology was instantly visible; gone were the angry, black crags and cliffs that juddered down, we were in Cambrian territory now. Sheer, grey sedimentary slopes sped down to the sea; almost at a right angle in tight, semi-circular coves. Where the igneous rocks before had spawned, red hot, from volcanoes, this was the land that had once been the seabed, which all that eruption had forced above land.
The waters became more and more turbulent as the presence of Ramsey Island interfered with the currents. I came to St. Justinians Lifeboat Station, home to St. Davids RNLI; the boat huts suspended between the cliffs with long slipways for launch into the waters.
The Pembrokeshire Coast, with its jagged and perilous outline, has claimed many lives and many ships. Historically regarded with fear by mariners; it did not take much of a strong wind to carry a ship to her doom, smashed upon the rocks. No one really knows how many ships have been lost to this coast; smugglers and pirates were just as susceptible as registered merchant vessels.
Two shipwreck stories have become famous though; on January 6th 1791, the merchantship Increase, sailing from St. Kitts, started experiencing distress and ran aground at Druidstone. Whilst most of the passengers were eventually removed safely as the tide lowered, that cannot be said of the cargo which was instantly looted by locals. The barrels of gunpowder were smashed open for their copper rings and, eventually, the whole beach was covered in their contents. One spark, perhaps from a dashed musket, set off massive explosions badly injuring over sixty people and killing three.
Another wreck off Milford Haven also suffered for having a desirable cargo, except, this time, it was whisky. The Loch Shiel grounded in 1894 on Thorne Island outside of Milford Haven, and started to sink rapidly. A mattress was lit as a distress signal and, thankfully, the men of the Angle Lifeboat Station got to them in time before the ship sunk completely.
The next morning cargo started washing ashore and, basically, the whole locality was drunk for weeks. So drunk that there were more deaths caused by the drinking than the sinking. But one plundered barrel of gunpowder was used for years after to fire a salute whenever a wedding took place.
Though these stories are humourous ones, the number of people drowning in British waters is on the rise with 630 deaths by drowning recorded in British waterways in 2020. Whilst the nature of that year meant that, sadly, a third of those were suspected suicides, the amount of avoidable death caused by a lack of knowledge or an overestimated ability is awful. It is a silent death, and happens quickly.
St Justinian’s Lifeboat Station has been responsible for saving 360 lives since it was constructed. It has two full time, paid employees; the coxswain and the mechanic, but every other member is a local volunteer who can be paged anytime.
I continued along the head, pushing into the Ramsey Sound. Not all rocks could be seen below, but many could be guessed at by the white sundering as waves hit them underneath and split in a hail of froth. I met many curious ponies here; curious in that amused way that shows how inferior they think you are. I’m used to it with my cats. I think it’s great.
The ponies intentionally stepped all over the path just as I went to tread it. Cocking their heads as if asking me what I was going to do about it? As you can’t just yeet a pony, I found for stretches I’d be walking up on the slope beside the path trying to get ahead of them. They would amble on quickly to block me entering back on it. It became a game to all of us. I only won when they saw a particularly tasty lot of grass and all swung their chubby arses away from me; I was now less interesting than grass and that was rather insulting.
It made me miss my cats.
A while further I saw a couple heading in the direction towards me. All three of us stopped, stared a little, then ran excitedly towards each other. Why? Because of tents. They and me were carrying tents; an absolute rarity. I hadn’t seen another person with a tent since Anglesey, and nothing before then.
She had glitter on her eyelids and he had leather bracelets. They were from Bristol, just up for a two night camp spontaneously since the weather had become so blue and dry and had camped the previous night by the retreat just past Porthclais. They asked why I came out to do this massive walk this time of year?
“I already hate winter” I said “I figured that if I was going to be miserable again, I may as well be miserable with purpose”
“Oh! You must not be up to date on the news!”
“Oh my god, please don’t tell me anything. The last time I checked the news was when all the info about Boris and the cheese and wine parties was released and I was so furious that I just can’t put myself in that position to be that angry again when I’m meant to be thinking about how not to die!”
Eventually our chatting kept holding up other hikers, especially with all our tents extending even as we turned out the path. We said goodbye and I went on towards Porthclais.
The other side of the head was more rugged, but it was still easier than the days walking before St Davids. As the lights and houses of Porthclais appeared in a narrow gap in front of me, I stayed back on the clifftop meadow amongst the gorse thickets for my camp.
I was finding though, that whilst it was pretty easy to hide your tent from most humans, their dogs would find you. A beagle leapt through the gorse to my tent entrance followed by his startled owner who began apologising for the dog’s behaviour. He said he’d always thought about wildcamping but hadn’t quite got the nerve for it, he said he’d worry too much about running out of water or where to put the dog. I told him of a few YouTubing hikers and wildcampers that take their dogs with them, and how he should check them out.
The dog finally got bored and started insisting they carry on, so carry on they did.
The night sky out here was really something else; hues of blue and black behind all manner of stars, the moon like a beaming parent in front of them. There’s many Dark Sky Discovery Sites around the coast, and even if you, like me, know absolutely nowt about it, there’s something incredibly magical about seeing a clear sky of starlight from one side of the horizon and to the other like music on a stave.
The Dark Sky Discovery Sites around Pembrokeshire are in DSD’s ‘Milky Way Class’ where the whole of the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye; its swirl of pale haze cocooning the stars like incoming frost.
In Welsh mythology, the constellation of Gemini depicts the brothers Gwyn and Gwyrthyr who both were in love with the same woman, Creiddylad. She loved Gwyrthyr back and the two were engaged. Mad with jealousy, Gwyn rode in and captured Creiddylad. His heartbroken brother raised a huge army and a bloody and terrible battle commenced. Finally Gwyrthyr defeated and slew his brother, rescuing his bride. Depictions of the story are often seen as an analogy for the battles between summer and winter; the light and the dark.
I guess I’m walking in the loveless and lonely days of Gwyn and his jealous rage. Yet, there was nothing evil nor malcontent about my world tonight.
Porthclais – Newgale
10 miles/1902 ft total ascent
Limekilns sat on either side of Porthclais harbour as I pass by the way before heading up again. The huge, heavy harbour wall swung out like an interfering comma, tucking away the small boats moored behind it. Today the harbour is under the ownership of the National Trust and is only used by small boats, but back in the 12th Century, it was an import harbour for the coal and timber trades.
The route back up to the cliffs was starting to become distinctive. As the day progressed the ascents and descents this side of St. Davids started to be of a different flavour than those before. Where prior the undulation had been a constant stream of short, sharp shocks, I would find that whilst I had longer periods of flatness now, when the time came to hit a slope it would be a far lengthier event that would appear more gradual but end up being incredibly steep. It would end up taking me a very long time to go down some declines. Conscious of the weight of my bag making me top heavy; they would often be tackled side on in a step-by-step sliding motion with my pole constantly out back and gripping to the earth behind me as I leaned on it. I don’t suppose it looked proficient, especially when unladen day-walkers came the other way, but it worked for me.
High on a slope was the small retreat of St. Nons and the associated ruins of a chapel. Nuns from the The Sisters of Mercy live in and manage the retreat and chapel. Does this make them Non Nuns? I imagine that gets confusing.
St. Non was the mum of St. David. Did she have other children? Imagine having a saint for both a mum and a brother. I bet there would be blatant parental favoritism and a hell of a lot of sibling rivalry. The unsaintly child would have such a complex and family Christmas dinners must’ve been awful.
They would have had to be half siblings because, rather terribly, St. David was the product of rape. The obvious mental suffering of the famously pious Non made this unquestionable in everyone’s eyes and, thankfully, she was cared for in the aftermath.
This became a bit of an issue though when the holiness emitted from her unborn child would prevent preachers from finishing their sermons, struck dumb with an overwhelming sense of awe and numinosity. Rumours of the greatness of her child spread long before she even went into labour, making one of the local leaders wary enough that he plotted to have it killed as soon as it was born. A huge storm kicked off that night, foiling his plans, with the only place bathed in light and warmth being the area where Non laboured. That place is here, where the chapel was built.
There is also a well on the site, said to have healing properties. I went to have a look, but the water in it looked a bit dodgy. It didn’t seem right to be passing miracle water through a filter but I wasn’t about to risk my bowels; guess I’m really not cut out for the whole ‘having faith’ thing. It’s a pity because, by now, my knees could really have done with some healing.
The ups and downs of the Pembrokeshire Coast were starting to take a toll. Creaky, achy knees were making me feel like a bit of a pansy. I know the entire ascent is supposedly equal to that of Everest, but lets face it, it’s not exactly the same sort of ascent; there are no shifting ice fields here, the climb isn’t negotiated with ladders, ropes and ice axes, and there is no death zone hovering around Milford Haven.
Engineered steps occasionally appeared, placed there I can only suppose in order to be helpful. And they would have been helpful if, maybe, I had been a giant. When each step is the full height of my legs, and each step has me doing upwards splits I think the helpfulness is in question. A far taller and unladen man coming the opposite way had the nerve to complain about them to me as he galloped over them with just focused lunges as I wobbled around with my foot set on the next step ready to pull myself up half my own height again.
By the time I got to Solva, I was more than ready for food and a break. Solva, like Porthclais, was set in a very narrow seeming crack in the cliffs. Lovely, pretty buildings with ominous sheer walls of grey blocking out a lot of light behind them. There was a place that just sold welshcakes so I went in asked for their offer of six with a lot of butter.
“Are you sharing?”
“What? No, they’re all for me.”
They were delicious, perfectly flaky and wonderfully rich. Who would want to share them? When I had stuffed my face completely, I made my way onwards, over a footbridge, and out of the harbour.
It was far grassier down here as well. The tops of the cliffs were far more green than the rugged darkness on the Ordovician rocks, and many of the valleys were wide and really more like luscious pastures as little trees grew on the green banks of the tinkling streams. Definitely charming, even if the downs to it, and then the ups were such complete tests of endurance.
After following right at the clifftops all day, I soon decided to call it before going down to Newgale. The land that rolled out to the right turn now seemed to be a bit busier with people and homes. Newgale beach also seemed like a nicer thing to do in the morning rather than powering through it now.
I set up to one side of a landslipped cove; the coast path passed down another massive set of steps and up again at the front so, back from it, I would hear the last of the days walkers puff and complain their way to the top, about twenty metres from me, and not realise I could hear their expletives.
The other side of the cove was a large sheepfield. I started to think sheep might not be as harmless as I had thought when I swear I saw a group gang up on an individual, hassling him towards the edge of the cliff. I was absolutely horrified at the thought that I was about to witness sheep-on-sheep murder, but couldn’t look away.
I am pleased to say the target escaped. I don’t know what deal he had to cut with the gang but he looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Poor sheep.
Newgale – Broad Haven
7 miles/1510 ft total ascent
The morning crossing of the giant steps set within the deep, landslipped cove was not, as I had hoped, made easier with morning energy. Maybe there was a tent tucked away, wildcamping, the other side and the resident could now hear my expletives as I eventually heaved myself and my aching knees up to the gate the other side.
The grass and the sky were still purple as I turned to start heading down to Newgale Sands and the huge, shingle storm beach behind. By the time I was on the flat tidal sands, the purple had thinned past lilac and the clouds had floated in as the bulb of the sun came over the horizon, bathing everything in a surreal gold.
When was I last actually down on a proper beach? Probably not since Morfa Dryffryn back on the Meirionnydd. Since then I had gone up, and stayed up, high on cliff edges throughout Ceredigion and north Pembrokeshire until now.
Newgale Sands sits in St. Bride’s Bay which marks a non-geographic, cultural boundary. One which is extremely old. Many of us have heard of this part of Wales referred to as ‘Little England Beyond Wales’ and it’s easy to assume that the moniker is new. Referring perhaps to an influx of English residents in more recent decades. In fact it hails back to a much older invasion; the Normans.
The Landsker Line is seen as stretching from here in St. Bride’s Bay down to Carmarthen Bay. The land south of it was claimed by the Normans and ringed with their castles, but they were unable to penetrate the north. To this day the culture in the area that was Norman is almost homogenous with English culture. The place names have shifted from the musical and fantastic Welsh, to not just English, but very English – Rosemarket, Harold’s Nose, Tavernspite, Settling Chins. No more abers; they’re mouths and havens now.
‘Landsker’ is the old Norman word for ‘divide’ and the division is far more than architecture and place names. North of the line, areas are up to 80% Welsh-speaking with 50% appearing low, whilst south of the line if a place is 15% Welsh-speaking then that’s up on the high end. Genetically, the people to the south are indistinct from the people of southwest England, which makes sense as, that too, was an area similarly overridden at the same time.
Do not be mistaken, the people of south Pembrokeshire are still Welsh; they and those north of the line wouldn’t consider otherwise. After all, a dragon has two tongues.
Newgale Sands was empty but for a couple of surfers sitting out on their boards. We waved at each other and I carried on up, following the main road, rising up again until a path took me off and on a dip to a valley where a tall, lonely ruin of a colliery chimney stood. The South Wales coalfields were coming in now.
The coalfields are far, far older than the Ordovician, Cambrian, and Precambrian landscapes I’d been walking through for weeks, and had been laid down in the Carboniferous period 300 million years ago. They are what became of the swampy forests that grew when our landmass lay somewhere far more tropical. As plantlife died, the remains were suspended in the wet peat, and over millions of years under the intense compression and heat of generations of former growth the dark, carbon-rich deposits were created.
I passed the crumbling tower and eventually found myself on a path crossing the gentle slope of the cliffs, a mixture of sand and stone underfoot as twisted growth, braced against the wind, lay thick and dark to either side. A rounded stump of rock, like a giant shoe, sat out on the edge of the water as I approached Norton Haven and the ramparts of another fort, this time collapsing, spilled into the sea at Black Point.
I finally went down to Broad Haven. This small, somewhat nondescript seaside village blew up news headlines worldwide in 1977 after what was, arguably, the most famous UFO sighting in the British Isles. 14 schoolchildren descibed the landing of a silver, cigar shaped craft in the middle of the day in a field where they played outside at lunch; an orange light was emitted from a dome on top and, in the two hours that the craft was parked up, six of the kids described silver humanoid figures with long ears. Teachers at the school also admitted to seeing the ship but, clearly more conscious that this was not exaclt something they wanted associated with their reputation, remained anonymous.
The children were all clearly frightened by the incident, but heavy rain would interfere with investigations. Quickly though other sightings were reported by terrified residents; more shining orbs and hovering craft, odd humanoid figures and a whole field of teleporting cows. Eventually the MP contacted the Ministry of Defence who took it very seriously and conducted numerous interviews and extensive investigations but the information gathered was never intended for the public, and much of it remains secret. However, in the 45 years since the incident all the witnesses have stuck true to their statements. What they all saw and experienced, we don’t know, but I can say my time in Broad Haven was, thankfully, far less wierd.
I was on my way to pass through when I stopped short at a café advertising a Sunday Lunch. Its easy to lose track of the days of the week on trail, and a Sunday can come as an annoying blow when the shops are shut and you need to resupply, or it can come as a welcome surprise in the way of Sunday Lunches. Today, it was the latter and I made a beeline inside.
I definitely did not expect to get such a huge plate(s) of food for £8.50, with more vegetables than I’d had in weeks. And probably more meat. My diet was now purely simple carbs and fats. I ate with relish. I ate myself into a complete food coma.
I wasn’t going to waddle very much farther today with all my energy going to digestion. I intended to just stick around and then, when the light went down, find a space just up past, on the cliffs. But I lucked out when a family I started talking with offered me the caravan on their driveway for the night. I didn’t even have to set up a tent! I could just watch the sea for a while, then plonk down on the caravan blanchette and snore away with the sleep of the extraordinarily contented.
Broad Haven – Marloes Sands
13 miles/2471 ft total ascent
My ankle had joined my knees in throbbing. I was starting to sleep with my legs elevated on my bag. I had the knee brace on from my first aid kit and was smashing ibuprofen but it didn’t seem to be having much affect. Honestly I was surprised it had taken this long for things to start hurting and I wasn’t particularly alarmed; I had walked about six hundred miles and done an awful lot of going up and down. I told myself I’d just soldier on.
A forest of oaks and hazels placed itself between me and the sand; I heard the sea behind the trees that each had halos in the orange morning sun. Eventually the trees gave way to the rusting meadows on top of headlands, growing increasingly in size.
The lack of clouds, whilst fantastic for the views, meant that with the twisting path going back and forth round the small headlands, it would all be lovely until I turned and it hit me square in the eyes. I would spend the time following the path towards the sea all in love, awe and wander at everything I saw, and the time going back totally blinded by the glare.
At St. Bride’s Castle, I followed a handsomely built wall with gates taking me one side of it to the other and back again. Finally, a straight path with the sun at my back. The ground started to get sloppy with mud and, after much dashing and leaping from one side of the path to the other, I just gave in and carried on. After all, that’s what gaiters are for right?
Speaking of which, I was nearly at the next three hundred mile mark and it didn’t seem like the sole strap on this pair would end up being superior to the ones before. Wearing thin, it was a matter of a couple days before they disintegrated.
The wall gave way to hedges and the muddy trudge eventually deposited me at the inlet of St. Martins Bay. Often popular with anglers, it was empty today. The shingle shining with saltwater, and pale yellow under the low sun.
Out from the bay sat the national nature reserve of Skomer Island; home to half the world’s population of Manx Shearwaters and the largest Atlantic Puffin colony in southern Britain. A type of vole lives there that is specific just to the island, and whole lot of glow worms, slow worms and toads. Skomer has so many ruins, stone circles and prehistoric huts that pretty much all of the island is a designated ancient monument.
The island has its own unique geology, with basalt being a dominant rock and often presenting in pillow lava form; looking exactly how it sounds and indicating that the eruption the created it occurred under the sea. All in all, it’s a very special island and its well worth a trip out there, either to stay overnight or on a day trip. Boats go across everyday. Well, everyday from the 1st April. No Manx Shearwaters or glow worms or pillow lava for me.
I returned up, through fields, to wide grasslands on top of cliffs. Past midday now, and people were up and out and going for walks. An older couple stopped me and we chatted about everything I’d been doing, they gave me shortbread and insisted on photos.
Except, people walking up behind them now thought I was someone actually exciting because they’d seen all the photo taking, so they chatted and took photos too, and then the people behind them got curious as well. It took me a long time to get through the clifftop meadows with all the chatting and the photographs. Is this what its like to be a celebrity? I quite liked causing a stir. Pity I looked so completely minging. And smelt so bad.
Lots of smooth humped islands and islets sat out to sea. Like the eyes of a massive animal. The rocks were starting to change from grey to a red tinge that would become more and more dramatic over the next couple days.
I eventually found my way down to Marloes Sands Beach and grabbed a snack out my bag on the shingle away from my adoring fans. A woman asked if I’d been wildswimming. God no. I know wildswimming is now all the rage, and I know I’m the one with the harebrained idea to do a 870 miles coastal walk in midwinter, but wildswimming is where I draw the line. Every picture I see of a wildswimmer just looks extremely cold.
Marloes Sands is long, crescent of a beach, curving delicately over a lovely mile. The cliffs behind it were now a mixture of shale and sandstone, red and grey, mottled and vibrant in the light of a sun that was ready to start setting. The path went around the back of it, sloping up and down to navigate the contours of the cliffs. When I finally reached the end, there was a bench by the side of the disused concrete runway. I nabbed the bench quickly before anyone else could get here. Do you know what a luxury benches are to long distance hikers? Not simply just for sitting, but for sitting with your legs bent properly at the knees and not just being awkwardly suspended in a squat on top of a rock or a log. Benches are magic.
There was significant military activity in Pembrokeshire during WWII, as German U boats camped off shore. A naval base set up in Milford Haven, army training took place in the Preseli Hills and a large number of these small airfields were set up. Unfamiliarity with the terrain unfortunately also caused a lot of crashes.
Now these small airfields sit quiet and low, weeds growing out between the cracks that widen every year, pushed apart as nature seeks some reclamation.
A few photographers arrived to capture the sunset over the sands. After they left, I went into the thickets the other side of the airfield and set up camp, hoping all my aches and pains would magically be gone by morning.